Keeping meetings on track

Chair that meeting without feeling stressed

As a chairperson, your job is to keep the meeting on track. This means striking a balance between allowing people their say and keeping the discussion on topic. This is often easier said than done. You’ll need a healthy mix of assertiveness and diplomacy to get through a typical meeting. Here are some useful verbal strategies for handling tricky situations which emerge during meetings.

People who won’t shut up

You know the person. He or she goes on and on, oblivious to the rolling eyes and fidgeting of other meeting participants. As the chairperson, you’re responsible for stopping this person hogging the limelight. 

What to say: Thanks for that point. I need to stop you there so other people have an opportunity to speak.

Veering off-topic

Some people are experts at tacking discussions off topic. Don’t let these digressions go on too long. Instead, remind the group of the topic under discussion and why it is important. Briefly summarise the objectives of discussion in order to reinforce the ned to stay on topic. This will prevent digressions from happening.

What to say: Let’s just recap why we’re here. We’re discussing ________ because we need to _______________.

The discussion goes round in circles

Keep tabs on how much time has been allocated for the discussion. Make a move to close the discussion a few minutes before time is up. You may need to go over the schedule if the discussion’s really intense. Tell people you are allowing more time and don’t let it go on for ever.

What to say: I’m going to give the discussion another few minutes then we need to wrap this up.

Stalemate between two people

Sometimes discussion gets bogged down by arguments between two people with different opinions. Get things moving by opening the discussion up to others and asking solution focused questions.

What to say: So position A is this [summarise] and position B is this [summarise]. How can we resolve this issue? What courses of action are open to us?

Need advice on what to say? Ask Eleanor now. Send your question and we’ll answer it in a future blog post.

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