I am a profoundly deaf professional who uses interpreters at work. I have been asked to start chairing our team meetings, which consists of around 7 to 8 hearing people. On average, these meetings can last for around 2 hours. There is a formal agenda used with additional papers.
Sometimes there are between 8 – 10 items on the agenda. The chair uses the agenda to facilitate the meeting, e.g. it ensures that time doesn’t run on. Historically, the chair has always been the line manager. This has changed. It was agreed that we, as team members, should take turns in chairing the meetings. I am finding this difficult and I don’t want to do it.
The interpreter is also finding this prospect difficult. This is because we have never done this before. We do not feel we have the skills, abilities and confidence to ensure this goes well.
What a fantastic opportunity for all your colleagues and for yourself!
So often line managers grab all the best bits for themselves, and then speed on to more promotion, because they’ve acquired skills from chairing meetings. I also think it is good for deaf staff to chair meetings. Over the years colleagues have often said to me that the meetings I chair tend to be refreshingly different, because I bring to it the perspective of a deaf person.
I suggest you open the meeting with a very short explanation – and a smile – of how you intend to ‘run’ the meeting, such as slight time delays, so that staff are prepared and know what to expect. Then I suggest the following:
1. Cut down the number of items to eight. Identify two which could be discussed by email.
2. Time each item, so people know how long there is for discussion (and thereby timing themselves)
3. Allow a few seconds between each item to allow yourself to regroup
4. Make sure you read all the papers beforehand, so you don’t need to read during the meeting
5. Make sure everyone agrees the action after each item, to avoid room for confusion afterwards
6. Suggest a five minute break halfway into the meeting
7. Do a preparatory run through with your interpreter the day before to identify any potential problems
8. Agree and allocate a minute taker – sitting next to you of course – so you don’t have to take your eyes off the meeting and take notes.
I am sure other deaf professionals will have suggestions of their own. Cherry-pick the ones that suit you best.
PS. I am a little concerned that your interpreter is worried about the meeting. If they are fully trained and qualified, surely they should be quite used to interpreting meetings? Just a thought