Time’s up!


The beast that is a necessary part of what we do when we work in teams and groups.

An activity that can either energize us and focus our efforts or drain us and lead us to disengage.

I love a meeting that is focused, that is well run, and that lets everyone at the table have an opportunity to weigh in.  I particularly love it when we’re able to “wrap up” with next steps that include accountability for team members.  Putting those items into meeting notes then following up on commitments are how we become more effective.

I loathe a meeting that meanders, that belabors points, that allows those who talk a lot to monopolize the group’s time, censoring the wisdom of those who don’t always speak up first.  Good ideas don’t necessarily get a platform, and those holding those ideas may end up not feeling valued.  Again, disengagement is where good organizations go to die.

I’ve recently been experimenting with a couple of new spins on meetings.  One is the idea of not scheduling them for the Outlook-mandated hour; most of my meetings get scheduled for 45 minutes.  This is conscious because (1) very few things actually need a full hour and (2) it gives me travel time/ recovery time/ task switching time in between.  I’m particularly possessive of the buffer when the prior or following meetings are ones that I anticipate to be challenging or complex. Some have advocated for 30 minute meetings, a practice I haven’t yet quite adopted. Perhaps that’s next.

The other experiment is putting a time stamp/ shot clock onto meeting agendas that are tailored to how long discussions should optimally take. While this forces an adjustment for groups that haven’t worked with them before, they definitely do adapt over time…and it helps keep the meetings on-target and on time.  Two things are key to making the shot clock work.  First, have a timekeeper who keeps everyone honest and lets you know where you are versus the allotted time as it approaches.  Second, have a “parking lot” for ideas that come up and don’t fit within the boundaries of the current discussion.  During the meeting wrap-up portion, make sure to generate a follow-up plan for things put into the parking lot.

Happy time-effective meetings to you!


Miss Manner’s Guide to Professional Meetings in Surgery

It’s that time.  Time for my annual re-orientation to “What to wear,” “What not to wear,” and “Oh, NO!  Don’t do THAT!” for residents and students who may be heading off to their first professional meeting.  Posting this before everyone is packed for the ACS Clinical Congress seemed…well, prudent.  It also contains some general hints/ tips that I think make meetings more fun.  If you are interested in last year’s version, it’s here.

10.  Do not get “overserved” at any event related to the meeting or anyplace where someone with possible influence on your future may be.  I have a personal policy of at most 1 glass of wine at professional events.  Often, I have zero.  It’s not because I’m no fun, it’s because I am at a professional event and would prefer not to have behavioral regrets.

9.  Ladies, I get that you want to wear cute shoes with your dressy clothes- especially because we get to spend plenty of time in Danskos.  Cute shoes are encouraged.  Heels that make it hard for your to walk comfortably by the end of the day (and you WILL be walking) are not cute.  Stripper heels are simply not okay.  Any questions?

8.  Try to meet at least one person who is new to you every day that you’re there.  If there’s someone whom you are a big fan of and someone you know could make an introduction, ask them to do it.  One of the reasons you are at the meeting is to network.

7.  Don’t go to sessions that are just about things you know or “do.” This is your chance to check out completely new-to-you stuff, particularly at a meeting with the programmatic diversity of the Clinical Congress.  Honestly, I would skip the burn panel on Tuesday afternoon if I weren’t talking about frostbite (not that I don’t love my friends, but I don’t need the refresher). If you don’t know much about burns and frostbite, you should definitely come to PS 229 in Moscone 135 on Tuesday from 415-545 PM.

6.  While it is okay to find time to work in a workout in your day’s schedule or to go see that museum exhibit that you would otherwise miss out on, remember that another reason you are at the meeting is to learn.  That means to actually go to sessions.  Anyone who knows how much CME I usually come home from the Clinical Congress with, stop chuckling. #doasIsaynotasIdo

5.  Attire?  At a minimum, go with business casual, particularly if you’re new on the block.  Business-business is often encouraged, though I understand as a student or even as a resident you may not have the repertoire of business wear that the rest of us accumulate over time and with more income.  Your goal is to dress like a responsible, respectable adult.  (See #9 re: stripper heels)

4.  Either use your Note function in your smartphone liberally, or keep a little notebook with you for jotting things down.  It’s great for ideas you hear during talks, noting references, writing down the name of someone world-famous who you got to meet, etc.  I’m an acknowledged fan of the Bullet Journal method for keeping track of life, mostly because that’s the one space where analog works best for me.

3.  It is okay to skip around between sessions, but please enter and leave rooms politely and discreetly.  At large meetings everyone is aware that parallel sessions are occurring, and you shouldn’t stay to hear stuff you aren’t going to learn from at the price of something you might learn from.

2.  Introverts, remember to find your time to recharge.  I seldom will go out after social events close down for the night, not for lack of offers but simply because I need to go somewhere to be by myself.  No one hates me (at least not that I know of) for my common act of begging off from grabbing a late drink or snack.  I just need that time to be.

1.  Take time to reconnect with people you have met before.  Places I can promise you’ll find me next week?  Sunday at the AWS Annual Conference (we have a GREAT program!), Monday at the AWS Awards Dinner (our table will likely be a little rowdy), Tuesday from 1-4 at the PAC booth (yes, I’ll hit you up to contribute) and Tuesday night at the PAC reception, and Wednesday from 8-12 at the PAC booth.  Come say hi if we already know each other- and if we don’t , here’s your chance to check #8 off your list for the day.


And, of course, have fun!  Hope to see many of you in SF next week.