Chairing a Meeting: gather the right ingredients and mix well

Published on 4 May 2022

An article in the Changing Conversations: Changing Outcomes programme.

When it comes to becoming a more comfortable, confident Chair, how you prepare makes a big difference to your performance. Preparing to chair is a bit like making a good cocktail. It involves gathering together the right ingredients, and mixing them in the right way.

The right ingredients

There are three ingredients to pull together. There are the People participating, the Agenda and You. Here is the kind of information contained in each bottle. It’s up to you to fill each of them up:

  • People participating: These are the people on the bus. They are taking the journey with you. Who are they, what brings them to the meeting? What motivates them? What brings them to life and what sends them to sleep? What is their contribution and what brings it out in them?
  • Agenda: This is the roadmap for the meeting. It’s a list of what you’ve got to cover. Is there the right amount of content for the time allocated? Will there be breaks along the way. Are there likely to be pinch points or territory that will be tougher to navigate? 
  • You: this area is about you, how you Chair. Your style, how you manage the meeting and your contribution to the meeting. And your feelings about it, are you optimistic or pessimistic, frustrated or at ease. What aspects of your Chairing are you confident in and what aspects are you concerned about?

What do you currently do when it comes to these areas? Perhaps you pay more attention to one of them than the others. Or perhaps you miss some of them completely? Gathering ingredients in each area makes great Charing more likely. And you can begin to see how to mix them. That’s the second part of your preparation.

The right mix

Getting the mix right is about paying attention to the connections between these areas, connections that become clearer when you work through the areas in a particular order.

Start your preparation by looking at the People participating. Who is attending? How do they tend to behave in the meetings? What could their contribution to the meeting be?

Next Up, look at the Agenda, in relation to the People: What connections do you see between the two?

Finally, and in response to the connections you’ve made between the People and the Agenda, you can make sense of what is required of You in your role as Chair.

The answer to this question can unlock your success as a chair. And it’s easier to get to when you’ve explored the other two areas. You can approach the meeting with a strategy, a greater clarity of your part in it, and how you’ll make it a good one.

Cheers! Happy Chairing!!

Do you want to become a more comfortable, confident chair? If so, why not come along to my Changing Conversations: Changing Outcomes Masterclass: Effective Chairing: Making Meetings More Productive


John Scarrott
John Scarrott

Trainer and Coach, John Scarrott Training and Coaching

John Scarrott is a Trainer and Coach working with association professionals on their approach to speaking, chairing meetings, presentations, communication and influence. John is a former Membership Director, with over 25-years’ experience of making presentations. He is the retained trainer in Public Speaking and Presentation Skills for the AAE and also for the Institute of Data & Marketing. John is a professionally qualified coach with a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) Credential from the International Coach Federation. He has spoken in the UK and internationally working with association professionals across Europe and in India and Australia.