The Chairperson’s role is to ensure the smooth running of meetings and to act as an overall leader for the society. The Chairperson will control the meeting, beginning by outlining the purpose of the meeting and introducing the Agenda. When a discussion is underway, it is the Chairperson’s responsibility to ensure that this continues to flow smoothly, ensuring everyone has a chance to speak.
The Chairperson should also ensure the meeting runs to time. At the close of a meeting, the Chairperson should summarise the discussions and thank participants for their contributions.
Leadership: The chairperson has overall responsibility for leading the Society, inspiring and enabling Council members to bring their best to the Society to fulfil its aims. The Chair leads the way in maintaining the direction of the Society and supporting the Council in order for the Society to thrive and evolve.
Collaborate: The chairperson needs to collaborate with the secretary in the preparation of documents for meetings.
Manage: During the council meetings, the main role is managing the contributions of all council members.
Flexible: Provide a flexible Agenda for the meeting, allowing changes in the order of business to accommodate the needs of the participants.
Focus: The agenda should be followed and actions summarised to be recorded by the secretary. It is important to keep a balance between the time for each agenda item and frequent breaks to aid concentration.
Opportunity: The AGM is the main opportunity for members to comment on the running of the organisation and offer thanks or provide constructive criticism. The AGM requires the same skills as a council business meeting but is more formal and a wider range of people are involved (the membership who are allowed to vote and delegates at the conference who can comment). The Chairperson should be familiar with the constitution which provides clear guidance on society business.
Viewpoint of the current Chairperson, Susan Chambers: “During my 5 years I have learnt many new skills as Chair of Porcupine which have helped me to be a more effective participant at other meetings. The skills heighten your awareness of the dilemma of others and you are more empathetic to the chair when they need to make progress or re-focus the group to the agenda. I would recommend the role of Porcupine Chairperson – it is the perfect environment in which to learn or practice management skills. Porcupine is a friendly and uncompetitive society as we are all volunteers. Everyone wants to be there and is committed to improving our knowledge of the marine environment. You cannot ask for more than that.”