How many times have you been in a Chama meeting and it just goes on and on with mindless chatter and nothing gets accomplished. Some meetings stretch up to four hours with members just chattering away. How often have you seen an agenda left totally aside? The meeting starts off well but becomes stuck on a particular topic; perhaps the first item on the agenda and ends when time runs out. A Chairlady must assess the importance of each item on the agenda, and set aside time to each topic as required. If one issue begins to dominate the chairlady must take control. You might suggest a further meeting to discuss the issue at a later date, or that the members concerned could continue the discussion at the end of the meeting. Sometimes it will be necessary to call for a decision and then move on to the next topic.
Learn to summarize
Summarizing can be used to end a topic, to end a discussion, to limit the need for discussion and at the end of a meeting to ensure that everyone has a clear idea of what took place or what action is now required. It is an essential skill for a chairlady. Summarizing requires active listening. You have to state concisely what was said in an objective way and end with a clear statement about what is expected to happen next. It takes practice to summarize well, but it is a skill well worth developing.
Many people feel that being a chairlady means opening the meeting and stopping arguments. There is much more to it than that. Prior to the meeting, a chairlady should consult with the secretary regarding the agenda, ensure that all interested members have been notified, assess the level of interest and the potential for divisiveness for each item, and portion time to each item, based on decisions required and number of members attending.
During the meeting, the chairlady must focus on the decisions required of the meeting, ensure that all members are accorded enough time, decide when to end debate on each topic, use the right questions to gather information or re-direct discussion, listen carefully to all contributions, and clearly summarize proceedings with an emphasis on decisions taken and future plans.
The above are all key ingredients for a fruitful meeting. A tactful but assertive chairlady will facilitate an effective meeting, and that’s what everyone wants.
Try to build consensus around your point of view among those people in attendance. That said, it is always advisable to listen to another opinion because, quite often, you will be persuaded to change your mind once you think about it. Above everything else, be honest. Even though you will move forward by executing plans according to a majority vote, the meeting leader has many opportunities to voice her opinion, regardless of whether it is shared by others. Being honest and forthright are characteristics that should always be demonstrated by the person running any meeting. You may not get your way, but the members will respect you for being honest.
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