Running a Meeting From a Doctor’s Perspective

14 Oct

Business managers and consultants are not the only people conducting or participating in meetings for work. People in almost any job will take part in a meeting at some point in their career, whether they are a cashier at a supermarket or even a medical doctor, like Dr. Nadine Katz.

Dr. Katz, professor and director of medical education at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has sat through her fair share of meetings. She has come up with some simple tips to keep meetings interesting, moving along, and effective.

1.     Prepare, then Prepare Some More

Having a detailed agenda and space to hold the meeting is not enough. Dr. Katz recommends going above and beyond, making sure temperature, lighting, and refreshments are all in order. Even checking individual preferences, like soda flavor, for important meetings is essential. I agree with Dr. Katz that making these personal touches are important, but I’d caution readers to weigh the time cost of managing such minor details with the actual benefits.

2.     Make Meeting Rules Clear

Whether she’s talking to the head Dean of the medical school or a junior staffer, Dr. Katz makes sure everyone in her meeting understands the rules of order. This includes protocols for speaking, what to do if someone enters late, and how the group members respond to each other’s points. We’ve all been in meetings that do not run smoothly because people interrupt each other. In fact, last year I was in a group where one of my teammates would routinely get up and leave the meeting without telling anyone where he was going or why he was leaving. Because we were extremely frustrated by his unexplained departures, we created a rule that we tell everyone if we needed to leave.

3.     Strategically Place Participants Around Table

Making sure that all participants in a meeting are comfortable is necessary. Having the meeting leader sit at the head of the table often makes the meeting feel very formal. If the leader sits in the middle of the group, participants feel more comfortable voicing their opinions in this informal manner. I once sat in on a senior management meeting at a hospital I interned at, and I felt very comfortable talking to the C-suite executives because everyone was sitting at a round table. I probably wouldn’t have spoken if the CEO sat at the head of a long table because of the intimidating structure of the seating.

4.     Never Let Anyone Hijack Your Meeting

Sometimes participants will give long-winded answers or elaborate unnecessarily. These people waste time! If the meeting is clearly heading on a tangent, stop the speaker and refocus the conversation. If necessary, cut them off mid sentence while being gracious of their input and courteous. In my experience as a team leader, I’ve had instances where group members hijack meetings by talking about things unrelated to our task (like something on Facebook.) Cutting them off immediately, while being courteous, is definitely the easiest way of getting the group back on track. The phrasing of the cutoff is important to avoid offense.

Dr. Katz employs these tips during her meetings in the medical field, but they can be applied to a meeting in an industry and at any level. By taking her advice, meetings will run much more smoothly and no longer waste people’s time. I’ve personally employed several of these recommendations in the past because they are truly effective.

by Nick Brown



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