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5 Ways to Get People to Attend and Engage at Your Next Meeting

Publish Date: January 22, 2020

Running an effective meeting is a gift for everyone involved. That’s why a vice president of perioperative services at a large medical center in Nashville, Tenn., says all new leaders need to hone their skills in what she calls “meeting-ology.”

Running an effective meeting requires focus and intention to stay on task, gather valuable input, engage all attendees and make the most of the time you are asking people to give you, she says. “You know you are on track when you receive positive feedback from attendees … when someone tells you ‘I love coming to your meetings because I can tell we are getting things done’ or ‘It’s good to see the agenda ahead of time so that if I have a competing priority I can know what was covered and follow up’ you know you have your process for meetings dialed in.”

On the flip side, she says you know you have room for improvement in running a meeting if you have difficulty getting people to show up on a regular basis.

Meeting-ology 101

Thirty-five years as a perioperative nurse leader have helped her gain important skills needed to keep people coming to her meetings and getting their needed input.

Here are five ways this veteran leader runs an effective meeting:

  1. Send out the agenda ahead of the meeting

    Every meeting needs a stated purpose and defined objectives. All meeting attendees deserve to see the agenda prior to attending so they can prepare their input. “When you call the meeting to order, ask if anyone needs to add any items to the agenda. This way, you can set the agenda at the beginning of the meeting to prevent getting off topic.”

  2. Start and stop on time

    This can help ensure all agenda topics are covered and it sets an expectation for all participants to arrive on time. “If you wait even five minutes for stragglers to arrive, you set the expectation that people can be late to your meetings.” The same is true at the end of the meeting—end on time, even if you call time and resume at the next meeting. “If you must run over, ask the attendees if they will vote to approve running over and only go over if a majority can stay.”

  3. Stay on point

    Stick to the agenda and have the confidence to step in if someone is taking the discussion off topic. “If the conversation is moving away from the agenda, politely step in and suggest that topic be moved to the ‘parking lot’ for discussion at the end if there is time or move it to a future meeting.” 

  4. Engage all participants

    This can be a balance to direct a person who is dominating the conversation to offer the floor for input from others and also engage those who are not talking to share their input. “Do a round-robin to ask all opinions or call out someone who hasn’t shared yet to ask them if they have formulated an opinion on the discussion point—every participant should share something to advance the meeting objectives and feel heard.”

  5. Summarize key discussion points and action items

    At the conclusion of the meeting, give a run-down of everything that will happen as result of meeting discussion and assign responsibility for actions. “Review any talking points to share with others, and don’t forget to take time to add your own action items to your calendar and make schedule adjustments as needed. Be sure to hold yourself accountable and keep any promises made at the meeting.”