Merge's Blog

Three key roles are necessary for effective meetings

Meetings continue to be the bane of managers and supervisors everywhere – I mean how many times have you attended the meeting from hell? Yeah, thought so!

In previous blogs, I have offered ideas on how to make your meetings more productive (see links at the bottom of this post), and today I have one more proven idea – establish three key meeting roles for every meeting — chairperson, timekeeper, and minute-taker — filled by three different people. The chairperson is responsible for facilitating the meeting — making sure all relevant input is being solicited and gathered, and smoothing over rough spots as necessary. The timekeeper’s role in a meeting is paramount — he or she is responsible for letting participants know when the allotted time for an agenda item is up. The timekeeper may need to be firm with participants to ensure that they stick to the agenda. The minute-taker’s role is exactly what it sounds like — he or she is responsible for producing a written record about key aspects of the meeting … more about this in a future blog post.

Another thought: if you hold recurring meetings, rotate the roles of the chairperson, timekeeper, and minute-taker for each meeting. The benefits of rotation are two-fold — all participants develop meeting skills, and, perhaps more importantly, there is greater awareness and respect for the challenges inherent in these roles.

By the way, these three key roles are just as applicable to unplanned or emergency meetings as well: if you don’t assign these roles, an emergency meeting can quickly turn into a waste of time.

So what do you think? Are these three key roles necessary? What advice do you have to offer to prevent the “meeting from hell”?

If meetings are driving you crazy, then these previous blog posts may be of value:


  • I have a radical type of view here. While intellectually I can’t disagree with the thought process, I haven’t really seen this work very effectively. Here is why. People don’t read the minutes. The leader doesn’t come prepared. And finally more often then note the timekeeper tries to cut off the conversation right when it is coming to resolution.

    These roles only become effective, in my view when three other things are present:

    1) There is a clear desired outcome for each discussion item.

    I don’t mean a one word out come like information, decision, etc. What I mean is what is the actual specific result. For example:
    – We want a list of 10 or more candidates for the open position.
    – We agree on the solution we are moving forward with and who will lead the implementation.

    2) There is a strategy (often thought out by the leader) about how to achieve the result.

    For a list, a brainstorm strategy could work. However, the type of brainstorm that might work would vary depending on how open the group is. Decision-making has to include do we have the right people in the room and what is the criteria for making the decision and ultimately who makes the final call.

    3) What is the next action and who will be taking it.

    This is the key to getting traction on anything. By the way, putting it the minutes won’t make it happen. What tends to be more effective is making sure the person knows exactly what they are going to do and making sure they have everything they need to do it.

    Again, I wouldn’t disagree with having the the three things you suggest. They are a great structure and can only support the process.


  • David, I don’t think your view is radical at all; in fact, I agree completely. The challenge of course is to help others get started on the road to improved meetings. I find that the more we can break it down into simple easy-to-implement steps, the more likely it is that people will be willing to make a change. “The meeting from hell” is so rampant that I often find myself offering tips for improvement on this blog. Will one of my individual suggestions radically improve meetings overnight? Very unlikely. But if a simple idea can offer some evidence of success, people are more likely to be open to trying yet another simple idea.

    Keep your insights coming, I know that readers of this blog will find them useful.


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