meeting zzzs 01
Illustration by Marcie Hopkins, U of U Health.
Team Meetings on Life Support?
Team meetings can be an important way to connect, but not if your team members dread going to them. Zac Watne, senior manager of payment innovation, gives hope to this workplace staple with simple advice: learn together.

iven the choice between a team meeting and a paper cut, which would you choose? A paper cut hurts, but at least it is over in two seconds. Compare that to 3,600 seconds that make up the average team meeting and suddenly it gets harder to deny choosing the paper cut. It is a net gain of 3,598 seconds!

There is hope.

While simply assessing your team meetings is an important activity, here are two simple tools to inject some energy into your meetings moving forward. 

#1 Learn from External Presenters

There are likely people who immediately come to mind when you think about who would be good external presenters for your group, either due to the content they would share, your existing connection to them, their ability to engage with groups via presentations, or all of the above. Great, start with them!

If you are having trouble generating names then you can also start by asking your team who they would like to hear from. Talk to your colleagues, see if they have tried this process and who they would invite if they did. Start a list and send invitations, you will be surprised at how willing your colleagues are to present.

Bringing in an external person will add a new wrinkle to your team meetings that will hopefully get the entire group (more) excited to attend by having another voice to listen to and someone else to learn from.

Tip: Manage expectations in terms of content and, more important, time commitment. A 10-20 minute presentation is sufficient, and let guests recycle a slide deck or material they already have. 

#2 Learn from Each Other

While external presenters can infuse energy into a team meeting, an even more effective way to get team members involved and interested is by inviting them to present to their peers.

Why present to each other? Having to present forces one to organize their thoughts and hone their presentation skills. Presenting is a leadership skill.

Admittedly, this idea may sound terrifying to some. But if done properly, by setting up some basic parameters, you can ease the tensions team members may experience. A couple of tips:

  • Have more than one person present during each meeting, thus easing the “spotlight effect”
  • Give people advanced notice (one month ahead)
  • Keep the presentation to no more than 10 minutes
  • Reduce complexity (no videos, for example)

You can go first to break the ice, or you can ask some of your more extroverted team members to present during the first meeting. That will provide momentum and decrease the intimidation factor with each subsequent presentation.

We've presented on all sorts of things -- the KonMari method, art installations around the city, and building a terrarium. Next month, I'm up to present and I will be teaching my department some of my favorite origami folds/shapes.

It works.

I speak from experience. Our team has been using both these tools for the last seven months, with positive-to-very-positive feedback (names have been changed to protect the innocent):

Samuel: “While I feared getting up in front of everyone initially, it was nice being able to talk about something I am passionate about and to discuss my presentation afterwards with others I do not normally interact with much.”

Tara: “I was scared, really scared, leading up to the presentation. I am not a natural public speaker. Practicing in front of my colleagues was a good thing though…even if I don’t want to do often.”

Dan: “Zzzzzzzzz…” (This is why we make it mandatory to have video "on.")

While these two tactics are not a panacea, and hiccups have occurred, they have increased engagement. Our monthly meetings have become more interesting for all involved by inviting external colleagues and team members to present.


*Originally published in August 2019


Zac Watne

Senior Manager, Payment Strategy and Innovation, Payer Relations and Contracting, University of Utah Health

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