Look at your diary for today. Another day jam packed with meetings - seemingly for the sake of meetings. Another day taking part in so called ‘productive’ meetings, where no actual production takes place.
But, however we are feeling, meetings are still necessary for communication and collaboration. So how do you get the most out of them? If you are the meeting organiser, start by asking yourself if you are holding the right type of meeting. Is your meeting going to be effective and yield better outcomes than doing something else? If not, stop now!
Microsoft suggests thinking about different meeting types to ensure you are getting the best results. Take a look at their suggestions and see if you agree.
Short updates involve a focused, quick conversation, when there's important news or a decision that needs to be made quickly. They need to be planned in advance, but Harvard Business Review recommends keeping them to 15 or 30 minutes. They are normally needed for:
- Brief feedback, quick updates or small group discussion.
- An audience size of 5-25.
Particularly for teams, ad-hoc meetings held on the fly allow everyone to touch base without much planning. According to Business Insider, these types of meetings are not only becoming more common, but they can be much more productive than traditional organised meetings.
Your ad-hoc discussion doesn't need to be held face-to-face, either. With fewer than five participants, consider instant messaging. For larger groups or those needing more collaboration, look at conference or video calls . For more efficiency, make sure you have screen or document sharing and collaboration tools that will allow you to resolve things rapidly in real-time.
Ad-hoc updates provide:
- An unstructured way to address quick questions.
- A way of disseminating real-time project updates.
- Maintaining team-based connections with 3–15 people.
Whereas the previous two meeting types are focused on progressing ideas already in train, when something new needs to happen you need to brainstorm.
Brainstorming generates high volumes of ideas that can later be distilled and presented to decision makers (and budget holders). You really need to be able to see what's going on, so in-person or video call is best. Prepare your space carefully so that people can share ideas in a constructive and non-critical way. The meeting is about generating ideas, not about critiquing them.
You should set up a brainstorm session if you need to gather:
- Large numbers of new ideas at once.
- A wide variety of perspectives and points of view.
There's still room for the traditional meeting, whether it takes place in an auditorium, boardroom or conference room. Your challenge is to prevent the meeting from becoming stale or boring.
A traditional meeting is often used to deliver strategic messages for the long-term. A virtual meetingsolution is likely to be needed for such meetings these days, as if you're aiming to influence stakeholders it shouldn't matter whether they are on-site or off-site.
Traditional meetings are needed if you are aiming to:
- Target a larger audience (from 30 to several thousand).
- Present information (as opposed to collaborate with others).
- Structure audience participation (such as restricting interaction to Q&A sessions within a fixed agenda)
No matter what type of meeting, you must always gather your information, have a clear agenda, and define the outcomes you want to achieve from your audience.