How to Call a Meeting to Order
When you’re chairing a meeting, calling the meeting to order is an expectation. Some people find this task intimidating, especially when they are new to it. Speaking in front of a group can be difficult, but it gets easier once you start. While you may feel nervous at first, calling a meeting to order is a simple task once you’ve mastered showing professionalism in a meeting, showing confidence using body language, and maintaining good posture.
Showing Professionalism in a Meeting
Welcome people as they arrive.This is a great opportunity to set the tone, encourage people to speak up, and direct people to the seating area.
- Keep your body language casual by smiling and moving about the entry way.
- Use casual greetings. You could try a simple, “Good morning. How’ve you been?”
Make small talk.Have brief, casual conversations with attendees. Remember to keep your topics professional.
- Use small talk to establish your role as chairperson in a relaxed manner. This is your opportunity to speak to attendees in your official role as meeting host. Say, "Have you seen that news article about safer playground equipment for parks?"
- Choose topics related to the meeting’s agenda so that you can gently move attendees toward the meeting’s objective. For example, if your meeting is related to park services, choose topics like recent park improvements or stories that take place in the park.
Start on time.Set an exact starting time and a projected end time. Stick to your schedule because delaying the start of a meeting costs the organization the time of each individual who sits waiting.
- If someone crucial to your meeting has not arrived or you are lacking a necessary quorum, address your attendees to let them know of the delay in that person's arrival. Begin the meeting and use the delay time as an open forum. Direct the discussion so that people are not sitting around waiting.
- Keep in mind that if you start late, there is a likelihood that people will still leave at the originally scheduled end time because they may have scheduled other meetings or activities for later in the day.
Stand up.When the time arrives to start the meeting, rise from your seat to get the attention of the attendees and signal that you are about to begin. By standing, you communicate that you are in command of the room.
Greet the attendees.Begin speaking with a generalized opening remark. This signals the opening of the meeting and draws the attention of anyone who is still occupied with a side conversation or off-task activity, such as scrolling through work email on a cell phone.
- For example, say, “Good morning. Thank you for joining us today.”
- Avoid informal greetings, such as “Hey, everyone.” This will set the wrong tone.
Introduce yourself.Briefly provide your name and state your position. Even if the attendees know you, it’s important to establish that you are the chairperson. This is also the time to introduce any speakers.
Announce your call to order.As the chairperson, you are responsible for establishing a start time for the record. The minutes start after the official call to order. As part of your call to order, you will also state the date and time for the record.
- At a formal meeting, say, “I call this meeting to order at 11:30 AM on Thursday, May 4, 2019.”
- If your meeting is informal, you can vary your speech, but it’s still important to state that the meeting has begun. Rather than saying that the meeting is called to order, you could say, “We are beginning this meeting at 11:30 AM on Thursday, May 4, 2019.”
State the purpose of the meeting.Remind the attendees of the meeting’s objective. As the chairperson, it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone understands what is expected from the meeting and that everyone is on-task for the duration of the meeting.
- Say, "We're here today to select a paint color for the new benches in Quiet Pines Park."
- Your purpose should be stated in 1-2 sentences.
Conduct the meeting.Take your seat and follow the agenda to continue the meeting. As the meeting chair, you should ensure that the meeting stays on task and that everyone's input is heard.
- How much control you have over the meeting as chairperson will depend on your personal style and the culture of your organization.
- Once the meeting begins, your call to order is complete.
Showing Confidence Using Body Language
Make eye contact.Eye contact increases attention, makes you more noticeable, and convinces people that what you’re saying is important.
- In a meeting setting, shift your gaze around the room as you speak, making eye contact with each person as your gaze passes over the room.
- If you are uncomfortable, look at the center of their nose instead.
- Get comfortable with eye contact beforehand by practicing on your friends, family, and coworkers. Start by looking at their foreheads, then move to the center of their noses. Finally, make eye contact for a few seconds at a time, slowly progressing to consistent eye contact while speaking.
Don’t fidget.Standing or sitting still conveys that you are confident, so find your balance.
- Moving around a lot and fidgeting suggests that you are nervous or anxious, undermining your authority.
- Keep your hands focused on a task, such as shaking hands or notating your agenda.
Speak at a normal pace.Nervous people tend to speak quickly, so be mindful of your speech. Convey confidence by speaking calmly and loudly.
Stay open.Keep your arms at your side. Anxious people often fold their arms or try to cover their faces.
Lean in.When speaking with someone, lean towards them to show that you are interested in what they’re saying and that you are active in the conversation. This shows that you recognize what others bring to the table and aren’t afraid to hear alternative points-of-view.
Set the tone.As the chairperson, your attitude dictates the attitude of the whole meeting. To have a successful meeting, approach your role as chairperson with professionalism and an optimistic outlook. Through your body language, convey to the attendees that you expect professionalism.
- Smile as you speak of the organization's goals, plans, or responsibilities.
- Gesture as you speak.
- Say, "We have a great opportunity to reflect the mission of our organization through the new program we've come to discuss."
Maintaining Good Posture
Straighten your back.Imagining a string pulling you up straight is the first step to maintaining good posture. Good posture shows confidence and gives you a commanding presence.
- Practice standing up straight so that it’ll become a habit.
- Tuck in your stomach, and let your arms hang at your sides.
- Push your shoulders back. You should feel your shoulder blades tighten as though they are being pulled toward each other.
Look forward.Keep your head straight. To have good posture, your earlobes should be even with your shoulders.
- Don’t push your head forward. You want to show that you are confident, not over-eager.
- Don't gaze downward, which can cause you to slouch.
Avoid swaying.Keep your feet firmly planted. While you can shift your weight from one foot to the other when you are standing for a long time, this should be a subtle shift, not a sway.
- A good chairman maintains order by focusing on the committee’s objectives rather than increasing their personal standing.
- Start and end on time.
- Maintain a professional demeanor before, during, and after the meeting.
Video: How do you call a meeting to order
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