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Running Meetings That Aren't a Waste of Time!

Want to organize and run meetings that aren't a waste of time?!  I feel you!  I have lots of experience with planning and running meetings, and I am sharing all my ideas with you.  Check out this post and my FREE downloadable sample agenda to give you some tips and tricks! 


Do we really need to meet?

Before calling a meeting, whether via phone, webinar, in-person, etc., think about if you really need to remove people from their normal work to participate.  If you can update people via email or quick call, etc., maybe a full meeting isn't necessary.

However...I'm a huge fan of meeting in person, even for a quick touch base...continue reading!

Value-Added to Meeting in Person

Why I hate email...I really do.

  • It's hard to read tone or voice inflection in text message or email. 
  • Long, extensive emails often don't get read or read completely. 
  • I find that emails are often misinterpreted or key points are missed, especially if you don't know the person well.  
  • Our inbox is overflowing.  Once you've answered 5 emails, there are 5 more!

So let's shake hands and meet in person!

I enjoy networking and building relationships with the people I work with.  Meeting in person, if the meeting is absolutely necessary, can add the following value:

  • Allow people to observe body language and mannerisms of attendees.  This let's you adjust the meeting tone, provide opportunities for people to share, sense other's buy in or feelings on a topic.
  • Reminds people that we're human and real!  Remember those snarky comments (*or you thought they were snarky*) in that last email or chat from that person?  I assure you it's much harder to use rude language or lose your professional cool with someone you personally know during or after the meeting.
  • Allows you to quickly resolve or address questions/issues without spending valuable time emailing back and forth.
  • Allows you to lead by example.  You can demonstrate the behaviors you expect your team and others to have in interactions with others.  For example, if you act calm and collected, your team will too.
  • For those who like everything documented so you can go back to it, that's what good meeting notes are for!

Craft an Agenda to Set the Tone and Stay on Task

Download my FREE Sample Agenda to get you started!

  • Be sure you include the following information on your agenda:
    • Meeting Title--ex: Care Unit 5 Bi-Weekly Leader Meeting
    • Meeting Date and Time--ex: Aprill 5th, 2018; 0900-1000
    • Agenda Topics and Allotted Time Per Topic--Infection Prevention Process Improvement (15 min) or 0915-0930--Quality Dashboard Updates
    • Action Items section with space for notes
    • Old Business or 30 Second Updates section with space for notes
  • Specify how long you want to spend on each topic.  This will allow you to check-in on the time, to stay on task, as you proceed down the agenda.  You can always reallocate or adjust the time for each topic as long as you know how long you've spent and if you're ahead or behind of your plan.
  • Call out "action items" or any tasks that need to be done that were discussed in the meeting.  Assign someone to perform these tasks and review these responsibilities before the meeting ends.
  • Build in time to "catch up."  It's easy to get off topic for a minute or two, and it adds up.  You'll be happy you built in this time.  If you don't need it, adjourn early and make everyone happy!

How Long Should the Meeting Be? you ask:

That's a good question!

I never like to schedule meetings for more than an hour because after that, people get antsy.

If your meeting format = Quick Updates Only, plan for 30 minutes or less to keep it short.  I am a HUGE FAN of 5-15 minute round robin style meetings where each person shares their update.  One person goes at a time, no one else can talk, and then the floor goes to the next person.  There is no feedback offered during this meeting.  If someone needs help with a project, take note of that and choose someone to help or volunteer yourself to help.  Do not elaborate.  Simply state you'll follow up outside of the meeting.

If your meeting format = Discussion and Feedback, plan for 30+ minutes.  Just know that you likely can't fit in more than 3 topics during this type of meeting otherwise information overload happens and people leave fatigued and often confused or frustrated.

Include All and Remain Open Minded

Pay attention to who has and hasn't spoken.  Some people may dominate the conversation, while others will remain silent.  If someone is dominating, thank them for their insight, and they say "Your point is well received."  You can then change the topic or bring in another individual to share. For those quiet folks, remember just because someone hasn't talked, doesn't mean they aren't actively participating.  Identify those who listen well and have value added when they do choose to speak.  Bring those people into the conversation if you feel they may have something to add.  Ask, "What thoughts do you have on this topic?  Do you have something to add?"

Realizing that meeting conversations don't always take the path you thought they would will help you keep an open mind.  I've had plenty of meetings where I thought the group would get to one place, but instead, they've come up with an entirely different idea.  That's okay!  You can steer the meeting in a specific direction, but if others are bringing thoughts to the table, be sure to acknowledge them, thank them for sharing, and decide if you will continue to discuss that idea or move on.  You can do this by saying, "Thank you for your idea.  I'm going to take that idea with me and let it sink in.  Remind me to follow up with you before the next meeting so we can explore it further.”


Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.  This is probably the most important part of meetings.  Be sure you or others send out the meeting minutes to all shortly after the meeting--within a couple days at most.  Be sure all Action Items have a responsible owner--someone who will work on or delegate that task.  If needed, assign a due date for each item.  Touch base with each person to ask them about their progress and offer to lend a hand where needed.  This may look like providing them with an appropriate contact or showing them some data they need, etc.  It may even just look like advice for when they are stuck or feedback on their first draft.

If necessary, communicate any progress updates to the meeting group/team prior to the next meeting.  Otherwise, I like to put updates in an "Old Business" section at the bottom of the next meeting agenda.  You can list any action item progress updates here without these items taking up valuable meeting agenda minutes.  However, if the items requires additional discussion, more than a quick update, feel free to put it back in the heart of the meeting so the group can address it again.

Scheduling Meetings

I find people are most fresh at the beginning of their day; however, that's also a time for many people to get updates about how their area is doing since yesterday and to prioritize their work day.

I also find that end of day or working lunch meetings aren't super fun.  People are hungry or distracted by the clock, wanting to ensure they leave on time.

An approach I love is to have time on the work calendar for specific days of the week that are "allowed" to host meetings and leave other days meeting free for productivity.  If you can block of time during the day where meetings "aren't allowed," that's also a great guide to know when to schedule a meeting.

Recurring calendar invitations for meetings are helpful so people can plan their days and weeks in advance.  If you don't need to host the meeting one week or day, just cancel it with plenty of notice and let people know why the meeting isn't necessary and when the next meeting is scheduled.  If you do have recurring invitations, ask everyone to ensure they respond if they will or will not attend so everyone's time is respected.  It's not fun knowing if so and so is or isn't coming to the meeting.

And lastly, my biggest pet peeve is when meetings are scheduled with super short notice.  For example at 3PM meeting scheduled at 1PM...yup, happens often in health care and other unpredictable workplaces.  Don't be that person to derail everyone's plans, unless it's super urgent!


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