Assigning Roles in Meetings

Roles in Meetings

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Meetings can tie up key personel for a couple of hours. If you add up the time spent by everyone attending a meeting, and then work out the actual cost of holding that meeting, it can be quite scary.

So, once you, or someone else has decided to have a meeting, it is important to make sure a few key roles are covered.

Facilitator = The main role of a facilitator is to keep the group focused on the same problem at the same time in the same way. The facilitator must be prepared before a meeting, otherwise the effectiveness diminishes. S/he should review the agenda and think of the best way to accomplish the goals of the agenda. At the meeting, the facilitator maintains focus on agenda. The facilitator should try to remain neutral. If s/he wants to participate in discussion, s/he should make it clear that s/he is stepping out of role as facilitator temporarily. The facilitator also elicits participation from others and protects other members from personal attack.

You can also experiment with this role as a responsibility that rotates between all members, or between just a few. The next meeting's facilitator could be chosen at the end of the previous meeting, by lottery, by an individual's desire to do the job, or perhaps on a rotational schedule. This mechanism help to prevent the condition that one person becomes merged with the position and the possible corruption that can happen.

Note-taker = The main role of the note-taker is to keep an accurate record of what happened at the meeting. Records what decisions were made, how they are to be accomplished, and who is responsible.

Blackboard note-keeper: In certain discussions, especially when a lot of ideas are being generated, it is especially useful to have someone keep notes of what is being discussed on a blackboard or on large pieces of paper. This helps the group focus on the task at hand.

Time-keeper = Each agenda item should have a time limit, agreed upon before- hand by the group. The time-keeper reminds the group frequently how much time is left for the discussion of a particular item.

Mood-watcher= Group discussions can sometimes become very heated. All group members should be aware of the mood in the room. One person can be designated to do this and lighten things up or call for a break when necessary.

Group Members = The rest of the group also has responsibilities in making meetings more productive. A group member should respect and listen to other members' views and should not speak out of turn. A group member should also be aware of other people's roles in a meeting and remind them when they step out of their roles.

Facilitator / Chair

Before the Meeting

Facilitators are also in charge of preparing the agenda for the meeting. The facilitator must:

  • Distribute an e-mail at least one week prior to the meeting asking for "A Call Of Topics;"
  • Obtain all pre-work from the topic leader;
  • Construct the agenda allowing the topic leader time to present and discuss the issue;
  • Distribute the agenda and pre-work to group members one day prior to the meeting;
  • Make any necessary changes to the agenda prior to the meeting.

During the Meeting

Facilitators are the orchestra leaders of a meeting. They contribute by:

  • Helping the group define its overall goal, as well as specific objectives;
  • Helping the team keep discussion on track, so that meetings and conversations are effective;
  • Making accurate notes that reflect the ideas of the members;
  • Helping the group communicate effectively;
  • Creating a Yes! environment which is proactive, open to new ideas and solution oriented.
Content (Team Members)
Process (Facilitator)

The What

The subjects for discussion
The tasks
Any problems that need solving
The decisions made
The agenda items
The goals

The How

The methods and procedures
The ground rules or norms set
The tools being used
The group dynamics and climate

Topic Leader

Anyone on the team can submit agenda items and therefore be the Leader of that discussion. In advance of a meeting, Leaders need to supply the Facilitator and team members with:

  • The name of the agenda item;
  • State what pre-work is required. Documents, statistics, etc. need to be sent to team members in advance of the meeting for review (by e-mail or hardcopy);
  • State the length of time for discussion (x minutes)
  • State a desired outcome. What is the purpose of the discussion? What do you want to come out of the discussion?
  • At the meeting, a Topic Leader contributes to the successful discussion of a topic by helping to keep the discussion on track.


The responsibility of the Notetaker is to capture the essence of what was discussed at the meeting, not record conversations words for word. Meeting minutes should be written in a clear and concise manner, by:

  • Recording the date, time and location of the meeting;
  • Recording who was present, absent, and a guest at the meeting;
  • Describing the issue or problem that was examined (Refer to the agenda);
  • Summarize and state the outcomes and/or projected outcomes or an issue or problem and describe any future plans for implementation. Make sure all tabled agenda items are recorded in the minutes as Agenda Items for Next Meeting;
  • Compile a draft of the meeting minutes and send to all members of the team one week after the meeting;
  • Make any corrections and distribute the meeting minutes to team members before the next meeting;
  • At the next meeting have the meeting minutes approved.


The Timekeeper helps the Facilitator and team members:

  • Adhere to the time limits set on agenda items;
  • Notifies the team that the allotted time given to an agenda item will soon expire. The Timekeeper asks the team:
  • Should the discussion continue? State clearly how much time will be added to discussing the agenda item;
  • Should the item be tabled for another meeting? Make sure the Notetaker captures this in the meeting minutes as Agenda Items for Next Meeting.


People often forget the role participants play in a meeting. They may not have a fancy title but they do need to support the meeting. A good meeting relies on the whole group sharing responsibility for taking on the roles which are needed for a meeting to run well.

  • Arrive on time;
  • Do all pre-work and come prepared;
  • Follow guidelines posted in the room;
  • Help the meeting stay on track and ensure it is effective.

Format of a Typical Meeting

Useful Phrases for Meetings