Death to Meetings!

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders News , August 29, 2007

Last week's column, Death by Meeting, really hit a nerve. Apparently, many of you are also sick and tired of wasting time (and trying to stay awake) in pointless meetings. And I received some great e-mails from those of you who are, indeed, doing something about it.

Some of you are waging a quiet war against meetings. Several people wrote that they've been spending a lot less time in meetings since they dared to start hitting the "decline" button in response to Outlook meeting invites.

"As a one-woman marketing department in a hospital that seems to specialize in last minute meetings, I simply refuse to play," writes Karel Juhl Fulton, director of marketing and business health at Clinch Valley Medical Center in Richlands, VA.

"While I never routinely 'accept' a meeting that appears on my calendar, I hold those pesky last-minute meetings to an even higher standard. If it's scheduled a week or less in advance and (a) wasn't initiated by my boss (the CEO) and (b) doesn't carry strategic significance, I mark it 'decline' without giving a reason. If my role is vital but only portion of a project involving many departments, I tell the organizer I can be there at the beginning (or end) but cannot stay for the whole meeting. And I stick to my guns."

It makes you want to stand up and (quietly) cheer, doesn't it?

What makes meetings such a pain point for healthcare marketers in particular? Several of you weighed in on that, as well, saying that hospital marketers are responsible for many different functions these days, including fundraising, marketing, advertising, public relations, internal communications, volunteers and extras such as concierge parking or valet services.

Though it's good to see marketers' role expanding, interaction and communication with so many different departments means a lot more meetings.

Another reason that marketing departments hold so many meetings is that we crave social interaction, says consultant Patrick Buckley, who talks about the problem of (and cures for) what he calls "meeting-itis" in his new book on healthcare marketing (published by HealthLeaders Media). Meetings are 90 percent social and 10 percent business, he says.

So how can you ditch the 90 percent and keep the rest?

"I recommended to a client [recently] that they eliminate all standing administrative meetings--and only hold meetings that are necessary to arrive at a decision, develop a position or facilitate staff's ability to implement the strategic plan. All other meetings have to be justified before holding," he told me. "They thought it was a good idea!"

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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