Learning to Run Meetings

Whether you are a college student, medical student, resident, faculty member or physician in practice, you can’t get around the need for meetings. Having watched some masters (and some “masters to be”) I thought it would be worth a little research on what makes a meeting work well. Here’s 12 ideas to help learn the skill of running a great meeting.


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1. Start on time, stay on schedule and end on time. “Set the ground rules – meeting does not equal chillaxin in a room with a big table” from the MIT meeting Primer


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2. Don’t use PowerPoint.


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3. Make meetings as short as possible. Just because Outlook defaults to an hour doesn’t mean a meeting has to be an hour. I’m a fan of 30 minute meetings (max).


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4. Never have a meeting without a clear purpose. If it’s just “getting together” to talk, it’s not a meeting. (Face to face time is important socially, but don’t confuse the two). That being said, a little social interaction at the beginning of the meeting is important to set a collegial tone.

5. Invite the appropriate people. Nothing is worse than sitting through a meeting about a topic that doesn’t apply to you. Limit the number, too – more than 8-10 people limits the ability of the group to interact effectively.


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6. Make an agenda and send it out before the meeting. If you are using Outlook to schedule your meetings, you can include the agenda (or add it later) with the invitation. The best agendas use the DRI approach adopted by Apple. Every item on the agenda should a) have a time limit for the item b) lead to an action item, and c) should list the “Directly Responsible Individual” for that item.  If it’s a smaller meeting, a formal agenda may not be necessary, but setting goals (and letting everyone know in advance) is still crucial.

7. Share documents with the team. Create folders on a shared drive, SharePoint or use Google (or other) apps. Otherwise, make sure these are shared by email.


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8. Include “brainstorming” as an action item at the end of every meeting. When people bring up items that aren’t related to the task being discussed, stop them, write it down and bring their idea up during the brainstorming session.  Reinforce that there is no judgement in brainstorming – this is where the great ideas come from!

9. If you are running the meeting, control the conversation without stifling the creativity of the group. If one person seems to be dominating the conversation, gently (but firmly) steer the conversation to the other people. Go around the table to ask for opinions. If it’s a controversial issue, ask people to write their decision/opinion on a piece of paper and “pass the hat”. You can then read what are essentially “anonymous” responses to the group.

10. No texting, emails or other technology during the meeting. If it’s an hour long meeting, think about a 5-10 minute “bio break” to let people check their phones mid way.


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11. Send an email within 24 hours summarizing the action items, deadlines and DRIs. Alterantively, you can send the  the minutes instead (but do it within a few days, not just before the next meeting so people know their responsibilities)

12. Kindness matters. These are your friends and colleagues who are all trying to do a good job and help.



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Seven Steps to Running the Most Effective Meeting Possible

How To Run Your Meetings Like Apple and Google

University of Wisconsin-Madison guide to running good meetings

MIT Meeting Primer

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