June 18, 2015

QUESTION:        I was recently appointed as chair of a medical staff committee and am very happy, but I just realized that instead of merely attending meetings, I’ll have to run them, so I’m also extremely nervous. Help!!!

ANSWER:          An efficient meeting is the key to making it an effective meeting, and running a meeting is hard work. Here are some tips:

Tip #1. Start on time. This is one of the most important tips. If a meeting isn’t started on time, chances are it won’t end on time, and that has consequences which we’ll discuss below. If a meeting always starts on time, the attendees will more than likely be there on time, since no one likes to walk into a meeting late, and being late disrupts the meeting.

Tip #2. Limit the conversation. What “limit the conversation” means is that if a couple of attendees in the room are making the same point, over and over again, that’s unproductive, so the chair should step in and say “Ok, any other points of view that we haven’t discussed yet?” Also, if a discussion “drifts,” the chair should step in and restate the purpose of the discussion. This can be hard to do, but it is a skill that needs to be developed. Otherwise, the participants start thinking the meeting is a waste of time, and the downward spiral begins.

Tip #3. Take an issue off-line. There are times when a meeting is getting bogged down because no one has the information needed to make a decision. For example, is the bylaws revision being discussed a Joint Commission Standard? A best practice? If no one knows for sure, further discussion will not help the committee make a decision, so that issue should be taken off the agenda until the next meeting, to research the issue.

Another reason to take an issue off the agenda is when there are so many conflicting points of view that the issue won’t be able to be resolved at the meeting. The chair knows that no matter how much more discussion there is, the issue won’t be resolved. So, the chair should stop the discussion, and maybe appoint a small group to investigate or research the issue, then bring the results back to the committee.

Tip #4. End on time. This is the most important tip. If a meeting is to end at 8:30 a.m., end the meeting. Although some attendees don’t mind going over, others will start thinking about work that needs to be done, or another meeting to go to, or an appointment to make – focus is lost. A meeting that runs on and on and on isn’t efficient and becomes much less effective as time goes on. Also, not ending on time affects meeting attendance. If an attendee knows that the meeting always goes over, he or she is less likely to attend the meeting.

Sometimes agendas are just too full, or there may have been too much discussion on one issue, etc. – that happens. But, instead of plowing on through with more and more disinterested attendees as each minute ticks by, just end the meeting, and hold those agenda items over for the next meeting. The exception is if the issue is of critical importance, but that will be few and far between.