Which best describes your last credentialing or med staff-related meeting as organizer or participant?

a.       All by myself ♫
b.       Game of thrones
c.       Productive, collegial huddle
d.       Town hall snore
e.       All of the above

Meetings can get a bad rap as time wasters due to late starts, poor prep, runaway topics, attendee monopolizers, personal conflicts, etc. Who knows why otherwise productive and agreeable professionals at times behave in counterproductive ways in meetings? Perhaps they’re feeling lonely or self-important, just bought a new laser pointer, or just want some free food. But it’s your job to control it for 30-60 minutes to get the work done.

Let’s get right to four keys of successful meetings:

1. Meeting prep
  • Determine your ultimate objective(s) and decide on a forum. Some goals—key decisions, brainstorming, project kickoffs— lend themselves to being physically present while others can be accomplished virtually or polled electronically—i.e., project updates.
  • Plan the meeting by pre-meeting with anyone who will present or is a major stakeholder. This is not the same as making pre-meeting decisions.
  • When creating your agenda(s), put time limits on each item and ensure presenters know them.
  • Whether you use paper, projection screen, laptops/tablets, etc., research, prepare, and chronologically order the materials for attendees so time isn’t wasted in-meeting looking up data. Peer review data should be “read only” on computer/tablet and HER data should be screen projection only.
  • If required, have a volunteer ready to record actions/decisions.
2. Agenda management
  • Start on time, every time, until you have that reputation. It’s tough to resist, but don’t waste punctual people’s time by recapping for the late arrival.
  • Consider using a consent agenda at the start of recurring meetings for non-controversial items discussed at every meeting. A consent agenda groups routine business into one agenda item for quick approval in one action, leaving time for discussing more important or complex issues. Consent agendas allow for anyone to ask that a consent item be moved to the regular agenda if needed.
  • Move the agenda along.
  • End on time, every time.
3. Discussion management
  • Demonstrate your leadership verbally and nonverbally using thorough preparation, key seating position, engaged body language, assertive voice, facilitation/mediation, and confident decision making.
  • Do your best to engage all participants, requesting feedback from non-assertive participants.
  • Recognize when non-constructive criticism creeps in and tactfully interrupt it by summarizing the person’s valid points, then take the discussion in a positive direction.
  • When discussions get off track, use the “parking lot” method where you note the spinoff item and agree to discuss it later or at a future meeting.
  • When attendees start to repeat points, ask for a show of hands to determine consensus and move on.
  • If the group appears stuck and isn’t progressing toward a decision, halt the discussion and assign one or two interested members to research and bring back a recommendation for vote.
4. Action and follow-up
  • Record all action items and decisions on a meeting summary that is sent out to stakeholders as soon as possible post-meeting.
  • Ensure that the summary indicates the responsible parties for each decision/action item.
  • Well before your next meeting, meet with, email, or call all parties responsible for action items, as failure to follow up may indicate that expectations are low for them to complete their task.

Happy meeting planning and execution!