According to the latest meeting statistics, the average employee spends around four hours in weekly meetings, whereas executives spend at least 12 hours. That’s already a lot of time dedicated to meetings, but once you factor in the time it takes to plan and follow up, it’s even more.
The good news is you don’t have to do everything for each meeting yourself. Leaders can benefit from delegating some responsibility by assigning what’s known as meeting roles.
This blog post will cover the key meeting roles and their responsibilities to ensure ultimate meeting productivity, whether in-person or virtually.
Here is an appalling fact: the cost of unproductive meetings is more than $37 billion annually. With this in mind, it’s essential to do what you can to ensure every meeting is run as efficiently and productively as possible. Defining clear meeting roles is a vital meeting practice that offers numerous benefits to the participants and the company.
Encourages interaction and engagement
Employees are much more likely to pay attention and engage in conversations when they have specific responsibilities to fulfill. This helps encourage participation before the meeting starts as they need to make preparations.
Each meeting role plays an important part and is necessary to run the meeting. By assigning clear roles, you encourage everyone to get involved in the meeting and compel them to work together as a team.
Creates a more inclusive meeting experience
All meeting participants have value, yet some people can be easily overlooked during conversations, especially if they’re new employees feeling unsure if they should speak up or are quiet by nature. An excellent way to ensure everyone has a chance to voice their thoughts and opinions is by assigning team meeting roles and even alternating those roles each time.
There are four must-have meeting roles for every meeting; each plays an integral part with its own set of responsibilities:
The meeting leader (organizer)
The meeting facilitator
And, of course, the participants (but I’ll leave it in this article).
While all meeting roles are important, a meeting cannot happen without a leader. This person ensures the meeting is successful from the planning phase to the follow-up. In most cases, the team lead or manager usually takes on the role of meeting leader.
The primary role of the meeting leader is to decide on the meeting goal or outcome and ultimately ensure that that goal is met. To do this, there are a few critical duties they must fulfill.
1. Decide and finalize meeting details
Once it’s been decided that a meeting is necessary and the meeting goal has been determined, the meeting leader must finalize various details, including
Who needs to be in attendance and what meeting roles they can fulfill?
What decisions will need to be made in the meeting?
What equipment and software will be required?
When the meeting should occur, depending on attendees' availability and best meeting times.
Where the meeting should be held, whether virtually or in person.
Finally, the meeting leader will send a meeting invitation that contains the details.
2. Develop the meeting agenda
Meeting agendas are vital to the success of a meeting; as the meeting outline, the agenda lists the topics and activities the team will discuss and accomplish. You should also assign an estimated time for each item to help keep the meeting organized.
One easy way to create an agenda is by utilizing meeting templates and making adjustments based on your needs so you don’t have to start from scratch.
Meeting leaders can also work on an agenda together with the facilitator or simply delegate this task to the facilitator and review and approve it afterward.
3. Share the meeting results
At the end of the meeting, the leader should ensure important topics are communicated effectively and that the next steps are defined and assigned to specific persons.
Sometimes they will be responsible for sending all related persons a meeting recap to keep everyone on the same page.
Now that you have a better understanding of the meeting leader’s primary responsibilities, here are a few tips to excel at chairing a meeting:
Welcome feedback from the team. As with anything in life, there will always be room for improvement. The leader can make necessary changes to enhance the next meeting by accepting feedback from other attendees.
Assign meeting roles based on skillsets. Since each role requires different skills, understanding each meeting attendee’s strengths and weaknesses is helpful when deciding who is best suited to each meeting role. You can also directly ask the team members to make appropriate arrangements.
Coordinate with the team members ahead of time. By preparing a plan ahead of the meeting, the leader can ensure all team members fulfilling a meeting role are on the same page.
I know what you might be thinking - isn’t a meeting facilitator the same as a meeting leader? Well, that’s only partly true.
Meeting Leader Vs. Facilitator
The roles of leader and facilitator is often assumed by the same person because their responsibilities overlap. However, several differences set them apart.
While the meeting leader takes care of the big picture to ensure the meeting goal is achieved, the meeting facilitator takes on a more active role in the meeting with the main responsibility of keeping the conversation on track.
Additionally, the leader role must be reserved for someone on the team; however, the facilitator role can be assigned to someone outside of the team or even the organization.
On smaller teams, the meeting leader might also take on the role of meeting facilitator. Let's look at the specific responsibilities of the meeting facilitator to help clearly define the role.
Working closely with the leader, the meeting facilitator will assist with organizing the meeting and planning the agenda. However, their foremost responsibility is to ensure the meeting runs smoothly and keeps the discussion productive.
Other responsibilities of the meeting facilitator include:
Setting the tone of the meeting. The meeting facilitator is responsible for starting the meeting by introducing the participants, explaining the purpose of the meeting, and reviewing the agenda and meeting guidelines.
Creating an inclusive environment. The facilitator ensures all participants are included and engaged throughout the meeting, whether in person or online.
Moderate the conversation. By paying close attention, the facilitator helps guide the conversation and avoid deviation from the main topics. In addition, they also facilitate the conversation when it is stuck.
Encouraging participation from everyone. Far too often, meetings are dominated by just one or two people. The facilitator should ensure that everyone in attendance has an opportunity to speak.
Be observative: The meeting facilitator must pay close attention throughout the meeting to ensure everyone stays on topic, all attendees have an opportunity to speak, and the meeting goal gets accomplished.
Be firm but flexible: Meetings can easily stray off course; when this happens, it’s up to the facilitator to redirect the conversation. They must also recognize when an important topic is worth exploring and decide if there’s time or if it needs to be tabled for the next meeting.
Guide the conversation: While the facilitator doesn’t need all the answers, they are required to help guide the conversation toward solutions. By actively listening, the facilitator should be able to ask questions at appropriate times to prompt further discussion.
The meeting recorder, also known as the meeting notetaker, is responsible for documenting key items that come up throughout the meeting. Thanks to technology, tools are available to help record meetings and even generate transcripts. However, one person must undertake this role and not rely on technology alone.
Take accurate meeting notes. The recorder should take detailed notes on the discussions, decisions, action items, and any other important information that comes up in the meeting.
Be an active participant in the meeting. Since the meeting recorder is also meant to participate, selecting someone who is an excellent multi-tasker and familiar with the agenda and meeting goal is a good idea.
Organize the notes and distribute them. Once the meeting is over, the recorder should review and distribute the meeting notes to all participants in a timely manner, so that they can review the information and take any necessary actions.
Take advantage of technology: If allowed, the recorder should record all conversations using a digital device so they have something to refer to. Don’t forget to bring a pen and paper just in case.
Understand the meeting topics: The recorder should review the agenda and understand the topics being discussed so information is easily understood and recorded.
Clarifying information: If the recorder is unsure about something that was said during the meeting, they should clarify it with the speaker or other participants to ensure accuracy.
The meeting timekeeper is simply responsible for keeping track of time throughout the meeting. Their main tasks are:
Keep track of time. As noted above, the timekeeper keeps track of the allotted time for each agenda item, which helps the leader and the facilitator manage the meeting time more efficiently.
Alert the facilitator when time is running out. Before the meeting, the timekeeper, leader, and facilitator must agree on a subtle alert method to give an alert. In a virtual meeting, the alert can be accomplished by sending the facilitator a signal in a private chat.
Tips for success as the meeting timekeeper
Know the meeting agenda: Familiarizing themself with the agenda ahead of time will help prepare the timekeeper for their role by knowing how much time each section is allotted.
Use a reliable time tracker: Whatever timekeeping device the timekeeper uses, make sure the device’s batteries are fully charged and ready to go.
Know how to deal with potential delays. It’s inevitable that some talking points will go over the allotted time, or new points will be brought up. Therefore it’s useful to discuss how to approach these situations with the meeting leader and facilitator ahead of time.
As you can see, each role plays an important part, and it is up to each role to work together to ensure a successful and productive meeting.
Depending on the situation, a meeting may require additional roles.
Whenever meeting decisions affect a company’s customers, selecting a few meeting members to represent those customers and share their perspectives is a good idea. These representatives require an excellent understanding of their customer's needs and can ask questions from their point of view.
A few things the VoC may consider include:
How will this decision affect the customer?
What concerns will the customer have if this decision goes through?
Will this decision positively or negatively reflect our company’s values from the customers’ viewpoint?
Whenever meeting about something that impacts your customers, having participants act as customers can help increase the success of the meeting’s outcome.
This is important for any meeting involving technology, especially virtual meetings. The primary responsibility of the tech host is to ensure all devices and software are connected and working correctly. The meeting leader should introduce the tech host at the beginning of the meeting so attendees know who to contact if they're having technical difficulties.
Tech host requirements:
Extensive knowledge of technology and software being used.
Ability to help meeting attendees with any issues they're having.
Be able to help other meeting roles with technology, such as the notetaker.
Tips for success as the tech host:
Work well under pressure: The tech host needs to remain calm when troubleshooting; this helps everyone else remain relaxed and ensures the meeting will continue.
Do a meeting run-through ahead of time: Well before the meeting, the tech host should work with the leader and facilitator to do a meeting run-through to ensure all technology is up-to-date and in working order.
Give clear, concise instructions: If an attendee reaches out to the tech host for technical help, the tech host must be able to give clear, concise instructions to help them solve the problem.
Meeting etiquettes and rules are necessary to help teams stay respectful and focused, but first, the team must be made aware of the rules and agree to them prior to the meeting.
With the meeting rules in place, you may decide to assign someone the role of the enforcer. This individual ensures everyone follows the agreed-upon meeting rules by calling out any violations.
When running a successful meeting, it shouldn’t be up to just one person. By assigning meeting roles, you lighten the load off the team lead and encourage engagement and participation.
The meeting leader, facilitator, recorder, and timekeeper can work concurrently to ensure a more productive meeting, saving the company time and money.
Cole is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience. With an educational background in journalism, public relations, and social media, she has a passion for storytelling and providing useful and engaging content.