Best Practices for More Collaborative Standards Meetings

By: Jennifer Peters

When large groups meet—such as the Sterilization Standards Committee— it’s often difficult to keep things running smoothly. With long agendas and many voices wanting to be heard, meetings of larger groups can frequently go awry. Which is why the co-chairs of the committee met during Sterilization Standards Week to discuss how to run better, more effective and more efficient meetings.

Following the opening plenary, the committee co-chairs gathered virtually to discuss the best ways to guide members and keep the following week’s meetings running in a way that best suited the needs of AAMI and the meeting participants. Among the best practices discussed was the need to make new committee and working group members feel more welcome.

“One of the matters raised that had a very profound effect throughout the October 2020 Sterilization Standards meetings was the reminder that all members of the working groups should have the opportunity to have their perspectives heard during their respective meetings,” said Amanda Benedict, AAMI’s vice president of standards.

According to Benedict, the more “seasoned participants” in both the Committee and the various working groups can sometimes dominate the conversations, which can often prove challenging for newer or more introverted members. Having the standards veterans taking control of the discussion can be helpful at times, but it can also cause members to feel that their input won’t be fully considered.

By reminding the Sterilization leaders of the need to actively make space for all voices, Benedict saw an immediate shift in how Sterilization Standards Week progressed. “We found that this reminder issued during the co-chairs’ meeting led to much more attentiveness during the meetings to managing the discussions and ensuring that those who wanted to comment were given the (virtual) floor,” she said. “It seemed to contribute to an improved balance among the various perspectives represented in the conversations.”

Also essential to a smoothly run Sterilization Standards Week was the reminder that leaders need to actively run meetings and not let the meetings run astray.

“[We] had a few new co-chairs embarking on their first meetings leading their respective working groups, and it gave them a little boost in preparation for taking on that role and gauging whether a topic has been thoroughly discussed,” Benedict shared.

Thanks to the reminders, meeting leaders were able to keep the conversations flowing all week, giving new and old members the chance to share their insights and give their input.

The discussion of best practices also helped the Sterilization Standards Committee work out how to better manage entirely virtual meetings and conferences, something that remains difficult even nine months into the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Especially for groups used to being able to meet in person, phone, and video meetings don’t often provide the same level of participation or candidness.

“As we’re all getting more comfortable and familiar with the virtual environment and participating in web meetings, we’re continuing to learn approaches that contribute to improving the effectiveness of web meetings and adapting that for our Standards group meetings – some of which have upwards of 100 people on the web/phone,” Benedict explained of the standards committee’s particular challenges.

One of the quickest fixes for better meeting flow Benedict learned during the discussion was to encourage the use of the “raised hand” feature on Zoom and in Microsoft Teams to help keep the conversation going without interruption while still allowing fellow members to flag issues and ask questions. Going forward, Benedict said, she’ll be encouraging other Standards working groups to enact similar practices to encourage more virtual engagement.

As AAMI’s standards working groups continue to meet virtually, these lessons will come in handy to help ensure participants and AAMI staff get the chance to have constructive conversations, even if they are taking place through a computer screen instead of in a conference center. And Benedict hopes that the practices gleaned during October’s Sterilization Standards Week will continue once in-person meetings resume, too.

“I will be sharing [these tips] with the entire AAMI Standards staff to raise to the co-chairs of the AAMI Standards programs that they administer,” she noted.