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Tips for Effective Meetings – Getting the Most out of the Time Spent Together

December 20, 2017 | Elaina Howard, PhD, RAC, Senior Manager, Medical Writing and Submissions Management | Medical Writing Services

Have you recently tried to schedule a meeting with your coworkers and found it difficult to find a time when everyone is available? If this is the case, then you know how precious the time together can be and how important it is to have effective and efficient meetings.

To put time spent in meetings into perspective, I often remind myself that while in a meeting, you are really using that time spent multiplied by the number of people in the room. That can be a lot of pressure to make good use of this time!

Not to worry, though; in this blog post, I’m going to suggest general meeting efficiency tips and I will also detail how I aim to get the most out of two common types of meetings for regulatory medical writers.

General Meeting Tips

For any type of meeting, it can be helpful to remember the following general tips:

Image courtesy of nalinratphi at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • When to call a meeting. First things first, you need to decide when it’s necessary to call a meeting. One advantage of a meeting is that it is often the most efficient way to communicate among a group of people. Plus, the “face time” often has other benefits, including improving team dynamics, camaraderie, and collaboration. However, if your meeting is a collection of updates that do not require team discussion, you could consider sending an email instead. People will appreciate the time savings!
  • Do as much legwork as possible in preparation. If time is tight, even a few minutes immediately prior to a meeting makes you a more effective participant. Try to focus on a couple of key principles: what do you absolutely need to communicate before the meeting ends and what information do you not want to leave this meeting without?
  • Action items equal progress. I have been in meetings in which everyone agrees that something needs to be done, but no action item, deadline, and/or point person is assigned. Then, inevitably, at the next meeting, the item is still on the “to-do” list. When a name and date are assigned to each task, they are much more likely to get done.
  • Agendas and meeting minutes are important! If you are leading the meeting, it can make the meeting more efficient to email out an agenda in advance. This will help the attendees come prepared and ready to be active participants. Also, the meeting doesn’t end when everyone leaves; email meeting minutes when possible (including action items, ideally appended to the agenda used for the meeting).

Medical Writing Specific Meetings

In regulatory medical writing, we hold many different types of meetings, but two of the most common are Results Interpretation Meetings (RIMs) and Roundtables (RTs).

  1. A RIM for data-driven documents, such as Clinical Study Reports (CSRs) or Integrated Summary documents for NDA/BLA submissions, such as ISEs or ISSs, is conducted once final data are available and is typically a half-day or day in length. The purpose is to gather the team to review the final data and determine messaging language for the document(s). Depending on the company, you may come across many alternative names for this type of meeting, such as Data Interpretation Meetings (DIMs) and Clinical Interpretation Meetings (CIMs).
  2. RT meetings are conducted for the documents mentioned above (and more!) following team review of each draft of a document and are typically between 2 and 6 hours in length. The purpose is to go over any of the team’s review comments that warrant group discussion/consensus and determine edits/action items for the next draft or document finalization.

Results Interpretation Meetings

For RIMs, I find the following tips helpful to get the most out of the meeting:

  • Again, preparation is key. Spend as much time with the results/data as possible prior to the meeting. If the RIM is for a document with multiple in‑text presentations of data, try to pre‑“populate” the document with the data in advance, so that it can be viewed by the group during the meeting.
  • Comment bubbles are your friend. To stay organized, annotate the populated document with comment bubbles indicating your interpretation, or any questions you may have, about the data presented. This way, you will be prepared to take on the leading role in the meeting as needed.
  • Be sure to ask the important global questions (first!). Be sure you are clear on the team’s wishes for the overall organization of the document, which treatment groups to compare, which time points to present/discuss, or any endpoints or groups of endpoints not to be included in text. Gaining clarity on any global decisions for the document can avoid a lot of potential re-work down the line!

Document Roundtable Meetings

For document RTs, these are the things that I try to keep in mind:

  • I’m repeating myself, but preparation really is the key to success. Create a version of your document for the RT with comments for discussion highlighted in some way. Send out your pre-RT meeting document to the team before the meeting if possible so that they can review your plan and prepare.
  • During the meeting, be sure to regularly orient the team. You are much more familiar with your document than the team. Because you will skip from section to section, explain exactly where you have moved to within the document each time you jump around. Use the navigation pane or bookmarks to your advantage.
  • Play psychologist as/if needed. Figure out who your decision makers are and bring them into the discussion as needed. Determine which team members are prone to speaking up or keeping quiet, and be sure to take this into account when facilitating discussion.
  • “Help me help you.” Don’t leave the meeting without the answers you need to give your team what they need in your next amazing draft of the document. Be persistent and unafraid to ask for clarification!

Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hope you have found these tips helpful! If you have questions, or want to enlist us to write your documents and run meetings, all of us at IMPACT would love to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us!

Category: Medical Writing Services
Keywords: Effective Meetings, Document Roundtable Meetings, Results Interpretations Meetings, Meeting Tips

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