“Meetings are usually toxic because they often convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute”.
Have you ever felt this way? Having sat through many frustrating meetings, I resonate with this statement. Often meetings are ineffective because participants are unclear about its purpose and outcomes. When people enter a meeting with unclear expectations they experience frustration which is a catalyst for conflict. A simple way to minimize this is to establish clear guidelines about the meeting purpose and by Making Meetings Matter!
Generally, there are five reasons for holding a meeting:
1. Information Sharing: One of the most important reasons for holding a meeting is information sharing. The purpose of this meeting is to convey information which helps people do their job more effectively. A common example of an information sharing meeting is a conference or a sales presentation. Increasingly, ‘information’ agenda items are sent via a short email instead of at group meetings. Meetings are designed to promote the free flow of information and ideas between individuals, and they provide an opportunity for people to share knowledge and skills. Meetings also help to build relationships and trust within a team. When done effectively, meetings can be a powerful tool for achieving results.
2. Problem Solving/Innovation: Attendees focus on specific problems or ideas which need to be debated and discussed by the group. For example, when a department felt they had identified an unmet need in their market and were unsure of the specifications for what customers wanted, they used “problem-solving” meetings to figure out how best fit this new product. These discussions helped them identify potential problems or issues with existing solutions so that when it came time to select one specific design over others based on customer feedback at future sampling stages (such as public release).
3. Decision Making: Some meetings are for the sole purpose of making a decision. While it is not the only reason for holding a meeting, one of the most important things about meetings is how they help us arrive at decisions. Sometimes these resolutions come from simple discussions where everyone’s voice has been heard and other times more complex problems need solving before we can find common ground on an issue, but no matter what type you think your situation may be decision-making sessions allow team members to present their thoughts in hopes that synthesis will result.”
Often these decisions are a result of a problem-solving meeting or are done at problem-solving meetings.
For example, a geographically dispersed sales team had developed individual draft schedules of their annual sales travel. They called a decision-making meeting to synthesize plans, solve scheduling conflicts and finalize decisions as a group.
4. Planning: Organizations build short and long-term plans to establish goals, strategies and tactics. Often called strategic planning, the goal of these meetings is to establish corporate, divisional, or individual direction and priorities.
The need for strategic planning is essential in any organization. Without it, there can be no way to establish goals and strategies that will help an individual or company reach their full potential; however, this task has been made much more difficult with today’s fast-paced environment which demands instant decisions from managers who have little time on hand as well as employees looking forward not just one day but months into the future at what they want out of work – something permanent!
5. Commitment Building: When you need to ‘get everyone on the same page a commitment-building meeting is effective. These often occur when a new product is launched, when the company hires a new CEO or when an organization embarks on a new venture.
Sometimes meetings will combine more than one of these purposes. If this is the case, you can use agenda headers to outline what participants should expect. Meetings can be effective but it doesn’t happen by accident. They require pre-planning and a clear answer to the question on the mind of every participant – “why are we at this meeting?”
And a box of donuts doesn’t hurt either!
 Fried, Jason & Hansson, David (2010). Rework. New York: Crown Publishing. P. 108.