Geraldine McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, contributed this post.

While conference calls have replaced many face-to-face meetings, sometimes nothing can replace an in-person gathering. Once we have spent time and money traveling to be together, how do we make sure that our meetings are as effective as possible?

Priya Parker’s book, “The Art of Gathering,” argues that it’s not just the subject matter of our meetings that matters; the logistics, the way we set expectations and how we set the right atmosphere are equally, if not more, important. From the preparatory emails to the seating arrangement, we have the opportunity to create a meeting that produces invaluable results.

Inspired by Parker’s work, I recently worked with the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) staff to fundamentally reshape the organization of our Board of Chancellors (BoC) and Council Steering Committee (CSC) retreat. We held the retreat in Austin, Texas, whose unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” I told our attendees to expect if not weird, then definitely different. In fact, we started by shifting the dress code from “business casual” to just “casual.”

We typically set up the meeting room with the Board seated together, the CSC seated off to one side and ACR staff off to the other. While CSC members are encouraged to participate in discussions, they have to leave their seats and navigate a room of 80 people to reach a microphone. Our Oct. 2019 retreat highlighted that we have an opportunity to focus on creating a robust discourse.

During our Jan. 2020 meeting, we discussed several important and complex topics, including the ACR’s position on Radiologist Assistants, paid family leave and greater participation by patients in ACR’s activities. We needed to promote a dialogue where a range of opinions could be expressed before, as a group, we could synthesize our views.

To accomplish this, we seated participants at small round tables, allowing BoC, CSC and staff to mingle together. We scheduled ample time for smaller group conversations and staged how we approached issues so votes came after an opportunity for reflection and further research by individuals. We deliberately set up “point-counterpoint” framing of issues to air potentially controversial viewpoints, and when energy flagged, we pumped up the music and fired up a handy espresso machine. The in-between conversations were livelier, and I believe we listened and learned more.

The BoC and CSC are working on behalf of our nearly 40,000 members and the millions of patients we serve. You can be assured that this past weekend we created a gathering that delivered value and moved our profession forward.

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