Tips And Treats
Meeting is a characteristic of human civilization, an age-long universal activity in which every human being participates. Whether on a village square in a remote village or in a board-room in an ultra modern office building, you have found, or will soon find, yourself involved in a meeting.
Yet a good number of us who participate in meetings, and even get elected as officers, with the responsibility of organizing and conducting meetings, are ignorant of important meeting terms, meeting procedures and practices. In fact, the fear of the embarrassing problem that may result from the lack of knowledge in correct meeting procedures has literally stopped many from taking on roles or positions on decision-making bodies.
This article is prepared to equip you with the essential knowledge about modern meeting procedures and practices, knowledge which will prepare you for the next meeting you will be taking part in, enable you to make a contribution to various organizations and decision-making bodies, and help you to make a success of your post as a chairman or secretary of your organization.
Last Updated - 8th December 2005
As a member of the civilized human society, where regular meeting is an essential practice, you need to be familiar with meeting practices and procedures, otherwise you may be compelled to remain dumb during an important meeting, or worse still, bungle things if you are voted into a position - like the Chairman's or Secretary's - where the success of the meeting depend on your knowledge of meeting practices and procedures.
What Meeting Is?
Meeting is an act or process of coming together as an assembly for common purpose. It is a gathering of people for discussion or another purpose.
Meetings take place when groups of people gather to discuss, and try to resolve matters which are of a reciprocal concern. Issues are discussed and debated, recommendations are made, directions are given and courses of action are decided.
Types of Meetings
- Public Meeting - This is a meeting in a public place and which the public or a section of the public may be permitted to attend freely or for a fee. An example of a public meeting is a gathering of the people of a town, for discussion on a matter of public concern. The meeting is open to all the notable people of the town, or anybody who has something to contribute to the matter to be discussed.
- Private Meeting - This is a meeting to which only the members of the body holding the meeting can attend. Meetings held by Associations, Societies, Unions etc. are examples of private meetings. Only the members can attend such meetings.
- Bodies that meet privately may, however, organize public meetings once in a while for the purpose of educating or informing the members of the public, or a section of the members of the public, who are invited to the meetings.
- Formal Meeting - This is a meeting planned, arranged or scheduled and held under supervision and control process either of rules and regulations.
- Informal Meeting - This is a meeting arranged and conducted without formality or ceremony. There is usually no agenda and the rules and regulations guiding meeting are not strictly followed, if followed at all.
- Statutory Meeting - This is a meeting that is held because the statute prescribes or authorizes it. It follows the provision and requirements of the law. Under the statutory provision of a meeting, for example, a public limited company must hold a meeting not less than one month and not more than three months after the date on which it is entitled to start business.
Validity of a Meeting
For the business of a meeting to be held valid and binding, certain common law requirements must be fulfilled.
- This is the minimum number of persons who must be in attendance before a meeting can be held. The quorum is laid down in the constitution or rules of the organization. If a quorum cannot be declared within 30 minutes after the designated starting time of the meeting, the meeting may be called again for a similar time and place a week later.
- If, however, no more members attend the reconvened meeting, the Chairman may be allowed by the standing orders to conduct the business with those who have arrived.
- This is a form of information, either oral or written, notifying a person that a meeting will be held at a particular time. The notice must be issued under the authority of those empowered by the constitution or regulation of the organization or statute to do so, like the Chairman and Secretary.
- The Agenda
- An agenda is a programme of the details of the business to be discussed at a meeting in the order in which they are to be taken. Prior to the meeting, an agenda is prepared and circulated to all members. This agenda forms the structure of the meeting. It states where and when the meeting will take place and what matters will be discussed.
- There must be a chairman to preside over the meeting; otherwise the business of the meeting will not be valid. There is always a regulatory provision as to who shall be chairman in the case of a registered body.
- The chairman controls the meeting and all remarks are addressed to the chairman. He is usually addressed as Mr Chairman or Madam Chairman, if the chair is occupied by a woman.
- The duties of the chairman are:
- To see that the meeting is properly constituted and that a quorum is formed.
- To see that the business of the meeting follows the order of the agenda.
- To restrict discussion to the business of the agenda.
- To maintain order in the meeting.
- To ensure opportunity for expression of opinions.
- To see that motions and amendments are properly put.
- To maintain the ruling on all matters of procedures.
- To decide on point of order submitted to him.
- To do whatever is necessary to pursue the purpose of the meeting e.g. voting on a matter where necessary.
- To give a second or casting vote if regulation allows
The Meeting Structure
For a meeting to effectively achieve its goals, a structure needs to be in place. If a meeting has little or no structure, it will not produce the desired results.
- Calling the meeting
- The secretary, after consultation with or on the instruction of the chairman, sends out notice of meeting to those who should attend.
- Opening the Meeting
- The meeting begins after the Chairman, satisfied that the quorum requirement has been met, declares the meeting opened. If a Chairperson has not taken the chair from 15 to 30 minutes after the meeting was due to begin, the assistant chairman might preside over the meeting or another person from among the members present might be elected to preside over the meeting, acting temporarily as the chairman.
- The meeting, depending on the religious belief of the leaders, may commence with an opening prayer. It may commence with the chairmans speech or in some other way.
- The Chairman states the names of those members who have formally informed him in writing that they are unable to attend the meeting.
- Minutes of the Previous Meeting
- The Secretary reads the minutes of the previous meeting in a way that it will be heard clearly and understood properly by the people in attendance. If the minutes has been printed and distributed to members before this time, the minutes may not be read by the secretary. The Chairman moves that the minutes of the previous meeting be accepted or adopted.
- If the members do not agree that the draft minutes are accurate, changes may be suggested. The Chairman may call for a vote on those corrections and then decide if the changes should be made to the minutes.
- Once the Minutes have been adopted (approved formally), the Chairperson signs every page of the minutes and hands them to the meeting secretary for filing.
- Business arising from Minutes of the Previous Meeting
- Reports, pieces of information or other matters of substance that were requested, put forward for consideration or proposed at the previous meeting are debated and a vote is taken on the appropriate action to take.
- Letters that have been sent to the meeting are tabled and debated, if the chairman wishes. The Chairman presents a piece of correspondence to the meeting with a motion that the meeting receive the correspondence. This is an acknowledgment of the formal receipt of the correspondence by the meeting. It is also a notice that the correspondence may now be discussed and acted upon, if necessary.
- If the correspondence is considered offensive, the meeting can vote on a motion, not to receive it. Alternatively, the meeting can decide that the correspondence should not be received and lie on the table. A letter or document is said to lie on the table when it is decided at a meeting to take no action upon the business contained in it.
- Repots and submissions that have been produced for the meeting or that include information relevant to the business of the meeting are tabled and discussed. A motion that a report be received notifies the meeting that the report exists, as far as the meeting is concerned, and that the report or submission may now be discussed and debated.
- General Business
- Here, items listed under the General Business in the agenda are debated. General business items are announced one by one by the Chairman and a discussion or debate follows each one. Motions concerning each item are put forward and to a vote. A motion becomes a resolution if it receives a simple majority, or a majority as defined in the standing orders. In the case of more formal meetings, general business consists of motions that are moved and seconded by people in the meetings. A person who seconds a motion or a seconder is someone who agrees that a motion should be debated.
- Any other Business
- When all items on the agenda have been dealt with, the Chairman may call for matters not listed in General Business. Here, the members are able to raise issues they feel are important. These issues may not be listed on the agenda.
- Issues that are extremely important or complex should not be raised unannounced during this part of the meeting. If an urgent matter must be dealt with by the meeting, the Chairman should be informed before the meeting begins. A revised agenda can then be drawn up in the time that remains before the meeting is due to begin. If the Chairperson feels that any of the issues brought up for discussion are too important, complex or difficult to be effectively dealt with in the meeting he may call for another meeting to discuss the issue, or alternatively, put it on the agenda for the next scheduled meeting.
- Close of Meeting
- When the Chairman is satisfied that all the issues on the agenda have been put forward and discussed, he advises members of the date and time of the next meeting. The meeting is now officially closed.
- A meeting started with prayer may also close with prayer.
- Minutes are a record of the proceedings of a meeting and are kept to preserve a brief, accurate and clear record of the business carried out.
- The Secretary usually records the minutes. After the meeting, he writes up the minutes, in the third person and usually in the past tense.
- Minutes should be:
- Accurate, so that they present a true record of the proceedings;
- Brief, so as to provide a readable summary of the important matters discussed and the decisions reached in the meeting;
- Clear, so that anybody who reads it can understand the major things discussed and decided upon in the meeting.
- A draft of the minutes is submitted to the Chairman for his approval before the final copy is typed.
What Can You Do As a Participant in a Meeting?
To be an active and effective participant of a meeting, you must:
- Be well prepared. If minutes of the previous meeting have been sent to you by the secretary, read it very well, noting points you would like to put forward for debate or discussion in the next meeting. If you dont think the minutes are accurate, make note of the changes you would like to be made to it at the next meeting. If an agenda is included with the notice of meeting, study it. Write down points on the issues you would like to move. Make necessary research. Do your home work well before you attend the meeting.
- Be a good listener in the meeting. Dont allow the habit of focusing your thoughts on other matters not related to the meeting when the meeting is in progress. Dont let other things distract your attention from what is going on in the meeting. Pay attention to the debates and the discussion. Make sure you understand what is being said.
- Be polite. Dont at any point in the meeting lose your temper. Dont show anger when you respond to what other people say. When you debate a point, dont evince bad temper or aggressiveness or rudeness. Dont indulge in sulking because you feel insulted or offended.
- Make yourself clear when you speak. Beware of ambiguous terms that may only befuddle your listeners. Use simple words and expressions. Think clearly every time you speak.
- Dont be proud. In a meeting, let humility be your hall mark, even if all the people in the meeting are of lower education or are not as rich as you are. When you speak, dont deliberately use big, unfamiliar words, or the technical jargons of your profession to impress other participants. Dont look down on others in the way you speak, respond or act. Be polite to the chairman and other officers. Never insist on having your ways. When you are out-voted, accept the majority decision in humility. Always remember, pride goeth before destruction.
Disclaimer: The Meeting Tips / Information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Tips And Treats . com and/or its partners.
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