A meeting arranged to conduct business, which may be called a committee or, for example, a board, council, panel, study group or working party, is part of a hierarchical organisation. Each committee reports to some higher committee or to a parent body; and most committees are expected to make decisions, take actions that progress the affairs of the organisation, and make recommendations. That is to say, they have both executive and advisory functions. To be effective a committee must have clear terms of reference, well organised meetings and good documentation.
The terms of reference, in writing, state the purpose for which the committee exists, define its membership, limit its activities, and make clear whether it has executive or purely advisory functions.
The duties of the person chairing a committee are to agree an agenda for each meeting with the secretary, to ensure that each meeting starts on time, to keep to the order of business as in the agenda, to control and guide the meeting - ensuring that contributors to discussions speak concisely and to the point, that progress is made and actions are agreed, and that the meeting ends on time.
Part of a secretary’s duties is to provide committee members with the papers needed to support a business meeting. These are the subject of this chapter: (a) the Minutes of the last meeting, distributed soon after that meeting, or for an annual general meeting (AGM) the Minutes of last year’s AGM distributed at or shortly before the AGM; (b) the Agenda for the meeting; and (c) any necessary supporting papers, which should be distributed with the agenda about two weeks before the meeting.