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How do I chair a meeting?

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.

Regards, Christine

Deafauntie says:
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
Have fun!

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2 responses to “How do I chair a meeting?

  1. You should regard this as a fresh challenge and any fears etc you may have are
    just obstacles to simply be overcome,however daunting they may seem. Remember that you as chair are in charge – the meeting can be run on your terms not theirs. The same for the interpreter – they should too look at as a fresh challenge. Good luck!l

  2. Wonderful and more of this initiative should be done in all workplaces.

    As a manager of many years I can say that meetings can be much more interesting with a deaf facilitator or Manager!

    The feedback I often used to get was that everyone enjoyed the meetings! Felt able to contribute, and it went too fast!

    All good suggestions above.

    Just one thing I like to say. As a deaf person think about what would be an ideal meeting for you? Often your own ideas will make a great meeting and improve the atmosphere of the meetings. Make sure you have a white board, to write things down. Also do the classic “spoon” idea..pass it round when someone needs to speak (they ask for the spoon to speak next)…

    I can with certain say that your ideas of what a meeting should be like will be adopted by everyone in the future!

    Good luck! and enjoy…don’t forget to laugh at yourself if any misunderstandings happens at the meeting, it helps to break the ice.

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