The Four Types of Meetings

The most successful companies don’t have leaders that talk at people.

They have leaders that are collaborative, inclusive, and discuss ideas with their staff.

These interactions don’t simply occur via email or in the break room.

They happen through meetings that have structure, purpose, and goals.

We have complied a framework and set of guidelines of how to structure different kinds of meetings.

Ideation

These kinds of meetings are used to brainstorm ideas, toss around concepts and be creative.

However, creative meetings are still meetings and if you want to get the most out of your time, you still need to follow a framework.

  • An Agenda – What is the purpose of the meeting and how will you get there?
  • What do you expect to have at the end of the meeting? Whatever it is, there should be some plan around the time, effort or money it will take to achieve it.
  • Action Items:
    • After the creativity is done and you either have a wall of ideas or you have boiled the ideas down to a small list, there need to be actionable steps for you to take after the meeting.
    • Even if the meeting was not fruitful in producing ideas or insights, you still need at least one action item. 
      • Run another meeting, but with a different strategy, because the previous one did not create the desired outcome. You missed your target, so shoot again.
      • Pivot. Adjust the questions you are asking or try to solve a different problem. Some of the things you are looking at might take far longer than you anticipate or the skills required are not within your expertise.
      • Cancel or halt the endeavour if you aren’t able to deliver insight or impact. If you’re not making progress, is this the right path? If not, rethink the goal and timeline. Races have finish lines for a reason. You’ve never gone for a run in the morning and just kept running. At some point, you stopped. You have to do the same with your ideas and pursuits. Set benchmarks and be honest with yourself. It’s only a real failure if you didn’t learn anything along the way.

Starting/Approval

For meetings where you need to get approval to start a project or sign off on a project, you’ll need to run your meeting slightly differently.

  • The difference:
    • Starting – you have an idea for a new product and you are pitching the idea to the person whose approval you require. They approve it and you begin to pull together and get the resources to get an MVP.
    • Signing off – you’ve got your MVP and market research and customer feedback. It looks good, but you need the budget allocation to take it further. You’re not starting out fresh, you’re just getting ready to break into the next chapter. You have to pitch the product and provide the supporting detail. 

Alignment

These are your ongoing updates. This is your daily, weekly, monthly, ad hoc, check in with your team on the progress of their elements of a project. 

  • These are simple meetings – Grab the action items and your roadmap.
  • Confirm where everyone and everything is:
    • On schedule? Brilliant, keep going.
    • Behind schedule? What has caused the delay? What did you overestimate? Are more resources needed? How do you recover the timeline or do you accept the delay?
    • Ahead of schedule? What caused us to get ahead, what did we underestimate?
  • Understanding your estimates are key because you can hopefully take them and apply them to your next project.

When a meeting goes wrong

A bad meeting has no clear agenda, no clear outcomes and is a waste of people’s time. 

  • The wrong people at the wrong time in a meeting are useless. In some meetings, I set the agenda to have particular business areas up first to address their components and ask the remaining group if anyone needs anything further from that team. They can then leave and get on with their tasks. There’s little point in having someone sit through a meeting if they can’t contribute or learn from what is going on. It’s more efficient to use your resources effectively and get them pushing forward on their responsibilities. 
  • Many people lament the quality of the meetings they are in. If you are lamenting, then I ask you “why are you there?”. Why are you wasting your time, your company’s time, and your team’s time? You should know what is of value and whether or not this meeting aligns with that. If it doesn’t have value, say no. It feels good to say “no, it’s not a priority”.

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