The exact details on how meetings are run and how notes from the meeting are kept are a little bit differently from one group to the next. Your local council has a lot more legal requirements for their meetings than most team meetings, so they have a more formal structure. It all depends on the purpose of the group.
This guide has enough detail to make sure that meetings:
- Are fair for everyone, making sure that everyone gets a say.
- Stay on track and don’t waste time.
- Do what they set out to do.
NOTE: You’ll find this guide often refers to “the chair.” It says the chair starts the meeting, or the chair keeps everyone on topic. This is not referring to a piece of furniture. “The chair” is the role of the person who runs the meeting. Some people call this the chairman, or sometimes the chairperson. The chair makes sure the meeting runs smoothly, checks that all members have the chance to put forward their views and that agreement is reached on discussion items. The chair also has responsibility for making sure everyone gets the information they need about the meetings.
The following help sheet will help you during the meeting if you find yourself chairing. You will find it is much easier to chair a meeting if you have been involved in a few before and, ideally, you should take the minutes at least once before you try chairing a meeting. Either way, printing out this help sheet and having it beside you should make your role much easier.
Help Sheet – Chairman’s Meeting Procedure (43 KB)
Why So Many Meetings?
Meetings are essential for most groups, so they can:
- Plan things together.
- Make decisions on behalf of the whole group.
- Make sure everyone has the same information.
- Catch up on what everyone has been up to.
Most times, these things can be done with emails and notes in log books but people also need to meet and talk with each other face to face every now and then, especially when the team has lots of people who work on their own much of the time.
Before the Meeting
The agenda should be sent around to everyone prior to the meeting, so they know what will be talked about before they come along. An agenda, is just a list of the things that will be talked about at the meeting. Some things will be on the agenda for all meetings. Others are put there for just one meeting. The secret to having a quick and effective meeting is to have an agenda before the meeting, so that everyone knows what things will be discussed and so they can keep focused on just the things on the agenda. When the agenda is sent around, it should have a couple of extra notes attached:
- Ask everyone if they have anything to add to the agenda for discussion. This gives everyone a chance to add their ideas for discussion topics.
- Ask people to let the chair know if they are coming, or if they can’t make it. If they say they can’t attend, it’s called ‘sending apologies’. Sending your apologies makes sure everyone who was there knows that you would have come if you were able to, and that you didn’t just forget or ignore the meeting.
- Send a written copy of the notes from the last meeting. These notes are called the ‘minutes’. Either the person taking the minutes (the minute taker) or the chair should send these as soon as possible after the meeting, so people have a record of anything they said they’d do.
- Ask for a volunteer to take the minutes of the next meeting. This should also be decided before the meeting but often it takes a chunk out of the start of the meeting.
This sample agenda can get you started.
Blank Agenda (20 KB)
This sheet will help you during the meeting when you take the minutes. You can send it to people before the meeting if they say they don’t know how to take the minutes.
Help Sheet – Minute Taking (19 KB)
This template can be used to help keep the minutes for meetings.
Blank Minutes (28 KB)
Starting the Meeting
Even though the agenda has been sent around before the meeting, you should have printed copies of the agenda ready for each member of the meeting. This makes sure they can all see how much more there is to discuss.
At the start of most meetings, there is a chance for everyone to say their name and who they are representing. Obviously, this isn’t needed for smaller teams where everyone knows each other but it is important whenever there are visitors or someone new, so they have a chance to know who they are talking with. For bigger groups, it is a good idea to hand around a sheet of paper so everyone can write down their names and contact details. This will make your minute taker’s job a lot easier.
After everyone has introduced themselves, the chair should tell everyone the names of the people who sent their apologies (those who said they couldn’t come) and ask if there were any last minute apologies. Allow a little time for the minute taker to write apologies into the minutes.
Making Sure That There Are Enough People
For formal meetings where decisions are made on behalf of the group, the chair should check that there are enough people present to make decisions. The organisation’s policy manual should say how many people need to be present to make decisions, but usually you need more than half the members. If you have enough people, this is called having a quorum (pronounced core-um). This stops major decisions being made when only two or three people could attend. If you don’t have a quorum, you can still have a meeting to catch up and organise tasks but you won’t be able to make decisions on behalf of the group.
The minutes of official committee meetings need to mention whether there was a quorum.
Your minutes could then look something like this:
Meeting of the Kickatinalong Youth Committee held on the 15th July, 2009 at 2pm
Present: Jimmy Tourak (Kickatinalong Tennis Club); Alan Beazley (Kickatinalong local council), Stephanie Myers (Kickatinalong Women’s Refuge), Eric Tintern (Upparodabit Social Club)
Apologies: Kylie Rhodes (Kickatinalong Community Centre)
The chair announced that there was a quorum present.
Once the introductions have been made, you are ready to get down to business. The next section is where decisions are made and plans are set for the future. Since making official decisions is such an important part of the group’s purpose, it needs to be clear to everyone what that the decision was and if everyone agreed. Sometimes people come out of meetings and they aren’t really sure if there was a decision made or not. To stop this happening, every decision should follow this process:
The quick and easy way: If it is an informal meeting, the chair can just ask “does everyone agree that (whatever the decision is?)” after the group seems to have decided on something. He/ she then asks if anyone disagrees. If everyone agrees, the decision is made and can be written into the minutes.
The slightly more formal way: After it looks like the group is ready to come to a decision, someone suggests the exact wording of what the decision should be. Anyone can do this, if they think they’ve got a good way of saying it. This is called “moving a motion”. The chair asks if there is a second person who supports that idea (this is called seconding the motion, and makes sure that you don’t bother voting on ideas that only one person likes). If someone seconds the idea, then it is put to a vote and if the majority agrees then the decision is made. This process (whichever one you use) will be repeated over and over again, throughout the meeting, and is written into the minutes. Whenever you see a decision being made, you can assume the process has been followed.
The Middle Section of the Meeting
The chair reads from the agenda each of the items on the list. It goes in this order:
- Previous minutes – the first item on the agenda is to check that the minutes from last month are accurate. If there are any changes that need to be made, this is everyone’s final chance to say so. Otherwise, a decision is made that the minutes are accepted as an accurate record and everyone votes that they agree.
- Business arising from the previous minutes – If all agree the minutes are accurate, any actions that come out of the previous minutes can be discussed. The chair can see if they say that there were things we should have been doing. The last minutes might say, for example, that Jimmy would find out how much it would cost to get new equipment. Now is the chance to find out if he did this, and any other actions or discussion points from the last meeting. The minute taker writes a brief summary of the discussion, especially any decision. At this stage, the minutes might look like this:
MOTION: That the minutes be accepted MOVED: Eric SECONDED: Alan. Motion passed, all voted in favour.
- Business arising from the previous minutes:
Phone Bill was to have been paid by Eric. Eric reports that he has done this.
Jimmy was to find out how much new equipment would cost. Jimmy presented quotes. Equipment was discussed
MOTION: Jimmy to purchase equipment before next meeting. MOVED: Stephanie, SECONDED: Eric. Motion passed. All voted in favour.
- Correspondence – If there was any mail addressed to the group, it should be mentioned here so that everyone knows what the group has been sent.
- Business arising from the correspondence – if the sender of the mail expects us to do anything (like paying a bill or sending a letter) this is discussed here. Like all the sections from here on, any decisions should be made using the decision making procedure described above, so your minutes for this section might look like this:
- Business arising from the previous minutes:
Correspondence: Electricity bill from Country Energy, complaints letter from Maude Smith
Business arising from the correspondence:
ACTION: Treasurer to pay electricity bill before the due date.
Group discussed Maude’s complaints letter and agreed that we should have given her more support.
MOTION: Jimmy to write apology letter to Maude on behalf of the group before Friday next week. MOVED: Jimmy, SECONDED: Eric.
Motion passed. All voted in favour.
- General business – this is where any new discussion points that don’t fit anywhere else are raised. The general business discussion points should be on the agenda. As described above, decisions should be noted and voted on. The chair should make sure there is enough discussion on each point, while keeping an eye on the time left, so that everything can be discussed and completed by the time the meeting is due to finish. The minutes might look like this:
Broken security equipment: Jimmy raised the issue of the security lights being broken by vandals last week and the security door seems to have been damaged as well.
MOTION: That we ask Douglas Security to repair light and look at door and to repair if necessary. MOVED: Jimmy. SECONDED: Motion passed, All voted in favour.
Grounds keeping: Eric raised the issue of the grounds not being mowed or maintained to a very good standard lately, and that the mowing seems to be very expensive.
MOTION: That we get quotes on an alternative mowing service. MOVED: Eric. SECONDED: Jimmy. Motion passed, All voted in favour except Stephanie, who chose not to vote or discuss the issue since her uncle’s mowing service could benefit from the decision.
ACTION: Jimmy to get quotes and bring to next meeting.
Mental Health Week: Alan informed the group that council would be having a number of events this September during Mental Health Week, and showed us various pamphlets about mental health issues.
ACTION: Copies of the pamphlets will be sent around with minutes.
Meeting closed 2.45pm. Next meeting to be held on 17th August at 2pm
Ending the Meeting
When the meeting is finished, the chair should announce that the meeting is over and the minute taker should write down what time it finished. This sounds like a formality but it makes it clear to everyone that any extra discussions are not part of the meeting. People often stay and talk for a while and they might even talk some more about things that affect the group, but it should be clear that this is not part of the meeting and that decisions and actions are not binding on the group.