Before you meet, define the “meeting why”!


Have you ever found yourself aimlessly setting meetings merely as a reaction to circumstances? It’s almost a Pavlovian response that when something is amiss, the first thought is “better set a meeting”.  When someone on the team voices an interesting idea, everyone says, “Let’s have a meeting about it”. Meetings aren’t supposed to be a default fall-back for every situation. In fact, lots of issues can be resolved without ever actually having a formal meeting about them!

The “meeting why”.

Long before an agenda is solidified the meeting organizer should have a clear idea in his or her head about what exactly this meeting is about. Why is precious time being taken in people’s calendars for this discussion? Let’s call that the “meeting why”. If you can’t provide a “meeting why” in one succinct sentence perhaps it’s time to revert to the drawing board. To come up with a “meeting why” it can be helpful to understand which meeting type or category your meeting falls under. Most meetings can fall into one of 5 categories. 

5 Main Meeting Types

  1. Update meetings: People meet to get updates, about results, changes, activities etc. It’s always important to maintain a distinction between updates which require a human delivery and those which can simply be done via email, or even video message, and don’t require yet another meeting in the calendar. 
  2. Decision making meetings: People gather to make decisions about something or multiple things. With these meetings, it is important to have the correct data in front of you along with the actual decision makers in the room. Also not all decisions need a formal meeting. Sometimes the meeting is simply a way to delay the actual decision making process. Be sure you aren’t falling into this trap. 
  3. Planning meetings: People meet to discuss and plan something, be it a specific project, quarterly plan, or just an employee fun day! Similar to decision making meetings be sure to have relevant information ready, such as budgets, expected timelines, data, etc. And as with most meetings, only include relevant stakeholders, not people who simply like the sound of their own voice! 
  4. One on one meetings: Managers meet employees or colleagues to update, discuss, decide, or just shoot the breeze a little. Previously we wrote about the importance of maintaining one-on-one meetings.
  5. Team meetings: A team meets to update, discuss, and decide. 

So the next time you have a knee-jerk reaction to something and your fallback position is to just set a meeting, think about which category it falls into before you do. If it helps, put the “meeting why” into the invite as well which can help align expectations with the meeting participants. Together we can all put an end to useless meetings!

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