It almost goes without saying that meetings are a vital part of any organization- but it’s also true that meetings are often the biggest time suck for any organization, too. When done right, meetings can unite teams, fuel innovation and inspire trust and company loyalty. But when unsuccessful, they can waste time, lead to disagreements and even ultimately harm employee satisfaction.
The path to making any meeting more efficient starts with identifying a high-level purpose – and that can be as simple as defining what type of meeting you’re holding. Once you have a clearer idea of the purpose, you can get smart about optimizing your meeting to make it as beneficial for all participants as possible. Below you’ll find the five key types of meetings, and our “hacks” for getting the most out of each of them.
Status updates can vary greatly in terms of scale- but whether you’re giving everyone an overview of the company roadmap or meeting to discuss updates on a specific project, the broad objectives and purposes of these meetings remain the same.
Peer review. Although these meetings might seem straightforward, there’s one key way these meetings often go sideways: confusion. If you’ve been working closely on a project, what makes perfect sense to you might be confusing for someone who’s not directly involved. Additionally, you might miss giving essential background information which seems obvious to you, but might be vital for others. Overcome this by running through the meeting with someone outside of the project first, and filling in any gaps or clearing up any confusions ahead of time.
Training employees and skill-sharing among teams are two of they key ways business grow together- and that’s where Information Sharing meetings come in. Whether that’s a seminar, a training session, or a less formal research-sharing meeting, information sharing meetings are a great opportunity to educate and empower employees.
Hold these meetings in the morning. Most people experience their optimum time for cognitive thinking in the morning– so take advantage of this by scheduling these meetings for times your team are at their sharpest and most receptive.
Be ruthless with the invite list. In an ideal world, it would be wonderful to give everyone in your organization access to information-sharing meetings- but in reality, every meeting means hours of productive working time lost. Think about who would benefit from this meeting the most, and try to balance value for the employee with value for the organization.
Brainstorming meetings are often make-or-break for companies. This is your chance to innovate, to come up with creative and new approaches, and also to give every member a stake in how you move forward together. As such, it’s important these meetings are constructed to let everyone’s brightest ideas flourish.
Hold these meetings in the late afternoon/evening. Although cognitive thinking is best done in the late morning, several studies suggest creative thinking is improved by fatigue, and that open-ended thinking is best done later in the day. Everyone’s rhythms are different, but try a later meeting slot and see how it works for your team.
Whether you need to decide how to move forward with a project, solve a problem, or decide who to assign a project to, if there’s a question to be answered, it’s a decision making meeting. These meetings are one of the most vital types, but can often devolve into heated debate, going around in circles, and flat-out stalemate. Luckily, there are a couple hacks to help make decision-making as efficient as possible.
Come armed with research. Wherever possible, participants should come to the meeting with relevant data and research to support the decision-making process. Not only will this help you to make smarter decisions, but it will also minimize the risk of the meeting devolving into back-and-forth between competing opinions with no clear outcome.
Assign ownership for who makes the decision, and who will implement the project. Before the meeting begins, it should be clear who’s going to make the final judgement call- whether that’s a vote, or the decision ultimately falling to one person. If there’s a clear path to implementing the decision, you can also avoid further unnecessary meetings by delegating then and there, so you can put the verdict into practice smoothly and efficiently.
Even in companies who have internal meetings down to a fine art, best practices are often overlooked when meeting when external clients. All of the key tenets of successful internal meetings still apply here: research, set agendas, and be strategic about who is invited to the meeting.
Make the meeting about the client, not your sales pitch. Preparation is key, but don’t bombard a client with a slick, rehearsed sales pitch the moment they sit down. If they’ve done their research, they’re probably fairly familiar with your broad offering: the client meeting is about building a relationship unique to them. Focus on their company, their needs, and how your product or offering can help in their unique use case.
Eileen McNulty-Holmes is a writer and content specialist based in Berlin. For the past ten years, they have written, edited and strategized for companies and publications spanning tech, arts and culture.