Conducting a Meeting

The chair is the person in charge of a meeting. The chair has the authority to regulate the meeting and is responsible for enforcing rules, keeping the order, and working toward the completion of business.

The ideal chair should have a wide range of personal skills. He/She needs to be firm in running the meeting, stay on time, and summarize points succinctly. A chair should also be flexible in dealing with the different attendees, open and receptive to differing opinions, and fair-minded so as to ensure that all views are voiced and given equal consideration.

The chair should open the meeting with a short summary of the purpose of the meeting and the agenda. He/She should allow all parties to express their views and encourage open discussion. A good chair will also prevent irrelevant debate and keep parties from becoming hostile when their views conflict.

Being familiar with the constitution and bylaws of an organization, and knowing the attendees, can help a chair be successful. The chair can exert enormous influence on the outcome of a formal or informal meeting by using listening skills and helping participants stay focused on the agenda.

As motions are brought forth, it is the chair's responsibility to repeat the motion and ensure everyone has heard and understood it. It is extremely important for the chair to remain neutral throughout the meeting, as it is the responsibility of the chair to cast the deciding vote if there is a tie.

When all the items on the agenda have been discussed and the necessary action agreed upon, it is the duty of the chair to close the meeting. The chair should ensure that all decisions are accurately recorded, follow-up procedures are set in motion, and the next meeting date, if necessary, is set.

In closing, the chair should always recap the business of the meeting, confirm committees, and end on a positive note. Thanking the participants for their attention and attendance is especially important in a volunteer organization. It may be common courtesy, but that small gesture will encourage them to attend the next meeting.

Preparing an Agenda

An agenda is a list of items that need to be discussed at a meeting. It should be short, simple, and clear. The chair may find it useful to consult with other participants or a committee to develop the agenda. If there are many issues to discuss, assign a time frame to each item. An agenda helps prepare those who attend the meeting.

When you begin to develop an agenda, try to order topics logically and group similar items together. This helps prevent repetition and saves time. The agenda should begin with "housekeeping" matters, such as calling the meeting to order, taking attendance and approving minutes of previous meetings. Unfinished, or old, business is often completed before new business is brought before the group.

Current issues, committee reports, financial reports, and decision making should comprise the bulk of the agenda. Last on the agenda outline will be other business and scheduling follow-up meetings.

Participants are often most alert early in the meeting, so that's a good time to discuss important items. Participants also appreciate agenda items that engage them by asking for their contributions.

An agenda should contain details of the meeting's date, time, place, and purpose. It should be as specific as possible. Attendees need to know what is expected of them and who will offer reports.

Once you have a draft agenda, send it to other participants for comments, additions, or approval. Then make sure all participants get a copy of the final agenda well in advance of the meeting.

The time spent preparing a well-thought-out agenda is an investment in an efficient and productive meeting. It ensures that participants are clear about the purpose of the meeting and why their contribution is important.

Meeting Participation

As a participant in a meeting, it is important to be well prepared. Focus on the aims of the meeting by reading the agenda and any previous minutes in advance. What is your role? What do you have to contribute to the meeting? Do you have any research to support your position or view? Prepare accordingly.

It is just as important to listen in a meeting as it is to speak, sometimes even more so. Listen to each speaker attentively. Look at them, give them your undivided attention. Don't interrupt him/her. Ask questions only if you need clarification or information for better understanding.

Remember that listening involves more than just ears. It is also important to "listen" to people's body language.

Keep notes. Minutes can be sketchy. If you have good notes, the odds are better that you will remember and repeat the event accurately.

When it is time for you to speak, be positive and professional. Speak clearly and confidently. Your facial expression and tone of voice are also important. If you are attending a meeting with an unfamiliar organization, inquire about proper attire. By being prepared and confident, others are more likely to listen.

When it is time for you to speak, be positive and professional. Speak clearly and confidently. Your facial expression and tone of voice are also important. If you are attending a meeting with an unfamiliar organization, inquire about proper attire. By being prepared and confident, others are more likely to listen.

Your time is valuable. As a meeting participant, the more prepared you are and the better your delivery, the higher the probability that your points will be remembered. Other people value their time too. If you listen carefully and contribute to the discussion, everyone will benefit.

Sample Agenda


Welcome and Introductions
Minutes of Previous Meetings
Treasurer's Report
Unfinished Business
Committee Reports
State PCARET Report
Discussion of Legislative Event
Other New Business
Update from Purdue
Set Date for Next Meeting

10 minutes
5 minutes
5 minutes
5-20 minutes
5-20 minutes
10 minutes
15 minutes
10-30 minutes
10 minutes
5-15 minutes
5 minutes

 -- Area Chair
 -- Area Secretary
 -- Area Treasurer
 -- Area Chair
 -- Committee Chair(s)
 -- State PCARET Representative

 -- Purdue Administrative Staff


Program Planning

Area PCARET committees hold two primary meetings each year. One is designated as the annual meeting. Some areas hold annual meetings in the fall and others in the spring.

Some items suggested for the annual meeting are:

  • Introduce and/or use mixers to help members and attendees get to know each other.
  • Distribute list of current area PCARET members.
  • Conduct orientation for new area PCARET members.
  • Conduct normal business.
  • Evaluate any winter activity of area or state PCARET.
  • Hear report from National Lay Leaders’ Conference.
  • Plan area legislative activities.
  • Hear nominating committee report.
  • Elect area PCARET officers.
  • Set future meeting dates.
  • Receive Purdue updates.
  • Share county activities and program reports.
During the second meeting, there are some similar and additional items to be considered:
  • Introduce participants.
  • Collect dues from counties.
  • Evaluate area legislative events.
  • Plan for visits to the Statehouse during the legislative session.
  • Announce upcoming State PCARET Conference and State Legislative Luncheon.
  • Appoint nominating committee for area officers.
  • Present resumes for National Lay Leaders’ Conference and to a three-year term on the State PCARET Committee.
  • Plan programs to enhance PCARET members’ skills.
  • Update Purdue activities.
  • Share county activities and programs.
  • Set future meeting dates.

The Role of a PCARET Member

Experienced PCARET members may be asked to help with orientation of new members by serving as a mentor. As a mentor, your job is to help the new members integrate into the organization, understand his or her role, and take advantage of the opportunities that are available.

As a mentor you are an informal link between the new member and the organization. You can support, challenge, and provide vision to the new PCARET member. You are a teacher, a motivator, and a counselor.

Here are some ways you might help the new member feel welcome and become more familiar with PCARET:

  • Contact the new member by phone and make an appointment to meet with him/her prior to the next event.
  • Welcome the new member at the first meeting and introduce him/her to others.
  • Be available to answer questions regarding roles and responsibilities, legislative functions, legislators, and organizational participation.
  • Invite the new members to go with you to meet a legislator or staff member.
  • Offer transportation to an area or state PCARET event.
Remember that you don't have to have all the answers. You might even learn a few things while serving as a mentor. By sharing your expertise, ideas, feedback, and friendship, you will make a valuable contribution to the organization - a great new member.