Meetings get a bad rap. They clog up your calendar and sap your energy. They’re often aimless, irrelevant, or unproductive (or all of the above). They take your time and focus away from your actual work. 

Honestly, a lot of the griping about meetings is warranted. According to our recent survey, meetings are ineffective 72% of the time. And if that wasn’t discouraging enough, 78% of people say they’re expected to attend so many meetings they struggle to get their work done. 

In short, when they’re poorly planned and run, meetings really can be an epic time suck. Plus, if this meeting cost calculator is any indication, they’re also expensive.

But here’s the thing that’s often missed: meetings aren’t inherently bad. On the contrary, several types of meetings are well worth your time. So which sitdowns are worth the space and which ones are better skipped? This guide has your answers.

Before you book: 3 boxes every meeting should check

Here’s the golden rule to keep in mind: snagging time on other people’s calendars should be the last step in your meeting-planning process — not your first.

You should be able to answer an enthusiastic “yes” to these three questions before you even dream of blocking time on somebody else’s schedule: 

1. Do you have a clear goal?

Whether you need the group to make a decision, brainstorm ideas, or trade information, your meeting needs to have a firm objective — and you need to share it with your attendees ahead of time so they know what they’re in for. That’s often missed, with 62% of workers saying they frequently attend meetings that don’t state a goal in the invite.

Aligning everybody on what you’re aiming to achieve will keep those dreaded “That meeting was totally pointless…” eye rolls to a minimum.

2. Do you have an agenda?

How to write an effective team meeting agenda (with templates!)

Repeat after me: Every team meeting needs an agenda. Even that short-and-sweet informal sitdown should have a documented plan people can refer to.

That’s not to say your agenda needs to be lengthy and complicated. Even a quick summary of your meeting goal and key talking points is enough to align expectations and keep the conversation on track.

Share the agenda with your attendees at least 24 hours before your discussion so they have adequate time to review and show up prepared for a productive meeting.

3. Have you been selective about your attendees?

As you think about which team members to add to that calendar invite, ask yourself this question about each one: What do I expect this person to contribute to this meeting?

If you don’t have a clear answer, it’s a good sign that you don’t need to take up that person’s time. People shouldn’t need to attend meetings to “stay in the loop” — a quick email or meeting recap works just as well (without monopolizing their work hours).

6 types of meetings that are worth your time (and everybody else’s) 

Satisfying the above three criteria goes a long way in ensuring your meeting feels more productive than pointless or painful. So, with those best practices in mind, let’s take a closer look at six types of meetings that are worth hosting.

In general, effective meetings produce a tangible outcome faster (or better) than asynchronous collaboration. The types of meetings in this category are typically discussion-heavy. But again, that discussion needs to amount to something.

1. Decision-making meetings

This is how effective teams navigate the decision-making process

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.

The wrong way to do these meetings is to hold them either before attendees have sufficient background knowledge and context or 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.

2. Retrospectives and reflection meetings

Whether you’re looking back on a specific time period, project, or goal, the reflection and improvement conversations in team retrospectives are always worth the time and energy.

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. Plus, a face-to-face (or video) discussion of how you’re working together goes a long way in building trust and open communication.

Make sure the agenda varies from session to session (check out this list of techniques that’ll help keep things fresh). Don’t forget to choose an area you want to improve on or a problem you need to address — and then outline your steps to make that happen. Your action plan is the outcome that makes these meetings valuable for the business.

3. Problem-solving and brainstorming meetings

These two types of meetings are lumped 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.

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. Participants need to feel safe voicing dissenting opinions or “out there” ideas.

4. Planning meetings

Think about all the back and forth, the “what-ifs,” and the inter-team dependencies involved in kicking off a project or a campaign. Any email thread will quickly turn into a tangled mess, so a real-time meeting a no-brainer.

Like decision-making meetings, the trick here is making sure each participant comes in with enough background knowledge to actually make progress on your plan. Don’t be shy about asking them to do some prep work when you send your agenda. And if you’re in a planning session 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.

5. All-hands meetings

When they’re done right, all-hands meetings are great for team building. To justify calling one, you need to put things on the agenda that can’t be replicated in a document.

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 are priceless. And for company leaders, it’s a way to stay on the pulse and hear from people at every level of the business.

6. 1-on-1 meetings

7 tips for better 1-on-1 meetings

You might think that 1-on-1 meetings violate the “must have a tangible outcome” principle. Think again. 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 a 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. Here again, have an agenda in mind before you walk in the door — ideally, one that the direct report and manager can collaborate on throughout the week.

Tip: Don’t use this time to trade updates on tasks or projects. That’s what email and chat are for.

3 types of meetings you can skip

“Well, that meeting could’ve been an email…” the refrain echoes through many meeting-happy workplaces. And while it’s not always true, the sentiment holds up for these three types of meetings.

1. Project status meetings

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 for a meeting.

2. Announcement meetings

If all you need to do is broadcast information — whether it’s an exciting company update or a process change — just write it down and let people read it. If you can, write it as a page on your company intranet so people can comment and ask questions. That kind of engagement promotes a culture of actually reading what your co-workers share with you.

3. Recurring meetings that have lost their magic

That weekly small group meeting that always gets done 20 minutes early? Or has turned into a glorified catch-up session? Or that constantly has low attendance because people know it’s skippable? It’s time to take it off the calendar — or, at the very least, give it an overhaul. Try running a ritual reset play with a group to audit a meeting and determine whether you should remove it or improve it.

Host more meetings that matter (and fewer that don’t)

Meetings are the subject of a lot of trash talk. And, admittedly, some of it is well deserved. Poorly planned and run meetings are nothing more than expensive time wasters.

But not all meetings are created equal. Use this list and criteria as your guide and you’ll better distinguish between meaningful meetings and those that do nothing but drain your brain and clog your calendar.

Special thanks to Kat Boogaard for her contributions to this article.

6 types of meetings that are worth your time (and 3 that aren’t)