Chairing a meeting

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By s153470 - Asbjørn Martin Kruuse



In project management, an important but often neglected skill, is chairing an effective meeting. Having ineffective meetings is a waste of organizational resources and can also lead to the wrong decisions being made. As a project manager, or the person chairing the meeting, it is important to note that doing a good job starts before the meeting itself. This starts with determining the 5 W's: who (should be a the meeting), what (should be discussed at the meeting), when (should be meeting be), where (is the meeting held) and why (are we having this meeting). During the meeting the focus is on making sure the meeting proceeds as expected. This includes but is not limited to following the agenda, making sure that sufficient discussion is allowed for each item, without also spending too much time either. It is also important that every person at the meeting gets a chance to state their opinion, so no person feels they are left outside the decisions. The work of the project manager is not done when the meeting concludes. After the meeting the project manager has to make sure that the decisions taken in the meeting are actually carried out after the meeting. This also includes following up on tasks given to specific persons in the meeting and ensuring they are done as planned. Planning, chairing and following up on meetings is a continuous process, since meetings occur consistently.

The need for effective meetings

When managing a project, portfolio or program, an essential requirement is communicating with relevant people. As a project manager it is important to make sure the projects become a succes through effective and efficient management. In order to make sure that the project is moving forward according to the planned schedule it is necessary for the people executing the project to know when and what they have to do. To do this many project managers use meetings as a tool to inform multiple members of the team at once, while simultaneously getting updates from the same members if things are not going to plan. However, if the meetings are not used properly by the project manager, they can be a waste of time and company resources and ultimately delay the project finish date as well as exceed the expenses. While a project manager might have a focus on the larger aspects of the project, small things like having timely meetings and also not wasting time on meetings are essential for the big time schedules to go as planned. According to a 2012 survey done by the site, the number one reason for employees wasting time on work, was ineffective meetings. [1] The same result was found in the 2013 study. [2]

While it might seem obvious that having good meeting practices will help the project forward, it is not always the case that companies follow that. Most people working have at some point or another complained that they are having too many meetings that interrupt their work, while also complaining if they don't have enough information through meetings and feeling left in the dark. Good meeting practices is also something that is often not noticed when it works as it is supposed to, but when it does not work it creates a variety of problems.

This article will examine some of the good practices associated with chairing a meeting, but also the tasks to be done ahead of a meeting as well as how to proceed after the meeting has concluded. Most of the focus will though be on the things to do before and during the meeting since it has the most direct effect on the meeting. But without doing the proper work after the meeting, the meeting can become less valuable so that part will also be covered. The academic litterature on this topic is sparse, but nonetheless this article builds on some of the articles presented, and supplies with litterature found on the internet, while also keeping in mind the authors own experiences with regard to good practices.

For this specific wiki article the perspective of a project manager is used, however many of the things explained here can also be attributed to managing a portfolio or a program, since chairing meetings is not exclusive to either of the three management profiles.


As outlined in the prior section, there is a lot of productivity to be saved by being able to conduct efficient meetings. This section will go through the best practices associated with productive meetings, while also discussing why it different meeting practices might be good for increasing the productivity. The section below this one will go through the limitations and downsides to the different meeting practices in order to give an allround view of the meeting practices.

Before meeting

In order to have a productive meeting, a lot of the work starts before the meeting is actually held. There are several things a project manager has to do and think about before the meeting is held. The first part is deciding on the basics of the meeting why is this meeting being held, who should attend the meeting, when and where should the meeting be held and what should be discussed in the meeting. These questions are based on the method five W's [3] which is used in problem solving, but here makes the project manager consider the practicalities of the meeting.

1. Why: "Why is this meeting being held?", or more accurately "Why is this meeting necessary?" is the essential question to ask before planning a meeting, since if the meeting is not necessary the other practicalities does not matter. [4] When considering if a meeting is necessary the project manager should consider the work hours that goes into the meeting. If the project manager is planning an hour long meeting with 5 people, he is using five hours of company resources, so the outcome of the meeting should be worth more than those five hours.

When asking why the meeting is necessary, it should also be considered what type of meeting it is. [5] The type of the meeting also has influence on which employees should be invited, and therefore it should be decided early in the process. For status meetings especially the project manager should think whether it is necessary with a meeting, or if it could be accomplished by e-mail.

2. Who: In order to have a productive meeting, it is important to have the correct people as well as the correct amount of people at the meeting. If there is too many attending the meeting it might be difficult to get opinions from everyone, and based on the work hours mentioned above, it might also be a waste of time for some of the people attending the meeting. If too few people are attending the meeting, there might be key information that is missing in order to make the correct decisions, while also possibly missing people who should be involved in making those decisions. So having the right number of key employees attending the meeting is imperative. [6]

3. When: The meeting has to take place at a specified time, and this is also necessary to have decided before the meeting, so the attendees know when they have to attend the meeting. When deciding on the meeting start time, the project manager should also consider how long the meeting should be, and adjust accordingly, so a two or three hour long meeting is not put one hour before lunch.

4. Where: In line with "When" the place that the meeting is taking place is also important to communicate out to the attendees so they know where to attend the meeting at the specified time. If the meeting is held in a different location than usually, or if people from outside the company is attending, it is a good idea to include directions in the meeting call. When deciding where the meeting is held it, the size of the room should be considered so it has the correct size depending on the number of attendees. [7]

5. What: If the previous questions have been answered, the topic of the meeting should seem clear now. Nonetheless it is still useful to formally describe what the meeting should be about. This makes it easier to make the agenda for the meeting, while also ensuring that the meeting participants are on the same page regarding the topic of the meeting.

After answering the 5 W's, the project manager should have an idea of why the meeting is necessary, who should attend, where and when the meeting is as well as what the meeting is about. This leads to the next part which is setting the agenda for the meeting. Writing down the agenda makes it clear to the participants what they should expect for the meeting, the agenda should preferably be sent out before the meeting it self so the attendees has a chance to familiarize themselves with the agenda. [8]

When the agenda is made for the meeting, the meeting should be called and the agenda distributed together with the invite. Sending out the agenda prior to the meeting gives the meeting guests a chance to view the topics for discussion, and make them consider their opinions prior to the meeting. This can help making the meeting proceed quicker since people has a opportunity to prepare their arguments before the meeting.

Since the agenda offers to make the meeting more effective if done correctly, it is also important that the project manager takes the necessary time to make the agenda. Several things can be done in order to improve the agenda. Not every item is applicable for every meeting, but can be considered.

1. State whether each item is for information, for discussion or for making a decision. [6] This helps the meeting attendees understand why each item is on the agenda. This also helps during the meeting, if, for instance, a discussion is starting to take place under an information item, the chair of the meeting can stop the discussion while referring to the agenda.

2. Place important items early in the meeting. [6] This is especially applicable for longer meetings where people might get tired towards the end. Placing important items early ensures that people are still fresh when making important decisions or discussing important items.

3. Include a short background for each item as well as noting the reason it is included. [8]

4. Include the names of the attendees at the top, together with their responsibilities and who they represent. [8]

5. Write how much time is allocated to each item of the agenda. [6] This helps structuring the meeting and shows the attendees which items are expected to be explored more in depth. It will also help the chairman during the meeting to move on from items after the correct amount of time, so the meeting does not go over time.

During the meeting

As a project manager a lot of time has been put into the preparation work before the meeting itself. That work can however be made less useful if the project manager does not chair the meeting properly. In order to do this, the project manager has to make sure that the meeting progresses smoothly while allowing the attendees to voice their opinion, and also leaving enough time for discussions if they are necessary prior to making decisions. Several things make running a smooth meeting possible.

1. Start the meeting on time. Most people have a busy workday, and waiting five to ten minutes before starting the meeting will feel like a waste of time for those of the attendees who were on time. [8]

2. Make sure that someone is assigned to take minutes for the meeting. [7] This makes it possible to go back at a later date and see which decisions where made and who was responsible for doing which task after the meeting. It is possible to find a secretary for the meeting before it starts, but it is not a requirement. It is also useful to be in agreement about how detailed the minutes should be. Should they just reflect the final decisions, and who is responsible for what, or should it also include the discussions during the meeting and who said what?

3. Keep the meeting in order. [8] The attendees should speak only after getting permission from the chair in order to avoid cross-table discussions and small talk. This point can be adjusted depending on the formality of the meeting. Small informal meetings might require a less strict order from the chair, while larger meetings will require a more strict order in order to keep the meeting on time.

4. Make sure every person at the meeting is heard. All the attending employees have been invited for a specific reason and because they bring something to the meeting. The chair should know which people have knowledge about which items on the agenda, and should ensure that they have a chance to speak up, maybe even asking them directly if necessary. The goal of the meeting is still to make the best decisions, and that is best done by covering all the angles and opinions present at the meeting.

5. Make sure that every item is discussed sufficiently. While sticking to the assigned timeslots for each items is nice, the project manager should also ensure that each items are discussed enough, so nobody leaves with a feeling that they have unsaid arguments or opinions that might have changed the outcome. If there is a tendency of items exceeding the allocated time, the chair should consider if there is a specific reason for this and try to account for it in future meetings.

6. The chair of the meeting should remain impartial. Due to the position of power the chair possesses they can decide who can speak and how much time is given to each person. It is important that the chair of the meeting does not favor one of the sides in an argument, even if the chair itself is on that side. This can again result in wrong decisions being made, and also people being unhappy with the decisions made, since they may not feel they have been heard. [9]

7. It is okay to finish the meeting ahead of time. If all the items on the agenda are discussed to a satisfactory level, there is no reason to keep people for the entire scheduled time. Bringing up new items the attendees have not prepared for, will perhaps lead to rushed decisions in order to keep the meeting schedule. As chair, the project manager should consider afterwards which items were estimated wrong, and consider if it could have been predicted, and then for the next meeting keep that in mind. [8]

8. At the end of the meeting it is a good idea to summarize what has been achieved during the meeting, and also remind people what their tasks are moving forward. This helps the secretary of the meeting, and also makes the job easier for the project manager going forward.

After the meeting

When the meeting is over, the project manager is not finished with the meeting entirely as there are several things that has to be done.

1. The first thing that should be done after the meeting is sending out the minutes, or at least the important decisions made at the meeting. This should also include tasks given to the individual attendees. The minutes should be sent to the attendees within 24 hours, and preferably before that. [10]

2. Make sure that the tasks given at the meeting are actually carried out. Often a project manager will delegate tasks at the meeting to different people. It could also be that certain people naturally are responsible for specific tasks, but it should still be followed up upon. Here the project manager is responsible for making sure the tasks are done, and sending out an e-mail after the meeting summarizing the tasks will make this easier for the project manager.

3. As mentioned briefly in the "during the meeting" section the project manager should use some time to consider if there was anything that went badly at the meeting. Was the assigned timeslots either to large or to small? Did the discussion flow as intended or was there times where it was difficult to manage. This can help the project manager when planning the next meeting. In general self-reflection is a powerful tool to increase performance, and applying it to chairing meetings is no exception for this.

4. Consider when the next meeting should be. [8] It is highly likely that a project team will have more than one meeting, and therefore the project manager has to plan the next meeting every time a meeting ends. Here the project manager should consider the tasks given out during the meeting to allow the employees sufficient time to solve their tasks before next meeting is held. Deciding on the next meeting time can also be done before the meeting or during the meeting, as a last item, so the attendees already know the date before they exit the current meeting.


One big limitation regarding the practices presented in this article, is that there exists many different types of meetings. So a thing that might be applicable to one meeting might not be a good practice for a different type of meeting. This means that it still requires some work and experience from the individual project manager to decide which topics are relevant for which meetings. An example could be if a project team has weekly status update meetings, it might be to much to expect the agenda being ready one week before the meeting, but it does not mean that all of the work before the meeting can be disregarded as it still offers some preparation for the project manager. The parts explaining what to be done before and after the meeting are easier to follow, as it is more quantifiable items, such as "Has the meeting been called?", "Has the agenda been set?" or "Has the minutes been sent out". While the things to do during the meeting are more difficult to check off, also because the chair should have focus on the meeting during it, and not whether everything is being done exactly right. There is some points in the before the meeting section, regarding the 5 W's that can be difficult to quantify, but most of it is easy for the project manager to quantify before the meeting.

It was mentioned in point 6 in the section #During the meeting, that the chair should remain impartial. This can be difficult to do in practice as the project manager often has the final say in the matters discussed in the meeting and therefore will have a biased opinion of the topics. The topic itself should still be presented as impartial as possible with positives and negatives, and then during the discussion the project manager can present their opinion if necessary.

Another limitation to the practices presented is, they assume that every meeting go as planned, as long as the proper preparations are good. This is however not always true, and sometime the meetings do not go as planned, without it necessarily is the project manager that is at fault. This should just be accepted and used as a lesson for future meetings.

This article has compiled the good practices of a handful of articles and videos and while it does offer some good guidance, it is also important to note that it is in no way an exhaustive list and should not be treated as such. The fact that project managers are all different also applies to chairing meetings. Some project managers might by nature be very strict and want things done properly and in time, while other project managers might be more loose in their management style. This will apply to the meetings they chair as well, so a project manager should also bear in mind which type of project manager is most suited for them, and then plan accordingly.

Annotated bibliography

  • The Essential Managers Handbook by DK. This book offers an extensive, yet easy to access guide to many of the problems project managers face on a daily basis. This includes a part about participating and holding effective meetings. It also covers communication and how to communicate effectively as a project manager. And as such it is useful for prospective project managers to approach and refine their work as project manager. While not everything it offers is directly related to this article, many of the things in it can be extrapolated and used in a setting as a chair of a meeting, this could for example be how to present.
  • Chairing - developing a key skill by W. David Rees and Christine Porter. [9] This article discusses how a person effectively chairs a meeting. While other articles referenced in the wiki article offers a more step-by-step guide to holding effective meetings, this article offers a deeper understanding of group dynamics and how to use sociograms to be aware of certain interactions in the meeting it self. This can be used when planning the practicalities of the meeting such as who should sit where around the meeting table.
  • How to Run a More Effective Meeting by Adam Bryant. [11] This New York Times article offers a view on which items they find essential in order to have effective meetings. This also includes items not found in this wiki article regarding the role of the chair when making decisions. For example whether a decision is made by consensus or whether a person as chair has the final say in every matter. This is definitely important thoughts for a project manager to consider.
  • 7 Tips To Run an Effective Meeting by Ariana Girdler (Video). [10] Ariana Girdler, an award winning project manager and productivity specialist shares her 7 best tips for more effective meetings. A few of them are talked about in this article, however she dives into some more practical and down to earth practices to improve productivity in project management.


  1. | Why & How Your Employees are Wasting Time at Work | Retrieved from:
  2. | 2013 Wasting Time at Work Survey | Retrieved from:
  3. Wikipedia| The Five W's | Retrieved from:
  4.| The 11-step guide to running effective meetings | Retrieved from
  5.| 6 Most Common Types of Business Meetings| Retrieved from:
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Management Issues | 1997 | Chairing a Meeting
  7. 7.0 7.1 Diana Rutledge | 1984 | Chairing the University Committee: The Elements of Succesful Meetings
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 John S. G. Biggs | 1989 | Meetings: Twelve tips for chairing a new committee
  9. 9.0 9.1 W. David Rees and Christine Porter| 2003 | Chairing - developing a key skill
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ariana Girdler| Efficient Meetings - 7 Tips To Run an Effective Meeting | Retrieved from:
  11. Adam Bryant, New York Times | How to Run a More Effective Meeting | Retrieved from:
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