It may sound silly but working out who is the chair of a meeting is not as straightforward as you think.
In these informal times we rarely spell out that a particular person is or isn’t the meeting chair. But, by applying these 5 questions to everyone in your meeting, you should be able work out who is actually running the show.
1. Is someone called the chair (or chairman, chairwoman or chairperson)?
If so then, go no further!
2. Who called the meeting?
The person who called the meeting by asking specific people to attend is often the chair. Since the chair is the person who understands the meeting purpose they are also the person who is responsible for getting all the right people together.
3. Who organized the meeting?
It might not be clear who called the meeting, with personal assistants, and vague scheduling requests, but often that same person is the organizer. The meeting organizer typically sets the location, date and time of the meeting and notifies all the participants. Even if they are a junior person, they are the person who understands the meeting’s purpose best so they are most likely to then be the chair.
4. Who is setting the agenda?
Now this is a dead giveaway. If you are sitting in a meeting and you’ve asked everyone to discuss a particular topic then you are the chair, again because you are setting the topic and meeting purpose. A salesperson often will not think of herself as a chair but in fact she is: she has gathered the participants together to achieve her purpose (to sell her products) and so she is setting the agenda, the topic of conversation.
5. Who cares about the actions most?
Since the chair is responsible for the meeting purpose, they are also the person who cares most about the actions that get done as a result of the meeting. This often makes them the chair. A marketing manager who gets his senior executives to blog on the company website is the chair because he wants those blog articles written!
In these examples, it’s worth noting who is not the chair:
- the most senior person in the room (our marketing manager was more junior than the senior company execs)
- the most powerful person in the room (our salesperson has no power, yet she still chairs the meeting)
- the meeting secretary (just writing up the minutes doesn’t put you in charge!)
Want to find out more? Check out our article on how to chair your first meeting…