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15 types of meetings you need to master (or cancel)

Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

December 04, 2023

What are your favorite types of meetings? We know the answer: none. Meetings get a bad rep because, most of the time, they’re unnecessary, too long, unproductive, and expensive — and no one likes wasting their time or money.

But sometimes you attend a meeting that’s everything you want it to be and more: succinct, productive, motivating… Why can’t they all be like this? Well, with a bit of planning — not to mention an awareness of common meeting warning signs — they can.

First, let’s take a look at a few examples of bad meetings, as well as their quick fix.

Common meeting mistakes

Before diving into the various meeting types, it’s crucial to recognize warning signs that could hinder their success. Here’s a concise checklist to help you identify and address potential issues:

1. The Error 404 Meeting

Issue: Technical glitches with PowerPoints, laptops, or apps.

Solution: Master technology beforehand; conduct a practice run if possible.

2. The “What’s Going On?” Meeting

Issue: Lack of pre-meeting clarity on discussion topics.

Solution: Ensure everyone is aware of the meeting’s agenda beforehand; promote preparation and share post-meeting actions.

3. The AWOL Meeting

Issue: Confusion about meeting details or last-minute cancellations.

Solution: Clearly communicate meeting logistics; inform participants in advance if a meeting is canceled.

4. The Neverending Meeting

Issue: Meetings exceeding the scheduled time.

Solution: Stick to the agenda; prevent additional meetings to schedule more meetings; ensure there are actionable takeaways.

Different types of meetings

Not all meetings need to exist. Others are invaluable. Let’s look at the most common types of meetings and their pros, cons, solutions, and alternatives.

1. Status meetings

This is common when you have a larger team with members who work across different projects and departments. Project managers worry they’re going to miss out on info, so they gather everyone together for recurring status meetings.

The problem with these types of meetings is they often disrupt people’s day and accomplish very little for the time they take to attend. It’s far more efficient to have an editable shared doc, a pinned topic on your team chat app, or project management software with clear statuses for tasks. That way, everyone can share information in their own time rather than having their working day disrupted. And you don’t have to wait until the meeting for these updates, so you get important information faster.

2. Information sharing meetings

Do you have something to share? Unless you have sensitive or impactful news that needs to be delivered in person, write it down and let people read it in their own time. Any format will do, but ideally, if it affects more than one person, put it in a shared place so everyone can interact with it and comment/ask questions. A wiki is handy for team knowledge sharing.

3. Brainstorming meetings

They say two heads are better than one. But what about five heads? Ten? Is more always better?

Brainstorming became incredibly popular around the 1950s but has since been praised and panned in equal measures. Some people are of the opinion that it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Other people swear by them, claiming more collaboration leads to more ideas and more creativity. The reality is somewhere in between.

The trick to holding a successful brainstorming meeting is to first gather a diverse mix of people. This way, you’re more likely to come up with a range of solutions to your problem, which makes this kind of meeting effective.

Then, make sure everyone involved can communicate in a way they’re comfortable with. This means giving everyone an equal opportunity to speak (and not letting the more vocal group members showboat the meeting) and allowing people to share ideas post-meeting via email, your team chat app, or on your virtual whiteboard right next to the ideas you collected. Remember, brainstorming meetings are for sparking ideas and not necessarily for finding complete solutions then and there: the deeper, more critical thinking comes afterward.

4. One-on-one meetings

These types of meetings are an excellent opportunity to build rapport with individuals. They’re an opportunity to give someone your undivided attention and discuss things like personal development and career goals — not to mention any issues and ways to overcome them. You should both walk away feeling as though you have a stronger, more trusting relationship and a better understanding of what you’re both working towards in relation to the broader business strategy.

Another bonus of the 1-on-1 meeting is that quieter, shier people are more likely to be more candid and open, away from the pressure of having to share their ideas and opinions with a large group. To get the most from these types of meetings, stick to a schedule and give each other your full focus. This means not answering phone calls or tapping away on a laptop while the other person speaks.

5. Big decision meetings

Emails don’t work here because too much information goes back and forth. To make sure your big decision meeting is a success, ensure everyone has enough information, the right people are present (experts, stakeholders, etc.), and there’s one person who can make the final call.

6. Retrospective meetings

There are different types of retrospectives. Some are essential project post-mortems. Others are more general health checks to ensure everyone on the team feels motivated and that there are no outstanding issues.

Team members often have different ideas of how a project or event went, so it’s well worth gathering all this information to give yourself a fuller picture. Discussing as a group also allows everyone to respond immediately to everyone else’s thoughts and ideas. It’s especially important to do this in person if what you’re discussing has a negative aspect: tone of voice can often get lost in writing (even if your emoji or gif game is strong), and speaking face-to-face is one way to minimize the chances of misunderstanding.

The key to getting the most out of this type of meeting is planning ahead and bringing an agenda so that the talking points stay focused and relevant. If you can’t meet in person, conduct the meeting over video conferencing software.

7. Planning meetings

Planning a project must be done as a meeting: with email, there’s too much back and forth going on, not to mention the risk of potentially missing a thread or not being cc-d in.

That said, planning meetings aren’t without their pitfalls. The key to getting it right is preparation. Make sure every single attendee has all the information they need, so they can make a valuable contribution to the discussion. This means you’ll need to share information before the meeting and potentially ask everyone to do some pre-meeting planning of their own. And if you feel your meeting stall, don’t think twice about pausing it and continuing it at a later date when everyone has more information to move forward.

8. All-hands meetings

Company-wide meetings are a great opportunity to bring everyone together from every business level. It’s also a great forum for sharing important information everyone needs to know.

Bad all-hands meetings are long, dull, and could easily have been an email. When done right, they’re succinct, structured, and led by a speaker with strong organizational communication skills. If you’re organizing an all-hands meeting, make sure your message is on-brand, sticks to the schedule, and ends with a Q&A session that allows employees to speak directly to company leaders.

9. Innovation meetings

Gathering creative minds to innovate can either be a powerhouse of ideas or a drain on resources. To ensure success, create a diverse group, encourage equal participation, and leverage collaboration tools for continuous idea sharing beyond the meeting.

10. Training meetings

Training sessions are vital for skill development, but they can easily become monotonous. Keep them engaging by incorporating interactive elements, providing pre-training materials, and utilizing breakout sessions. Consider blending virtual and in-person training for flexibility.

11. Crisis management meetings

When a crisis hits, a quick and effective response is crucial. Designate a crisis management team, ensure clear communication channels, and conduct regular drills to streamline decision-making. Virtual platforms can be invaluable for swift coordination during unexpected events.

12. Feedback meetings

Feedback is essential for growth, but poorly managed feedback sessions can be demotivating. Establish a constructive atmosphere, provide specific examples, and encourage two-way communication. Consider using anonymous surveys for sensitive topics and follow up with actionable plans.

13. Client meetings

Engaging with clients demands finesse to strengthen relationships. Prepare thoroughly, ensure all relevant team members are present, and customize the agenda to address client needs. Utilize video conferencing for a more personal touch and share post-meeting summaries to reaffirm key points.

14. Cross-departmental meetings

Collaboration across departments is crucial, but it often comes with communication challenges. Foster a culture of openness, designate clear objectives for these types of meetings, and assign facilitators to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Leverage project management tools to maintain visibility and streamline collaboration.

15. Remote team meetings

Managing remote teams requires intentional communication to bridge physical gaps. Prioritize video meetings for face-to-face interaction, establish regular check-ins, and utilize collaborative platforms for real-time updates. Encourage team members to share their experiences and challenges to foster a sense of connection.

Best practices for mastering effective meetings

Meetings, when executed efficiently, can be powerful tools for collaboration and decision-making. To ensure your meetings are impactful and contribute positively to your team’s productivity, consider these best practices:

1. Set Clear Objectives

Define the purpose of the meeting and establish clear goals. This ensures everyone understands what needs to be achieved, making the session more focused and productive.

2. Create an Agenda

Develop a well-structured agenda and share it in advance. Include key discussion points, allocate time for each topic, and encourage participants to come prepared. This sets expectations and allows for efficient use of time.

3. Invite Relevant Participants

Only include individuals whose presence is essential. This prevents unnecessary disruptions and ensures that those present can actively contribute to the meeting’s objectives.

4. Embrace Technology

Utilize collaboration tools to streamline communication. Video conferencing, shared documents, and virtual whiteboards enhance engagement and enable remote participation, fostering a dynamic and inclusive environment.

5. Time Management

Respect participants’ time by starting and ending the meeting on schedule. Encourage concise contributions, and address off-topic discussions by noting them for follow-up outside the meeting.

6. Encourage Participation

Create a culture of open communication. Encourage all participants to share their insights, ideas, and concerns. Ensure quieter team members have opportunities to contribute by actively seeking their input.

7. Foster a Positive Environment

Set a positive and inclusive tone. Acknowledge contributions, express gratitude, and maintain a constructive atmosphere. A positive environment enhances collaboration and creativity.

8. Follow Up with Action Items

Summarize key takeaways and action items at the end of the meeting. Clearly outline responsibilities and deadlines. This ensures accountability and provides a roadmap for moving forward.

9. Evaluate and Iterate

Regularly assess the effectiveness of your meetings. Gather feedback from participants and use it to refine your approach. Continuous improvement ensures that future meetings become increasingly productive.

10. Know When to Cancel

Recognize when a meeting is unnecessary or can be better addressed through alternative means. Canceling unproductive meetings demonstrates respect for everyone’s time and maintains focus on meaningful work.

Meetings and collaboration

Remember that all types of meetings should only occur when they’re the quickest, cheapest way to accomplish something. The rest of the time, virtual collaboration is best.

In the ever-evolving landscape of work, the shift towards collaboration software emerges as a beacon of efficiency. Beyond the insightful considerations for meeting types and best practices, the adoption of collaboration tools stands out as a transformative solution. These tools not only diminish the need for unnecessary meetings but also elevate the effectiveness of those that remain. Seamless communication, real-time updates, and accessible collaboration redefine how teams function. Embrace the power of collaboration software, and witness a workplace where meetings are purposeful, information flows effortlessly, and every interaction contributes to the success of your team.

This post was originally published on July 17, 2019, and updated most recently on December 4, 2023.



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