How to Start a Meeting Well

We tend to worry about the meeting content and not put enough emphasis on starting the meeting well. The more people present, perhaps with different perspectives, the more important it can be to set the meeting up well. Consider whether the following should be covered:

  • Welcome, particularly for those that might not have visited before or who have made a long journey
  • Creating the right climate
    • This is particularly important when people do not know each other or where there may be uncertainty or conflict
  • Who is present and why they are there
    • Introducing new participants when most people know each other
  • Gaining authority and control
    • A professional, rigorous and warm welcome will go a long way to establishing you as a Chair who is going to be firm and fair and in control
    • Consider setting ‘ground rules’ (depends on previous ‘history’ of meetings); eg no interruptions; who restarts after calling a breakout;; how decisions will be made (if relevant)
  • Agenda
    • You should consider whether everyone is happy with the agenda; whether they believe other points should be included or whether points should be discussed in a different sequence
    • Check everyone’s understanding of main objectives of meeting – distinguish those things that must be resolved from ‘nice to cover’ matters;
  • Timing – How long the meeting will run and how long will be spent on each of the agenda items (may not be possible for drafting/negotiation meetings)
  • Your role as Chair
    • This role could include any of the following: timekeeper, “referee” for ensuring that everyone keeps to the “rules”
    • Clarify, if you are in a team, who will be leading the discussion on ‘content’
    • If leading on content as well as process – keep track on both fronts – or share roles if you are one of a team
  • Processes – Suggesting any processes that might be relevant (eg whether documents are looked at paragraph by paragraph or page by page or issue by issue; who should speak, in what order, for how long)

For more thoughts about improving the effectiveness of meetings, see:


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