If you’ve ever opened up a meeting invite and thought “Oh no… not one of those again”, this article is for you. And you’re not alone! While the types of meetings you’ll find at any given organization will vary, a few of the most common types are universally loathed. Others types of meetings, however, are genuinely useful and can even be a lot of fun (if you know how to do them right).
2 types of meetings you can do without
Meetings are expensive. If you don’t believe me, this meeting cost calculator is pretty convincing. Meetings should only be held when they are the cheapest and/or fastest way to accomplish a task.
Virtual collaboration is a solid alternative to two of the most wasteful and dreaded types of meetings: status meetings and info-sharing meetings.
Project status meetings
As project work becomes increasingly cross-functional, it’s common for a project team to comprise people with diverse skill sets who report to different managers. But this often makes project leaders nervous about team communication, so they establish a recurring status meeting to guarantee information gets shared.
These meetings are a huge waste of time.
It’s more efficient to have team members spend five minutes adding status updates to a shared document or intranet page so others can read and comment if necessary. This alternative also allows team members to share their updates at a time that works for them, instead of interrupting their work at an arbitrary time.
Many teams use group chat to share updates and ask questions as they arise. This way, sharing information with your team becomes a natural part of the way you work and teams that use this approach tend to communicate more effectively (and frequently) overall.
Information broadcast meetings
Here’s another case of “people read faster than they speak”. If all you need to do is broadcast information, for the love of everything holy, please just write it down and let people read it! Bonus points if you write it as a page on your company intranet so people have the opportunity to comment and ask questions. That kind of engagement promotes a culture of actually reading what your co-workers share with you.
Caveat: before you go canceling your department or company all-hands understand that simply sharing information isn’t (or shouldn’t be) the point of those meetings. When done right, those are actually team-building events. More on that below.
6 types of meetings that are too legit to quit
(Where are my MC Hammer fans at?? 😀)
If the thought of canceling your recurring status and information-sharing meetings makes you hyperventilate a bit, take heart. There are plenty of ways to get your meeting fix that will actually benefit you and your team.
Effective meetings produce a tangible outcome and do it faster (or better) than asynchronous collaboration. The types of meetings in this category are typically discussion-heavy – but again: a discussion that produces something.
There’s a right way to do decision-making meetings and a wrong way. The right way is to gather a group of people who already have enough background information to find the best way forward and have the authority to actually make the decision right there in the meeting. This will include subject matter experts, select stakeholders, and the person who will ultimately make the call. (Yes: one person.)
The wrong way to do these meetings is to hold them either a) before the key people have sufficient background knowledge and context; and/or b) after you’ve already discussed the decision ad-nauseam. In either case, emails, chat, or shared documents are more efficient.
✅Tip: If conditions aren’t right for an effective decision-making meeting, try the DACI method for making group decisions asynchronously.
Teammates often have different perspectives and experiences of the same event, and you’ll miss out on a lot of those insights if you ask everyone to just add their thoughts to an email thread. Besides: a face-to-face (or video) discussion of how you’re working together goes a long way in building trust and team cohesion.
Don’t forget to choose areas you want to improve and identify the tasks that’ll get you there. Your action plan is the outcome that really makes these meetings valuable for the business.
Problem-solving and brainstorming meetings
I lumped these two types of meetings together because they’re so closely related. (You wouldn’t bother brainstorming unless you were trying to solve a problem, and you rarely solve a problem without a little brainstorming.)
You’ll come out with better solutions and ideas if you’re meeting in real time. One mind catalyzes another. Creative juices flow. Neurons fire!
The key here is to choose the right people to collaborate with. Diverse knowledge, skills, backgrounds, and opinions are incredibly valuable in this context. Of course, all that diversity is for naught without trust. People need to feel safe voicing dissenting opinions or “out there” ideas.
If you’re like me, using email to plan anything more complex than a movie night with friends makes you bonkers. Now, think about all the back-and-forth, the “what if”s and the inter-team dependencies involved in planning a project or a campaign. Meeting in real time is a no-brainer.
Like decision-making meetings, the trick to running a successful planning meeting is making sure everyone comes in with enough background knowledge to actually make progress on your plan. Don’t be shy about asking attendees to do some prep work! And if you’re in a planning meeting that’s going nowhere, don’t be afraid to stop it short and have everyone go off and gather information. Then set up a time to meet again.
I’ve been in plenty of company or department all-hands meetings that could’ve just been an email or a SlideShare presentation. But when done right, all-hands meetings are great for team building.
To justify calling an all-hands meeting, you need to put things on the agenda that can’t be replicated in a document. One company I worked at presented “values” awards at every quarterly all-hands. Could the winners have been announced in an email? Sure. But there’s something special about seeing your coworkers up there being recognized and getting all that well-deserved applause.
Many companies (including Atlassian) devote a portion of all-hands meetings to Q&A with executives. The open, democratic nature of the forum and the authentic, unscripted answers from people you may not otherwise have access to is priceless. And for company leaders, it’s a way to stay on the pulse and hear from people at every level of the business.
Manager 1-on-1 meetings
You might think that 1-on-1 meetings violate the “must have a tangible outcome” principle. Au contraire. Your goal is for both manager and direct report to walk away with a shared understanding of the long-term, big-picture stuff.
Use these meetings to build the relationship. Talk about career goals and how to reach them. Talk about how the work you and your team are doing fits into the business’ broader strategy. Talk about where you’re struggling at work and brainstorm ways to make things better. These are the types of conversations that build a trusting relationship.
✅Tip: Don’t use this time to trade updates on tasks or projects. That’s what email, chat, and desk drive-bys are for.
Meetings about meetings
KIDDING. Don’t do this. Ever.
Discussing when and why to meet can be done just as effectively (and far more time-efficiently) over email or team chat.
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For more details on the types of meetings discussed here, handy tips, and proof that no meeting is complete without a rubber chicken, check out our other meeting-flavored posts.
Also published on Medium.