Many of you are asked to take a leadership role in leading a team, whether it’s for research, administration, or even clinical. It is easy to feel unprepared for these roles, and there are many pitfalls waiting to sabotage your team’s productivity. The ALiEM Faculty Incubator has created a series of 10 case-based teaming problems to provide you with evidence-based advice and solutions for tackling some of the more common problems encountered in our professional team experiences.

Case 10

Your faculty meetings lack direction. Although there is technically an itinerary, topics often get hijacked and venture off into other issues. Meetings run long and nothing gets done due to lack of organization.

What strategies can you use to help streamline your group’s meetings and improve efficiency?

Raise your hand if this has happened to you:

Tick, Tick, Tick. The endless ticks of the clock as you realize that this month’s faculty meeting has once again wandered into obscurity. You find your thoughts drifting to your lunch plans, and the digital stack of emails and resident evaluations that you have to complete.1 There is a pause. You panic. Did they just ask you a question? There is silence for a brief second, and then the mind numbing droning on continues. This is the moment you realize that this month’s faculty meeting has once again been hijacked.

Whether it is unrelated tangents, a rambling coworker, or information that could have been sent in an email, no one wants to be part of a useless meeting. We have examined the literature and stepped into the business world to help you avoid leading the type of meeting that you hate.

There are three areas where a meeting can go awry. The following suggestions can help keep your next meeting on track:


As with anything, a little preparation for your meeting will take you a long way. Putting time into planning the meeting and developing the agenda is key.2

  • Decide if the meeting is necessary.3–5 Could this information be sent in an email instead?
  • Decide who needs to attend.5–7 Invite only those participants who need to contribute to the meeting. Too many people can become distracting.
  • Allot a certain amount of time for each agenda item and plan to stick to it.8
  • Make objectives and agenda items as specific as possible.7 Use action verbs instead of broad topics for agenda items (e.g., “brainstorm faculty retreat ideas” instead of “faculty wellness”).
  • Don’t be afraid to intentionally exclude items or tell members what will NOT be covered.6


During the meeting, staying on topic and on time shows respect to your team. With a little foresight you can keep the distractions to a minimum.

  • Assign a team member as a moderator to keep the meeting focused on the agenda.5
    • They should not be the same person as the meeting leader.
    • They should control tangents and manage distracting team members.6
    • Ensure moderators have language to help steer the meeting, particularly for ramblers or diverters (e.g., “You’re absolutely right, is it ok if we talk about this later?” and “That’s an interesting idea, but it may need more discussion than we have time for.  Can we discuss this offline?”).6,7,9
    • Stick to the timeline.7 Don’t be afraid to stop a contributor if they are exceeding their time allotment. (e.g., “This appears to be a bigger topic than what we expected.  Perhaps a separate meeting dedicated to this would be more appropriate.”)
    • Start on time and end of time.1,3,4,7 Do not wait for stragglers before starting.


Leaving the meeting with clear goals and action plans will give your team a sense of accomplishment.1,9

  • Get a consensus of the plan before moving to the next agenda item.4
  • Establish action items and delegate tasks to specific individuals.1,4,7,9
  • Keep minutes to help with take away points and record discussed topics.4
  • Email minutes and follow up with deadlines for completion of tasks.9

Case Conclusion

No one likes an endless meeting that seems to accomplish nothing. As the leader, you commit to  creating a specific agenda, develop some tricks for dealing with the things that drag out meetings, and establishing a solid follow-up plan. As a result, your next meeting feels more like a productive, rather than a wasted hour of your life.

Harolds J. Planning and conducting meetings effectively, part II: Some component aspects of a meeting. Clin Nucl Med. 2012;37(1):71-73. [PubMed]
Bryant A. How to Run a More Effective Meeting. New York Times. Published 2018. Accessed September 13, 2018.
Lipman V. 5 Simple Steps To More Efficient, Effective Meetings. Forbes. Published March 1, 2013. Accessed September 13, 2018.
7 Ways to Make Meetings More Efficient. Brian Tracy’s Self Improvement & Professional Development Blog. Published September 22, 2011. Accessed September 13, 2018.
Harolds J. Planning and conducting meetings effectively, part I: planning a meeting. Clin Nucl Med. 2011;36(12):1106-1108. [PubMed]
Gallo A. The Seven Imperatives to Keeping Meetings on Track. Harvard Business Review. Published December 20, 2013. Accessed September 13, 2018.
English C. The art of leading meetings. Am J Occup Ther. 1987;41(5):321-326. [PubMed]
Garmston RJ, Welch D. Results-oriented agendas transforming meetings into valuable collaborative events. Journal of Staff Development. 2007;28(2):55-56.
Harolds J. Planning and conducting meetings effectively, part III: keeping meetings on track. Clin Nucl Med. 2012;37(2):164-165. [PubMed]
Amanda Young, MD

Amanda Young, MD

Assistant Professor
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Arkansas
Amanda Young, MD

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Shreya Trivedi, MD

Shreya Trivedi, MD

Medical Education Fellow
General Internal Medicine
New York University
Shreya Trivedi, MD

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Chris Fowler, DO

Chris Fowler, DO

Assistant Professor
Clerkship Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Chris Fowler, DO

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Lisa Hoffman, DO

Lisa Hoffman, DO

Associate Program Director
Emergency Medicine Residency
Geisinger Medical Center
Lisa Hoffman, DO

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