Many medical writers are tasked with more than crafting accurate documents. You might also need to manage projects and teams.
Part of managing medical communication includes effectively leading meetings so that they drive documents forward to successful completion.
Whether you're preparing to lead your first meeting or kicking off a new project, follow these best practices to meet your objectives. These best practices apply whether your meeting is in‑person or online.
- Be prepared. Medical writing requires precision, and precision requires preparation. Before the meeting, create a list of the meeting’s goals, including an outline of key discussion topics. Go beyond mere brainstorming and gather the materials—key statistics, case studies, and exemplars, for instance—that are necessary to support your discussions of the main topics.
If your meeting is via conference call, do a dry run with your software a few days beforehand to make sure you can share your screen, turn your video and audio on and off, and assist participants with these functions. Initiate the meeting at least 20 minutes prior to the scheduled start time to make sure it’s ready when participants log on.
- Get to know your participants. With project management, it’s important to remember the critical role of group dynamics. If you plan to lead a meeting with a new team, take time for introductions. Learn each participant’s name and team role.
If time allows, take personal notes on group dynamics and individual dispositions. Who seems most committed to the project? Who readily offers assistance and who seems cautious, reticent, or even distracted? Notes on your first impressions could help you effectively communicate deadlines and assign responsibilities in the future.
- Communicate project goals and scope. For meetings centered around the creation of a specific document, ask attendees, “What does successful completion of this document actually look like?” Coming to a group agreement on the project goals gives each participant a clear vision of the end product.
Setting project goals should include the scope of each team member’s responsibilities. “Scope creep” can easily threaten a project’s success and derail timelines. Some meeting leaders find it helpful to keep the project goals and scope in view at all times, referring to them often throughout the meeting.
- Set a project timeline. Kickoff meetings naturally include a time to set milestones. If you are leading a mid‑project meeting or a gathering that isn’t attached to a specific project, this stage of the meeting might include delegating future tasks and discussing participants’ schedules.
Regardless of the focus of your meeting, it’s important to put milestones in place to make sure the process is progressing. Consider both soft and hard deadlines—when can team members expect to check in with their progress reports? When is your project's hard deadline?
- Wrap up by defining deliverables. At this point in the meeting, you will have gotten to know your team members, set goals, defined the scope, and discussed a timeline. Now you need to reiterate both what will be provided to the team—drafts and drop‑in content, for instance—and what deliverables will be expected from the team at the end of the project.
- Follow up. Just as preparation before the meeting sets the tone for your success, following up with your team after a meeting assures participants that the project will move forward according to plan. Following up swiftly and succinctly can help you leverage the momentum generated by the meeting.
As immediately as possible—and definitely within 5 days—follow up with your meeting participants:
- Include the names of all participants, the meeting date, and an agreed‑upon objective.
- Summarize meeting action items and consensus decisions.
- Clarify tentative timelines.
- Reiterate goals, deliverables, and deliverable due dates.
Your meeting minutes will serve as a resource for others who might be documenting the broader project. They are also an excellent way to inform key stakeholders who missed the meeting or participants who will join the project at a later date.
As much as possible, keep your team members informed about organizational direction and big‑picture goals. This is the best way to ensure future meetings reap continued success.