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How to chair an ISO branch meeting

In a branch meeting, the role of the chairperson is also absolutely vital. The chair can make the difference between brisk and pleasant meetings where people leave feeling that they have done something useful, and the opposite. To achieve a desirable end, chairpersons need the same skills as for a public meeting, but they also need knowledge of the rudiments of procedure.

The agenda: Every organizing meeting, however small, needs an agenda. An agenda is simply a list of the items of business, the order in which they will be discussed and suggested time limits for each item (branch members can always vote to extend discussion on a particular item, while tabling another item to the next meeting to keep to a two-hour time limit).

It is the branch committee's or branch organizer's job to draft a proposed agenda. It is important that the agenda is realistic. Not everything the branch is involved in can or should be discussed at every meeting. Agendas should reflect the branch's political and organizational priorities for that week.

It is the chairperson's job to put the agenda to the meeting for approval or amendment. Often members will propose additions to the agenda. Remember that not every item proposed should be added to the agenda. Perhaps the majority doesn't want to discuss that particular item. The proposal to add or delete an item must be put to a vote. In general, the less discussion had about the agenda, the better. If the branch organizer and chairperson have done their jobs properly beforehand, acceptance of the agenda will take less than 5 minutes, and the meeting time will be conserved for matters of substance.

Once an agenda is adopted, it is the chairperson's job to see that it is adhered to and that members do not raise extraneous points that take the branch away from the agenda.

Anyone chairing an ISO branch meeting should also be familiar with the Parliamentary procedure guidelines, which provide additional support for how to facilitate a meeting to make decisions democratically and effectively.