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From the Officer’s Desk: Chairing and Facilitating Meetings

Meetings are part of today’s culture, whether in business, sports, healthcare, or even when making decisions within one’s own family. EMS officers will likely be required to attend internal staff meetings as well as external meetings with other organizations—for example, hospital staff, equipment vendors, nursing home staff, government officials, and community stakeholders. They may be asked to facilitate or chair meetings as well. This can be challenging if the EMS officer has no experience in such roles.

What is the difference between facilitating and chairing a meeting? A chair is commonly elected or appointed by committee members. A chair’s role is more formal and structured. He or she is responsible not only for scheduling the meeting and preparing the agenda, but also ensuring that required procedural activities take place throughout the meeting The facilitator role, which can also be the chair, is responsible for moving and guiding the meeting along, engaging the participants in discussion, and making sure the group remains on topic. A facilitator may be more appropriate than a chair when the meeting group is familiar with each other and less structure is needed for the topics being discussed.

So, if an EMS officer is tasked with chairing or facilitating a meeting, he or she will need to first determine if they will be serving as a chair, facilitator, or both. Second, they will need to create a meeting plan consisting of three basic parts: preparing for the meeting, action to be taken during the meeting, and action to be taken after the meeting.

Preparing for a Meeting

First it is essential to know the type of meeting taking place. There are different types—for example, a one-on-one meeting, a flash meeting, retreats, and recurring meetings. A one-on-one meeting is a brief meeting that’s usually to catch up on a specific topic, listen to a concern from a stakeholder, or meet someone for the first time. They are usually between a section leader and employee, two employees, or an external stakeholder and a representative from an organization. Although they may be brief, their value is no less than any other type of meeting, and those attending must prepare accordingly.

Flash meetings are spontaneous or nonscheduled and usually quick as well. These are commonly used for quick updates to an individual or group. They can be disorganized due to their quick nature.

A retreat is a planned meeting that typically takes place away from the organization’s campus. This may be a one- or multiday event designed for participants to meet away from the office, with minimal interruptions, to address organizational initiatives.

Recurring meetings are those that are routinely scheduled and may take place weekly, monthly, quarterly, or biennially. These types of meetings are usually with functional work groups or standing committees with the purpose of aligning organizational or committee goals, introducing new assignments, reviewing improvement processes, and monitoring projects.

Work group meetings may be less formal than committee meetings; nevertheless, the structure of committee meetings also applies to them. Since committee meetings are likely held on a recurring basis and must follow rules outlined in bylaws, they require a more structured format than some other meetings.

Chair and Facilitator Responsibilities

When serving as the chair and/or facilitator, the EMS officer must keep in mind that the participants are busy and their time is valuable. A committee meeting may require a set number of members to ensure a quorum, whereas functional work group meetings may only consist of a few members with roles key to the topics on the agenda. When preparing for an upcoming recurring meeting, the EMS officer serving as facilitator or chair must take the following into consideration:

  • Schedule enough time to meet the needs of the group. You want sufficient opportunity to address agenda topics, but you don’t want the meeting to go any longer than it has to.
  • Notify the group of the location and time of the meeting well in advance. This can be done with a calendar invite, e-mail, or social media post. The meeting organizer must not wait until the day of the meeting to forward pertinent information.
  • If the meeting will be conducted by video- or teleconference, be sure to provide the necessary information in advance, including instructions for logging in and a telephone number and pass code.
  • Prepare the meeting agenda document.
  • As chair or facilitator, preparing the agenda must be a priority. Include topics that are essential to the committee’s purpose. If you’re not sure what to include, reach out to committee members, organization stakeholders, vendors, and frontline personnel (among others) for pertinent topics. Keep searching and keep the committee relevant to its purpose.

The meeting agenda, along with the last meeting’s minutes, must be provided to participants several days or weeks before the next scheduled meeting. This will provide extra time to develop input or complete any assigned tasks prior to the meeting and brief those unable to attend the last meeting.

During the Meeting

The chair/facilitator will be in charge of ensuring the meeting and its activities are executed as per the agenda. The following basic activities that should be included in the agenda and among the chair’s actions:

  • Post the title of the meeting on the agenda.
  • Specify the date, time, and location of the meeting. Be sure to start and end the meeting on time.
  • Have a designated person take minutes of the meeting and monitor if it’s deviating from its intended purpose.
  • Call the meeting to order and conduct any opening ceremonies (e.g., reciting the Pledge of Allegiance).
  • Start by going around the room for introductions or, if on a conference call, be sure everyone has an opportunity to introduce themselves. If the meeting is for a standing committee, roll call will also be required.
  • Clearly state the purpose of the meeting as printed on the agenda.
  • If meeting minutes need to approved, do so before revisiting old business or introducing any new. The chair will ask for a motion from committee members to accept the last meeting’s minutes. If the group elects to adopt the minutes, a motion to accept them will be made by a member, followed by a second in support. The chair will ask, “Any opposed?” and if no member opposes the motion to accept the meeting minutes, the minutes are adopted.
  • Address any outstanding old business.
  • Introduce new business.
    • If a committee member wants to propose an action or new activity, they will introduce a motion; this is followed by a vote to accept it. The request may be “tabled,” which means the group will revisit the motion in the future.
  • Prior to wrapping up the meeting, the chair will recap any assignments that require action, who is responsible to complete them, and target dates for completion. Including an action worksheet in the meeting minutes may be beneficial.
  • Roundtable discussion provides committee members an opportunity to address any new or old business or questions they may have.
  • Lastly the chair will inform the group when and where the next meeting will take place and ask for a motion and second affirmation to adjourn.

Meeting Adjourned

After the meeting has adjourned, the person assigned to take the minutes must work diligently to recap the discussions, assignments, and any additional information that emerged. It is important to get the meeting minutes completed soon after the meeting, since the information will be fresh in everyone’s minds. Share the minutes with participants via e-mail or another method that provides everyone access.

Regardless of the format, when chairing or facilitating a meeting, stick to the purpose, keep the participants engaged, value their time, and follow the agenda.

​Orlando J. Dominguez, Jr., MBA, RPM, is assistant chief of EMS for Brevard County Fire Rescue in Rockledge, Fla. He has more than 30 years of EMS experience and has served as a firefighter-paramedic, flight paramedic, field training officer, EMS educator, and division chief. He has authored two books, including EMS Supervisor: Principles and Practice, and is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Follow him at @ems_officer. 


Table 1: Sample Action Register Worksheet

Meeting Group: Weekly Senior Staff Meeting

Date: April 3, 2019

Problem: ECG monitor not uploading to ePCR

  • Action taken: Will have IT investigate
  • Target completion date: 4/5/19
  • Responsibility: Division Chief Smith

Problem: Delayed turnaround times at hospital due to slow patient turnover.

  • Action taken: Schedule meeting with ED director to discuss improving turnaround time
  • Target completion date: 4/10/19
  • Responsibility: Division Chief Jones 
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