Chairing an APS committee is an opportunity for you to inspire and lead in an area or subdiscipline of primary interest to you. The principal role of a chair is to guide a committee efficiently and effectively through its business. Be mindful of why your particular committee exists and communicate this raison d'être to the committee members. Descriptions of all committees can be found in the APS Manual of Operations. General Policy Committees are issue- or constituency-oriented. Subject Matter Committees are subdiscipline-oriented, and respond to issues of concern in their area of interest. Both report through the Councilors at Large (CALs) to APS Council on matters of relevance to their membership. Both types of committees may suggest, through submission of proposals to the Annual Meetings Board, areas for program development for the annual meeting. Committees are encouraged to meet, as needed, any time of year, not just at the Annual Meeting. Requests for video- or phone meetings can be accommodated by contacting APS staff or CALs.
All committee chairs should be attentive to the following:
Before Any Meeting, face-to-face or otherwise. Develop a meaningful and reasonable agenda. Solicit input on the agenda from committee members beforehand, but exercise leadership to manage the number of items, time allotted for each item, order of introduction of items, and who will introduce each item (if not the chair). Clearly divide and communicate which agenda items are for information, discussion or a decision. Chairs should be briefed about each item, and actions taken since the last meeting. Ensure that necessary background documents (including the last meeting's minutes) are distributed beforehand. Encourage development of brief documentation for agenda items, with a focus on the take-home message. If the chair and/or vice-chair cannot attend a committee meeting, it is their responsibility to delegate another member(s) to lead the committee meeting, and brief that member prior to the meeting on topics to be addressed, with relevant guidance on how to lead the meeting.
Maximize opportunities of any face-to-face meetings of your committee. Routine agenda items, distribution of information, approval of minutes, and preliminary discussions can and should be handled via email, electronic polls, and conference calls. The assembled committee should preserve precious time together for debates, strategic discussions, brainstorming, networking, developing personal connections, and consensus building. As a corollary to the foregoing: check that practical arrangements for meetings have been made with respect to room layout, visual aids, internet access, projection equipment, etc. Lastly, the chair should be early to meetings. Whenever possible, arrive before the meeting is due to start to deal with any unexpected issues.
During Meetings. A useful mnemonic device is CCCCC (Communicate, Control, Coax, Compare, and Clarify). The Communicate part means to signal clearly the start of the meeting. Welcome new members and make necessary introductions, but it might not be the best use of time to introduce people who are already known to each other. It's critical to set the scene and clearly state the objectives of the meeting. By your example, and by encouragement, request that speakers be clear, but brief when making a point. Control means that the chair maintains a focus on the agenda. Aim for a balance of free expression but within a context of limited time. Time is to be used effectively. The control aspect also applies to issues of maintaining a quorum, and insuring that proper minutes are taken. Coax means that the chair facilitates full participation, and draws quieter members into discussions; if necessary, by redirecting attention to quieter members when someone is monopolizing a discussion. The chair should be prepared to counterpoint issues, even if only as a "devil’s advocate", to reassure members that opposing or minority views can be raised comfortably and considered. The foregoing is a lead-in to the Compare aspect: contributed opinions should be compared impartially, and there should be a summary of points in favor vs. points not in favor. Lastly, Clarify points to insure a common understanding. Summarize a topic and ensure any acronyms or jargon are understood clearly by all.
At the End of a Meeting. Ensure that decisions and action items are recorded, along with who is going to implement them. Agree on a date for the next meeting whenever possible while the members are in attendance. Thank those present for contributing their time and ideas.
After the Meeting. Decisions of the committee should be communicated to CALs, in particular any decision requiring action on the part of APS Council. Begin online or email discussions of the agenda for the next meeting. Ensure that the minutes are written, checked by the Chair, and distributed to members within 4 weeks. Update and report activities of your committee to the Annual Reports Dashboard of APSnet.
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