5 Meeting roles you need to assign for more productive meetings
Last updated on: May 31, 2022
Whether you’re running in-person or virtual meetings, you need the right people in the right roles to keep the meetings productive and engaging.
Failing to assign the appropriate meeting roles turns your meetings into a yawnfest where nothing ever gets done.
While many would put their focus solely on the agenda and final outcomes, it’s equally important to assign and define roles and responsibilities in a meeting to ensure the former are being met.
This blog post will go over all the key roles and responsibilities you need to assign to ensure maximum meeting productivity, both in-person and virtually.
Why is it important to define clear meeting roles
In addition to fostering an overall great work culture, clear meeting roles bring a number of other benefits to the meeting environment and organization as a whole:
- Clear meeting roles create an inclusive workplace experience. Having the right people monitor conversations ensures every voice and opinion is heard.
- Clear meeting roles foster collaboration and boost productivity. A great meeting facilitator, for example, will keep the conversation on track and guide the group towards more efficient decision-making. Moreover, defined meeting roles allow for more effective use of time and technology, and overall better meeting organization. In fact, research shows that meeting productivity is directly correlated to the people who organize and facilitate the meeting.
- Clear meeting roles make your meetings more interactive and engaging. When more people are involved in creating a productive meeting experience, the participants are more likely to feel motivated to engage in the conversation.
Common in-person and virtual meeting roles
Recently, the new work models have disrupted the traditional meeting setting.
Who among us remembers the last time they attended a meeting with all participants physically present in a conference room?
Although the workplaces and meeting settings have changed, this shift hasn’t really affected the roles required to ensure maximum meeting productivity.
Both in-person and virtual meetings require these four key roles:
- Leader (Chair) — the person who arranges, leads, and concludes the meeting.
- Facilitator — the person responsible for keeping the discussion and decision-making on track. It’s not uncommon to have one person in charge of both leading and facilitating the meeting, as the two roles are similar.
- Timekeeper — the person that ensures time efficiency of the meeting.
- Notetaker — the person responsible for documenting key action items, decisions, and questions.
Virtual meetings require two additional roles:
- Tech Host — the person who runs the platform, and
- Chat Moderator — the person who manages the chat.
In some cases, one person can manage both these roles.
The 5 key meeting roles your meetings should include
As the standards for hosting meetings are changing to meet the demands of the new workplace dynamics, new roles are added to create an engaging and inclusive meeting environment.
For example, some virtual meetings include Vibe Watchers — people who monitor nonverbal communication and sensitive interpersonal dynamics.
However, while it may be fun to discuss the role of the Vibe Watcher in more depth, in this blog post, we will stick to the basics to help you set the proper foundation for productive meetings.
Let’s go through a detailed overview of the five key roles for effective meetings.
👩💻 Meeting role #1: Leader
The Leader or the Chair is a key meeting role in both virtual and in-person meetings.
The role is given to the head of the team who is responsible for putting together the agenda and assigning other meeting roles.
In addition to these duties, the Leader takes care of several key elements before, during, and after the meeting.
The Leader’s responsibilities before the meeting
- Arranges the meeting
- Sends meeting invitations
- Prepares and coordinates the agenda
- Arranges a venue (for in-person meetings)
- Selects the conference tool to be used (e.g. Pumble or Microsoft Teams)
- Sends links and invitations to participants from the tool as well as any additional information on how to use the tool
The Leader’s responsibilities during the meeting
- Establishes objectives, roles, and rules
- Monitors the facilitator in keeping the discussion on track
- Ensures everyone is given equal opportunity to participate in the conversation
The Leader’s responsibilities after the meeting
- Ensures all key decisions are effectively communicated
- Defines the next steps
- Ensures the team members are assigned responsibilities
Tips for Leaders in meetings
Now that you have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the meeting Leader, here are a couple of actionable tips to help you chair your next meeting like a pro:
- Identify the goal(s) of the meeting in advance. This will help you assess the progress better during the meeting and determine if the main objective has been met in the end.
- Coordinate the plan with other key figures. To minimize interruptions, delays, or misunderstandings, it’s a good idea to prepare a plan of action, duties, and cues with Facilitators, Timekeepers, Notetakers, and Tech Hosts.
- Leave room for questions. Allocate enough time during the meeting for participants to ask questions. In addition to ensuring maximum clarity and transparency, you’re also creating an inclusive experience for all participants.
- Give the final word. Be sure to send brief notes to all the participants after the meeting. These are especially applicable to larger, all-hands meetings, for example. It can be a great way to express your gratitude to everyone for participating. It can also serve as a reminder of the key points and action items.
Leader vs Facilitator in meetings
The Leader and Facilitator roles are often assumed by the same person.
Although the two roles are similar, and the terms are often used interchangeably, they can have distinct responsibilities.
The meeting Leader role is exclusively reserved for someone from the team. In most cases, the team lead assumes the position of the meeting Lead.
The meeting Facilitator role, on the other hand, can be entrusted to people outside the team, or even outside the organization.
While the meeting Leader is in charge of meeting outcomes, the Facilitator takes a more active role during the meeting as they control the process of the meeting.
In many cases, the Leader can facilitate or ask another team member to facilitate the team meeting.
However, it might be a good practice to invite a skilled outsider in one of the following scenarios:
- The team is still in the early stages of working together
- There’s a high chance of a disruption in the group dynamic
- There’s a complex or sensitive topic on the agenda
🗣️ Meeting role #2: Facilitator
The Facilitator’s role is similar to that of the meeting Leader. In many organizations, one person is assigned both roles as they share the majority of duties.
However, to make a clear distinction, we will define the role of the Facilitator with responsibilities specific to this role.
The Facilitator’s main responsibility is to keep the conversation on track.
Unlike the Leader, who mostly oversees the meeting, the Facilitator has a more active role in moderating the discussion and guiding the decision-making process.
Like the Leader, the Facilitator role also includes responsibilities before, during, and after a meeting.
The Facilitator’s responsibilities before the meeting
- Meets with the Leader or session sponsors to clarify the expectations, main goals, tone, and group dynamics
- Determines the best methods and tools to use
- Assists the Leader in organizing the meeting and planning the agenda
The Facilitator’s responsibilities during the meeting
- Moderates the conversation throughout the meeting to make sure it follows the main agenda items. They have to be skilled active listeners and great communicators to act fast when it’s time to intervene and redirect the conversation.
- Sets the tone of the meeting at the beginning.
- Creates an inclusive environment. Ensures virtual participants are included and engaged in hybrid teams’ meetings.
- Neutralizes potential group conflicts. This role requires a high level of emotional intelligence to be able to understand how others may feel and guide the group toward a constructive discussion and avoid miscommunication.
The Facilitator’s responsibilities after the meeting
- Assists the Leader in defining and communicating conclusions and next steps.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Need some help steering the conversation away from conflict and toward a more constructive discussion? We have just the guide for you. Check out our blog post on the subject:
Tips for Facilitators in meetings
Whether you’re a seasoned meeting Facilitator or a first-timer, you can never be overprepared.
After all, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for meeting facilitation — every group, discussion, and agenda is unique and brings different dynamics and communication challenges.
That said, there are still a couple of tips any facilitator can apply to improve meeting productivity:
- Meet your audience. Ideally, you’ll have a chance to assess the dynamic of the group and get a better insight into the personality traits and communication styles of the participants. This will help you determine how best to address the participants.
- Be mindful and observant. Before and during the meeting, make sure to carefully read the room to better predict behavior and act fast when digressions or misunderstandings occur.
- Ask the right questions. Contrary to popular belief, the role of the Facilitator is not to know all the answers, but to ask the right questions to guide the conversation toward solutions. Be sure to actively listen and chime in with the right question at the right time to elicit more meaningful conclusions.
- Keep the flow going. In addition to moving the conversation forward with the right questions, it’s also a good idea to keep the group engaged and even physically active during the meeting. For in-person meetings, this can be achieved with stand-up meetings. Or, you can ask the participants to get up and write their ideas on the whiteboard. In virtual meetings, you can do a stand-up meeting as well, or include appropriate ice breaker games.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
If you feel your nerves might get the best of you during facilitation, you might need some assistance conquering your facilitation fears.
Find out what causes the common fears associated with meeting facilitation, and get actionable tips on managing them:
⏱️ Meeting role #3: Timekeeper
The Timekeeper’s role is pretty straightforward — they keep track of time during the meeting to ensure the estimated time allotments are respected for each agenda item.
Timekeepers are usually appointed by the Leader or the Facilitator. In most cases, they are members of the team or the organization and also the participants in the meeting.
Their role is to assist the Leader or the Facilitator in managing the meeting time more effectively.
Timekeepers remind the Facilitator, the Leader, or the group when the predefined time for a specific agenda item is about to expire.
It’s a good idea to agree with all key members on the subtle alert method prior to the meeting.
That way, all the participants and key members can easily pick up on cues without disrupting the ongoing conversation.
For example, Timekeepers can communicate with Leaders or Facilitators via private chats on the conference platform they are using. They can send reminders each time a time limit for an agenda item is almost reached.
Tips for Timekeepers in meetings
As a Timekeeper, your job is to stay present and focused and watch the clock.
Here are some other useful tips to be aware of when you get assigned the Timekeeper role in your team meeting:
- Know the meeting agenda. Get familiar with the meeting agenda ahead of time to better prepare for your role. It’s a good idea to have it in writing as well, to keep track of the items and the timeline more efficiently.
- Identify potential delays. Meet with the Leader and the Facilitator before the meeting to identify any items that may take up more time than expected.
- Use a reliable time tracker. Your role is all about punctuality, so make sure no case of a dead battery or device malfunction steals your thunder.
✍️ Meeting role #4: Notetaker
The Notetaker’s responsibility lies in recording key meeting items. They make sure decisions, parked topics, and questions are all recorded and noted for later.
Some tools allow you to record entire meetings, so there might not always be a need for this role.
However, you should still employ some form of manual recording to keep the main discussion points and conclusions on hand. You can use the chat section for this and have your main points and questions automatically saved and easily accessible for future reference.
For example, you can type out main action points as a bullet list in a team channel in your team chat app. This way, you can bulk send meeting notes to everyone and have all the participants immediately notified when you press send.
Notetakers also work closely with the Leader and/or the Facilitator to develop the meeting agenda.
In addition, they are in charge of organizing the notes and distributing them to the participants.
Strong attention to detail and the ability to quickly comprehend and record verbal communication are some of the key traits Notetakers need to possess.
Aside from their role responsibilities, Notetakers are also active participants in meetings.
In line with this, it’s important to assign this role to skilled multitaskers who have a thorough enough knowledge of the agenda and the group dynamic to perform the two-role assignment successfully.
Tips for Notetakers in meetings
As a Notetaker, your duties go well beyond paying close attention throughout the meeting and typing super fast.
To help you master this role from the get-go, we’ve compiled a list of additional things to consider when taking on a Notetaker role:
- Get a good grasp of industry jargon. Ensure that you understand the industry- or agenda-specific terminology to be able to transcribe any technical terms or acronyms quickly and accurately.
- Come prepared. Charge your laptop and any other devices you plan on using. You can also have some paper and a pen on hand just in case something unexpected happens with the equipment.
- Master your writing. It’s paramount to get the right message across and leave no room for misinterpretation when compiling meeting recordings. To effectively format your meeting notes, go for clarity, conciseness, and skim-friendly formating.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
If you need more tips on improving clarity and accuracy in your business writing, be sure to check our guide on the blog:
🔧 Meeting role #5: Tech Host/Chat Moderator
No one thinks about the Tech Host until they accidentally leave a virtual meeting and need help getting back in. Or, when screen sharing doesn’t work just as they’re about to share that report it took them ages to finish.
Tech Host is a critical presence in any meeting involving any form of technology. In virtual meetings, their role mainly lies in making sure that the conference tool functions smoothly.
For in-person meetings, Tech Hosts are responsible for ensuring that all devices used are connected and working properly.
Contrary to popular belief, Tech Hosts must assume a rather active presence during virtual and in-person meetings.
Ideally, the Leader or the Facilitator will introduce the Tech Host, in the beginning, to make sure all the participants know who to turn to for potential technology malfunction.
Although these are essentially two separate roles, in most cases, Tech Hosts also assume the position of Chat Moderator.
This means that, most often, you’ll have one person troubleshooting potential issues with the conference platform and monitoring the chatbox for technical questions.
The role of the Tech Host boils down to the following:
- The Tech Host has extensive knowledge of the conference platform and all the accompanying tools. They make sure everything runs smoothly so that every participant can focus on their role and the agenda.
- In a virtual environment, Tech Hosts are also responsible for assisting attendees in joining the meeting.
- Tech Hosts assist Notetakers in ensuring all meeting documents and notes are successfully uploaded.
Tips for Tech Hosts in meetings
While having great technical skills will most certainly qualify you for the role of Tech Host, this is only the first step.
Here are some tips to consider if you want to dip your toes into the Tech Host pool:
- Coordinate the technical requirements with the Facilitator. Ideally, the Tech Host will review all the details with the Leader or the Facilitator before the meeting to prepare additional tools, backup plans, as well as any meeting-specific technical means.
- Keep calm under pressure. Try to maintain a cool and collected presence when troubleshooting. This will help other participants relax and ensure the meeting flow remains undisturbed.
- Communicate clear instructions. The ability of the Tech Host to give clear and precise instructions can make or break the meeting productivity. Make sure to use simple language to effectively communicate instructions.
Wrapping up: It takes a village to run productive meetings
Running productive meetings should not be a one-man job.
Instead of letting team leaders take all the burden, consider assigning more team members a more active role.
Use the role descriptions and tips outlined in this article to assign the right people for the roles and make your meetings more dynamic and productive.