12 Tips for Better Meetings – And Happier Attendees

Posted on Wed, Apr 20, 2016
12 Tips for Better Meetings – And Happier Attendees

By Sabrina Griffin, RN

This article is Part 1 of a two-part series.

For leaders, a lot of the work you do is accomplished in meetings. But, for many us, planning for meetings is close to last on our list of things to do. Unfortunately, a poor process for arranging, conducting and using meetings can result in a significant waste of time and effort.

So, how do we elevate the effectiveness of our meetings? As someone who relies on lean for process improvement in the hospital setting, I immediately looked to the principles and tools of lean to help improve my process for meetings. Applying lean methodologies such as value-stream mapping and 5S has helped me identify what brings value to meetings and how to standardize meetings so that they run most efficiently. Here are a few tips to help you meet smarter, not longer.

To make the process of conducting lean meetings easier to remember, I have developed the 12 Ps or 12 Principles for Ensuring Efficient Meetings:

Lean Meetings Checklist 

1. Purpose.

Even parties have a purpose. Why do you need to gather multiple people together for concurrent thought, interaction and communication? How is this going to be more effective than a survey, email, bulletin or another method of communication? What do you need to achieve that can’t be achieved without meeting? How would you achieve this if you were not able to have a meeting?

You can eliminate the waste of unproductive, non-priority meetings with this one easy word: No. Ok, so it’s not always easy to say. The ability to say “no” at the right time for the right reasons (and in the right way) is one of the most powerful drivers of efficiency. If the meeting does not meet the criteria for “purpose” in terms of the questions above, there’s your answer. Presenting the “no” as a question can make it a little easier. For example, you might say, “In the interest of everyone’s time, would it be just as effective if we posted a bulletin?”

Also, as the decision makers, leaders often are approached as to when a meeting is appropriate. What’s the best way to manage a situation when someone in your department (or anyone else for that matter) requests a meeting with your team? Ask the instigator the same questions you ask yourself when you want to conduct a meeting. Any weakness in the answers to those questions will help you position your message if you are inclined to say no.

Once you have agreed to accept this meeting, how do you make sure it lives up to its “purpose?” What will a successful meeting look like? Are you anticipating change and new results? Can the impact be measured? When can you expect to see the results? Reporting outcomes and results is an important factor in tying meetings to purpose, and as such should be included in the follow-up projects of practically every meeting.

2. People.

So you have determined that you “have to” have a meeting because the task or goal cannot be achieved unless all of these people contribute to the thought process at the same time. Now you need to determine who must be included (If someone else is making the suggestion, ask “Who are all of these people and who can we manage without?”).

This checklist can help with this decision:

  • Decision maker (or influencer) – If your meeting is to result in a conclusion, you will need a final authority or someone who will present the group’s findings to the final authority so that the change can be adopted. If there is no final authority, determine in advance how a decision will be made. Majority rule vote is one way.
  • Knowledge resource - Who has the most knowledge, or at least adequate knowledge, about the process or topic to provide expertise to the group? Be sure to invite an expert even if his or her role will be limited to providing information.
  • Cascade/communication resource - Depending on how your organization distributes information, this may need to be a representative from all affected shifts or departments or a member of your internal marketing communications team.
  • Others – who else will benefit and contribute to the meetingThere are people you must have, people it would help to have and people who don’t need to be there. Sorting these out through a lean mindset can improve the effectiveness of your meetings.

3. Preparation.

You have heard the saying “pay now or pay later.” By putting the time and effort in on the front end, you will save your group wasted time (and frustration) on the back end. Ensuring people have enough time to prepare and thoughtful scheduling will make the actual meeting that much more efficient.

It’s not enough just to make sure you have the invitations sent and the resources (conference room, call lines) reserved. Think through what you need each person to review in advance, prepare for or bring to the meeting to make the most effective use of the together time. This will help you set expectations for each individual and the group. Reach out to each person who has a task to explain what you are going to be requesting of them and let them know what they will see included on the agenda. Check in as appropriate before your meeting to make sure each contributor is on track. While all of this seems like a lot of extra work, the time saved for the entire group will far outweigh the investment on the front end. In addition, as your team becomes more accustomed to the meeting requirements and expectations, these steps can become a quick formality.

When people know the point of the meeting in advance and what they and each of the other members of the group will be expected to provide, you are more likely to get buy-in. And, when those involved in the meeting have a sense of purpose, there is much greater engagement.

4. Process.

Lean meetings will have standardized processes. Having an agenda should be the No. 1 standard process for your meetings.

Standardize as much of the process as possible. Identify the leader, reporters, time keeper, decision maker and other roles. Have standards to address what is to be done in the meeting and take care of tasks like including everyone’s contact information on the agenda. Finally, since you’re there, if there is a need for a follow-up meeting, set the date before the meeting adjourns.

5. Points.

Based on the purpose of the meeting, there are no doubt key points that “must” be covered to attain your goals. Those bullet points should be clearly defined in your agenda. Then, let’s take this one step further. Each member of the group will have points he or she wants to cover. The agenda should accommodate space for key questions or discussions from others in the meeting as well. Part of each person’s responsibility before attending the meeting should be to submit any relevant questions they would like to see discussed at the meeting in advance.

This will ensure the topic is well developed in advance and should minimize the new questions that erupt during the meeting.

6. Polish.

Meetings also give the members a chance to share their ideas in a way that impacts and influences others. Help your members understand how to be an active and important contributor to the meeting through their mastery of effective presentation and delivery. Any Dale Carnegie graduate will tell you that 90 seconds will provide more than enough time to make a point. Help your teams learn the art of the 90-second presentation. Why do most presentations take longer? Often because we are unprepared, and we are rambling and scrambling, hoping somehow we will say something important.
Check back next week for the final six tips.

Sabrina Griffin

Sabrina Griffin, RN, BSN, CEN, is the Divisional Director of Clinical Services in EmCare’s Alliance Group.

Sources and references: 
  • Studer Group article “How Cascading Information Creates Consistency” Posted April 21, 2013 by Quint Studer,
  • Association of American Medical Colleges, “Leadership Lesson: Tools for Effective Team Meetings - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Team” by Yvette Pigeon, Ed.D., and Omar Khan, M.D., M.H.S.
  • Mind Tools “Running Effective Meetings - Establishing an Objective and Sticking to it”

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