Run A Meeting Like A Boss
Effectively run a meeting that leaves everyone feeling heard and valued
By Dan Luczka, PT, DPT
Before you determine how to run an effective meeting, you must first determine why you want to hold a meeting. Is it to execute communication? Team building? Problem-solving? The answer to these questions will guide you on the specifics of how to run your meeting.1
Too often, meetings are held unnecessarily or could have been more effective if held with less frequency or for a shorter duration. Some organizations have meetings that are held on a routine basis out of habit more than out of necessity, with no clear goal in mind other than to “have a regular meeting.” As an employee, I have found it to be unproductive when I did not know the agenda, was not asked to engage in the meeting, did not see a clear goal for why the meeting was held, or, worse, saw criticisms being handed out during the meeting in front of colleagues. To avoid attendees feeling resentful for being expected to attend when they have busy schedules of their own, it may be better to reschedule a meeting if there is no clear goal in mind. Rescheduling a meeting can show that you respect and value your employees’ time.
SHOULD YOU HAVE A MEETING?
There are several things to consider when determining whether or not you should have a meeting. From a pure business or monetary standpoint, you want to calculate the cost of having everyone attend the meeting. You can do this by totaling the hourly rates of your attendees. For example, if you have 10 attendees who each make $40/hour, then you are running a $400 meeting, and you should act accordingly. And this cost doesn’t even include the lost revenue that otherwise could have been produced during that hour! Decide if the money spent on your meeting helps you toward your company goals or if that money would be better spent in some other manner to achieve those goals.
Another factor to take into account is time and location. When selecting the meeting time, ensure you do so in a way that will help minimize disruptions of the workflow that day. Choosing a location that is convenient for your participants or allowing remote attendance can certainly be beneficial for many different reasons. This will help to maximize productivity by reducing travel time for the meeting.
SET THE AGENDA
Once you determine the purpose of a meeting, it is important to set a detailed agenda. Ensuring your meeting is structured and organized is beneficial for both the leader and the participants. The agenda should be shared in advance with all of the attendees, giving them the opportunity to suggest additions to it. The agenda should include who is hosting the meeting, the start and end times, the topics covered, and who will lead each topic. Publicizing the topics in advance will allow everyone to be better prepared, potentially bringing solutions to any problems that will be discussed, as well as lowering any anxiety about the meeting. The more comfortable the attendees are, the more productive the meeting will be.
The physical setup of the meeting should be as inviting as possible so everyone can have a clear view of the speaker and be engaged in the discussion. Having people sit close to the presenter will provide a friendlier environment and one that encourages people to speak up. If participants are sitting far away, it may discourage some shy members from speaking up due to the feeling of needing to shout to be heard by all.
THE SANDWICH TECHNIQUE
Using the “sandwich technique” for the overview of your meeting is important for establishing a positive atmosphere. The sandwich technique involves starting off the meeting with something positive, whether a good deed someone did or a congratulations on a goal someone accomplished. The middle of the meeting is for constructive feedback or addressing some tough topics. At the end of the meeting, be sure to bring the energy back up and close on a high note with something else positive, such as gratitude for everyone’s hard work and recognition of their positive reviews from patients. By utilizing the sandwich technique, you can address some difficult topics without bringing down the energy of the overall meeting.
USE A SCORECARD SHEET
During the meeting it is important to assign someone to be responsible for the meeting minutes so the details of the meeting are recorded for future reference. To keep track of what is being discussed, a simple scorecard sheet is useful. The three columns should be updated before, during, and after the meeting. The first column is for a specific task or to-do item. The middle column is for comments about the task, such as who is in charge, due dates, or any other details. The third column is to indicate if it is on or off task. Designating the item as “on task” indicates that it is progressing as planned and minimal time is needed to discuss that topic. Designating the item as “off task” indicates there is an issue that needs to be discussed during the meeting to resolve it in order to move forward. See below for an example of the scorecard document.
This scorecard can be a shared online document that is distributed ahead of the meeting so team members can update their portion of the document. During the meeting, a designated person should be assigned to update the scorecard with new tasks. This person should also update the comments section for the existing tasks and whether the specific topic is still on or off task. If the topic is off task, then more time will be spent discussing it. If it is on task, then less time will be spent on it. This way, the meeting time is prioritized to where it is needed the most. If you are meeting weekly, but a particular task takes two months to complete, the task will show up on multiple scorecard meetings. By clarifying it is on task, you can briefly comment on it as needed and move on, so you don’t spend more time discussing it than you need to. The speaker should make sure all comments and questions are addressed before moving on to the next topic, ensuring clear communication and a chance for everyone to offer input.
It is important to leave the meeting with a specific action plan so you and your team can effectively and efficiently get the job done. Being crystal clear on expectations of to-do tasks from a meeting ensures the ability to track progress and successful completion of a goal. Whether it is a new marketing campaign or improvement of treatment skills, having SMART goals for each item is key to keeping everyone on the same page and accountable. Remember, a goal without a plan is only a dream.
At the end of the meeting, it is important to thank everyone for attending and to coordinate the next meeting to avoid scheduling conflicts. Keeping the scorecard online and available to everyone will mean the meeting minutes are already accessible to the team, so there will be no need for a follow-up email summarizing everyone’s assignments, and you can use the document to make sure you execute your tasks in a timely manner and help keep everyone accountable. Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
If you know why you are having your meeting; communicate clearly before, during, and after the meeting; and provide an avenue for everyone to provide input, your meeting will be an effective one. And effective meetings lead to effective practices and effective patient outcomes.
1Forsetlund L, Bjørndal A, Rashidian A, et al. “Continuing Education Meetings and Workshops: Effects on Professional Practice and Health Care Outcomes.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858. CD003030.pub2
Dan Luczka, PT, DPT, is the owner of InstaCare Physical Therapy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.