Meetings are the bane of many people’s lives, as they are not used in the best, or correct way. Too many meetings end up being hijacked by a single issue group, descending into a group moan or moving off topic and over-running as a result.

There are only three types of meetings and the problems come when the person running the meeting confuses them.

Type 1 – The Information Delivery Model

These are top down meetings in which the leader of the meeting disseminates information to a group of people.

However, the best question to really ask is; “Can any of this information be emailed?” If it can, then there is no need to hold the meeting. Do something else instead. The often made complaint about this is, “What if people need to ask questions or clarify points?” I would argue that if people are asking questions or seeking clarification over factual/informational points, then those points have not been clearly articulate by the meeting leader. Precision and Clarity of message are vital at this point to prevent confusion.

Action Point – Write, read, re-write, read out loud any point before it is given as topic. Can it be clarified?

Type 2 – The Discussion

These are Group Meetings where a point is made by a facilitator and the group is asked to feedback.

These often fail because the topic under discussion is often revealed for the first time during this meeting. Discussion time is taken up by processing time. Any group dynamic is also made up of different actors.

There are leaders, lurkers, and spectators. There is a real danger that these kind of meetings may descend into a to and fro between special interest groups pursuing their agenda.

Action Point – Be very clear about the agenda and what will happen to any feedback afterwards. Always impose a time limit (implicit or explicit) but offer to continue the discussion at a later date should it be required.

Type 3 – The Social Oil

These are meetings that are in place to act as social meetings where the facilitator acts as a host and feelings are opinions are aired and discussed.

These are the most vital and useful type of meeting  as they have a very specific function and one that is vital to the running of any business. Acting as a social lubricant they can serve as a useful temperature gauge of mood and heading off of any problems.

Action Point – Always listen twice as much as you speak, but be careful to not allow a minority of people to dominate. Treat the meeting like a small party and try to involve all willing participants.

The problem comes when meetings become an amalgamation of two or more of these types of meeting.

  • Members coming to meetings expecting it to be one thing when it is another nearly always causes ill feeling.
  • Meetings that do not have a clear purpose will nearly always be hijacked.
  • Meetings that do not have  a clear focus will always overrun.

A guiding principle for all meetings should be:

  • Can I email the information instead?
  • Have I given a clear agenda for the meeting?
  • Is this meeting necessary at all?

Only hold a meeting if you really need to, but always be clear about the type of meeting it is.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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