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 having their time or money wasted.
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 little 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.
Meeting red flag checklist
The Error 404 meeting
PowerPoints, laptops, apps – a lot can go wrong and does.
The fix: Master your technology prior to the meeting and, if possible, have a practice run.
The “what’s going on?” meeting
Heading into a meeting with no idea of what’s to be discussed generally leads to a poor outcome.
The fix: Make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them. Ask teammates to prepare and share an agenda before you all head in. And create post-meeting actions so everyone knows what to do after the catch-up and feels accountable for those tasks.
The AWOL meeting
If this sounds familiar: Oh, we have a meeting now? Where is it? Where is so-and-so? Wait, it was canceled? — you’re in trouble.
The fix: If you schedule a meeting, make sure everyone knows where it is and when it’s going to be held. And if you cancel, make sure everyone gets the message beforehand, not after.
The neverending meeting
If you wrap up more than 15 min late, you’ve gone too far.
The fix: Reign meetings in and stick to your schedule. And make sure your meeting doesn’t turn into a meeting to schedule more meetings: ensure there’s an agenda with actionable takeaways.
The 8 types of meetings you need to master (or cancel)
Not all meetings need to exist. Others are invaluable. Let’s take a look at the most common types of meetings and their pros, cons, solutions, and alternatives.
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 meetings is this: 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 or a pinned topic on your team chat app with discussions people can add to and update. 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.
Information sharing meetings
Got something to share? Unless you have some 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’s something that affects more than one person, put it in a shared place so everyone has the opportunity to interact with it and comment/ask questions. Again, a team chat app is your best bet here.
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 this: 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 is the essence of what makes this kind of meeting effective.
Then, make sure everyone involved has the chance to communicate in a way they’re comfortable with. This means giving everyone equal opportunity to speak (and not letting the more vocal members of the group showboat the meeting) and allowing people to share ideas post-meeting via email or your team chat app. Remember, brainstorming meetings are for sparking ideas and not necessarily for finding complete solutions then and there: the deeper, more critical thinking comes afterward.
These types of meetings are a great 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 along with 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 wider 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 meetings, stick to a schedule and give each other your full focus. This means not answering any phone calls or tapping away on a laptop while the other person speaks.
Big decision meetings
Emails don’t work here because there’s too much information going 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.
There are different types of retrospectives. Some are essential project post-mortems. Others are more general health checks, to make sure everyone on the team is feeling 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 gives everyone the chance to respond immediately to everyone else’s thoughts and ideas. It’s especially important to do this in-person if what your discussing has a negative aspect to it: 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 in planning ahead and bringing an agenda so that the talking points stay focused and relevant. If you can’t meet in-person, then conduct the meeting over video conferencing software.
Planning a project absolutely 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.
Company-wide meetings are a great opportunity to bring everyone together from every level of the business. It’s also a great forum for sharing important information that 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, then make sure your message is on-brand, sticks to the schedule, and ends with a Q&A session that gives employees the opportunity to speak directly to company leaders.
Remember that meetings should only take place when they’re the quickest, cheapest way to accomplish something. The rest of the time, virtual collaboration or a good old-fashioned phone call will do.
In fact, communicating with people virtually is often preferable, because it means people can chat with each other according to their own schedules — aka asynchronously — and share information in real-time. Invest in quality, intuitive collaboration tools and it’ll feel as if you’re all there in the same room working together — even when you’re miles apart.