Chairing a meeting

Want to run a great meeting? It starts at 9.10am. 

Chairing a successful meeting takes careful planning, and the skills required can be developed through using a mix of basic psychology and practical application. In return, you’ll save yourself time and energy, and you may be amazed at how much more can be achieved. 

Debora Brockwell is co-director of the Henley Business School’s Developing Management Practice programme, and she has seen an enormous range of capabilities amongst the managers who pass through the programme.

‘Most of the problems arise simply through lack of forethought,’ asserts Debora, ‘but there are some simple techniques we teach as part of the programme that will transform your meetings in so many ways. You’ll probably spend less time in them, but get much more out of them.’

Fail to prepare…

Preparing properly for the meeting is clearly an important foundation. Are you inviting the right people? Do they know the purpose of the meeting as a whole, and what they are expected to contribute to it? Can time be saved by distributing documents ahead of the meeting? Does everyone know exactly where and when the meeting is, and how long it’s due to go on? Who is chairing the meeting, and who is keeping, distributing and following up on notes and action points? Are specific time slots allocated to particular items on the agenda? Is all the necessary equipment in place, and who is available to deal with the technology issues? Ensuring that all this is pre-considered, and communicated clearly, will give your meetings a much greater chance of success. 

However, Debora has seen some organisations use some ideas that can also help: ‘Try starting meetings at ten minutes past the hour, and have different lengths of meetings – 45 minutes, for example. Think about what refreshments to have. If it’s appropriate, try having standing meetings, or walking meetings’, she suggests. ‘Changing these dynamics may change people’s attitude to your meetings in a positive way.

‘And once in the meeting, if it’s appropriate, make sure that everyone is introduced, that they all contribute; ensure that distractions from mobile phones and other devices are minimised and make sure it all runs to time. But most of all, ensure that at the end of the meeting, everyone knows exactly what they need to do, and when. And thank them.

‘We talk about dealing with timewasters, and the different levels of contribution that individuals make; chairing a meeting with diverse individuals takes skill and experience. By the end of the session, you’ll feel confident that you have a toolkit of ideas to make every meeting efficient and productive,’ concludes Debora.

For details of the Henley Business School Developing Management Practice programme visit


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If you have any questions, please contact our programme advisors, Hannah, Ruhi & Diana by email at or by phone on +44 (0)1491 418767.

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