Formal meeting roles and terms
The person who leads the meeting. The Chair should make sure everyone has a chance to take part.
A list of topics that will be talked about at the meeting. Each topic, is called an agenda item. A good agenda will include a short explanation of each item. The Secretary (or sometimes the Chair) will put the agenda together before the meeting. The Chair will make sure discussions at the meeting stick to the agenda.
A record of the meeting. Minutes outline who was at the meeting, the discussion that took place, the decisions that were made and the actions that will be taken as a result.
- Secretary (or minute-taker)
The person who organises the meeting and takes the minutes while the meeting is taking place.
Formal meeting format
Formal meetings generally take place in the same way:
- The Chair welcomes everyone to the meeting. Many people will often add an Acknowledgement of Country.
- Meeting participants introduce themselves to the group.
- The Chair reads the agenda, so everyone agrees what will be discussed.
- The Chair (or Secretary) reviews any previous minutes and actions.
- The Chair introduces each agenda item and there is a discussion.
Attending a meeting
Before the meeting:
- Do some research about a group or organisation before you attend their meeting, so you know what they do and what you will be discussing. This is especially important if you are formally joining an organisation's board or committee. You can find out about the history, structure, staff and scope of an organisation from their Annual Report, a document they should have available on their website.
- You’ll need an invitation to attend most meetings (unless they’re public meetings), so don’t assume you can just turn up and take part – contact the group or organisation beforehand to ask if you can attend.
- After you’ve received an invitation, ask for a copy of the minutes from the last meeting.
During the meeting:
- Turn off your phone (or put it on silent).
- Pay attention to the meeting – don’t have private conversations with people around you, even if you’re whispering.
- Try not to interrupt people who are speaking – if you have something to say, get the Chair’s attention by raising your hand.
- Make your comments relevant to the agenda item being discussed.
- Stay positive – if you disagree with something someone is saying, try and give alternatives.
After the meeting:
A copy of the minutes will be sent to everyone who attended the meeting. Make sure to read them and check to see if there are any actions with your name by them – this means you are responsible for completing them before the next meeting. If there's anything you want to check or clarify, it's a good idea to call the chair and ask them to explain.
Arranging a meeting
- Choose a date and time that people will be able to attend (remember that some people might be working or at school).
- Find a venue that will be comfortable and practical for the number of people you are inviting. Make sure it’s close to public transport so people can travel there easily. Make sure everyone can get into the venue – think about lifts or wheelchair access.
- Organise any equipment you might need (like a projector or a whiteboard) and some refreshments (like water, tea or coffee, fruit, biscuits or other food).
- Invite other people to the meeting, telling them when and where it will take place, and how long it will last. It’s best to give people as much notice as possible about the meeting.
- Write an agenda and send it to the people who are attending (or publish it online where they can see it).
Writing an agenda
- Contact people attending the meeting and ask them for any agenda items – topics for discussion – they would like included.
- Order the agenda items so the most important topics are discussed first.
- Work out how much time there will realistically be for discussing each agenda item.
- Give people enough time before the meeting to see the agenda – it’s best for them to have it at least a week before.
Running a meeting
- Appoint a chairperson to lead the meeting and a secretary to take minutes – it doesn’t have to be the same people each time, you can share responsibility among meeting members.
- Use straightforward language so that everyone understands what is happening at the meeting.
- Stick to the agenda.
- Include time for a short break or refreshments and time at the end for everyone to reflect on how the meeting has gone.
- Have some fun! Making meetings enjoyable will keep people interested and coming back.
- You don’t need to write everything down, just the main points – who said what, the decisions made and the actions that will follow.
- Organise the minutes into sections that follow the meeting agenda and items.
- Keep the minutes consistent – use the same type of writing in each section.
- Check the minutes with the meeting Chairperson before you send them to people / publish them online.
- Keep a copy of the minutes in case you need to refer to them again.