What’s This Meeting For, Anyway?

ManagersThere are something like 11 million corporate meetings held every day in the United States alone. Yet most of us would rather be somewhere else.

But if your meetings are well-planned they can be highly productive, fun to be part of, and even personally satisfying.

The first step in creating a memorable meeting is to be very clear about why you are calling the meeting.And I can think of at least ten distinct reasons for holding a meeting. (of course any one meeting may well have more than one purpose, and usually does):

  1. Informing (announcing, teaching)
  2. Sharing (exchanging information, experiences, ideas, opinions)
  3. Exploring (brainstorming, reviewing alternatives, combining ideas and experiences to create new insights)
  4. Planning (identifying possibilities and establishing intentions)
  5. Problem-Solving (moving from a problem to a solution)
  6. Designing (developing new concepts or new intentions)
  7. Producing (actually creating something, such as computer code or a marketing slogan)
  8. Decision-making (narrowing down from multiple alternative possibilities to a single choice)
  9. Persuading (changing the mindsets of some or all of the participants)
  10. Inspiring (appealing to peoples’ emotions; motivating them towards new ways of thinking and/or acting)

Informational meetings may be the most common type of group conversation in organizations today. Typically a team leader calls an informational meeting to announce news, to share decisions that have been made by more senior executives, or to inform staff about organizational changes, new products, new strategic messages, or any one of a number of other “facts” that the leader wants to share. The dominant purpose of the meeting is to provide participants with information that is new to them.

Sharing meetings are more two-way; the goal is exchange ideas, insights, or other kinds of knowledge – information that comes from several different people rather than just the team leader. Sharing meetings are characterized by more interaction, with many participants contributing to the conversation, either by offering specific perspectives or by asking questions of others.

In contrast, in an Exploring meeting, there is more brainstorming, as participants seek to create new ideas or to build on each others’ experiences to generate new perspectives that none of them had before the conversation began. At the end of an Exploring meeting the participants will know more than when they began, including something about each others’ ideas, insights, knowledge, or opinions.

A Planning meeting is designed to identify future opportunities or challenges along with ways the organization might want to respond to them.

A Problem-Solving meeting is convened to address a specific difficulty or challenge the organization is facing. It might be a business process that is not producing the desired results, or a particular product deficiency that has become known through customer complaints.

In an effective Problem-Solving conversation the group develops a common understanding of the problem or issue, builds a list of possible root causes, and then either agrees on the root cause or causes, or plans some future activities that will help determine how and why the problem arose.

A Design meeting is one in which the group generates specifications for a new product, a new process, a new database or an information system.

A Production meeting is one in which actual work is accomplished; the product of the meeting could be some new software code, a new marketing slogan, or a new corporate policy. In contrast to the other kinds of meetings described here, a Production meeting goes beyond shared information, shared understanding, or increased knowledge; it actually depends on group collaboration to produce a tangible outcome.

Decision-making meetings result in group consensus about a future action that will be taken, or how to resolve a particular issue.roundtable meeting

Persuasion meetings involve some or all of the meeting participants changing their minds about something. Leading a persuasion meeting involves offering compelling reasons (both logical and emotional) for the meeting attendees to do something – which may or may not require changing their behaviors.

Inspirational meetings do more than persuade; they change the participants’ deepest emotional states. They create motivation to do something specific, or to go beyond the ordinary to accomplish a goal that is shared by the group members.

Of course, many meetings have more than one purpose. The most important thing to remember is that until you have defined the reason for holding the meeting there isn’t any way to know whether or not it was a useful one.

And if you aren’t clear about why you are calling a meeting, don’t call it. 10,999,999 meetings today is more than enough.

Have I left anything out? How many meetings do you attend that do not have a clear and explicit purpose?

Contact me today for a free consultation about how you can design and lead meetings that have a clear and explicit purpose.


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  1. […] “What’s This Meeting For, Anyway?” for a more extended exploration of how a meeting’s purpose impacts its process and […]

  2. […] week I commented on the power of being clear about why you are convening a meeting (“What’s This Meeting For, Anyway?”). Now it’s time to think about who should be invited to the meeting how to anticipate the […]

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