Vacating the chair to make a presentation

Karen from Doubleview in Western Australia has asked about the protocol when vacating the chair to make a presentation.

Presiding over a meeting as the chair or chairman or chairperson is a role not a physical position. So if in your role of chairing the meeting, you physically move in order to carry out a duty or function, then you do not cease to be the chair of that meeting.

Even though you may be a member of an organisation which actually has a gavel which is used by the chair, if the chair moves away from the gavel, it does not mean that they do not take with them the authority of the chair.

In Karen’s case, she is a member of an organisation where a different member chairs each meeting, but there is an elected president who sits next to the person chairing the meeting. (This is unusual but not unheard of.) In this case, Karen would have the option of temporarily handing the meeting over to the president while she performed her other duty from another place in the meeting room, or simply stating when she moved that she was maintaining her role of chairing the meeting but she would be conducting her next function from the front of the room. My suggestion is the latter course of action – maintain the role and make a statement to that effect.

The words the person could use could be as follows:

“In my role as chairman of this meeting I am now going to go to the front of the room to make a presentation.”

You do not have to appoint a temporary chair when you physically leave the position from which you are chairing the meeting – your role continues where ever you are in the meeting room.


Caution: The term vacating the chair does not mean that you are physically vacating the chair, it means that you are vacating the role of chairing the meeting, which means that another person must assume the role of chair. Moving away from the position of the chair is not the same as vacating the chair.

Some legislatures and parliaments have a custom where the “chair” of the parliament – often called the Speaker or the President, must always sit in the designated position. Do not confuse this with everyday meetings which are usually  not subject to such strict customs.

Please Note: The author accepts no responsibility for anything which occurs directly or indirectly as a result of using any of the suggestions or procedures detailed in this blog. All suggestions and procedures are provided in good faith as general guidelines only and should be used in conjunction with relevant legislation, constitutions, rules, laws, by-laws, and with reasonable judgement.

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