When you want to run better meetings, two of the most useful questions you can ask are:
- “Do we need a meeting?”
- “Is this the right kind of meeting to achieve what we need?”
The answer to the first question depends on your team and culture. (Not clear enough? Check out this and this). To answer the second question, it’s critical to develop an understanding of your options.
Different types of meetings require different conversations and yield different results. I’ve found that most leaders can only name three or four meeting types; a pretty limited palette.
In our research, we’ve found that businesses use 16 types of business meetings, divided into three groups. Each type of meeting works and feels different than the others and produces a distinct work result.
Cadence meetings keep the organization on track. They align teams, maintain momentum, and surface learning. These are the most common meetings and the most likely to be a source of dissatisfaction.
Not in high-performing organizations, however. If you look closely at the stories successful leaders tell, you’ll notice countless examples of how they’ve turned these regular internal meetings into drivers of their competitive advantage. Ray Dalio, CEO of Bridgewater Associates, shared tales from his team meetings in his Ted talk. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ “no PowerPoint” rule is all over the Internet.
High-performing organizations take great care in designing cadence meetings that serve as rich opportunities for building trust, increasing team engagement, and driving strategic momentum.
Cadence meetings benefit from predictability. Types include:
- Team Cadence Meetings
Weekly team meetings, huddles, etc., which teams use to check work progress and keep everyone connected.
- Progress Checks
For projects and programs involving people from many teams, used to refine plans and create trust.
Regular meetings between two people, often manager/employee, used to privately discuss work performance and offer mutual support.
- Action Reviews
Retrospectives, after action reviews, etc., used to learn from past work and draw out opportunities to experiment going forward, driving continuous learning and improvement
- Governance Cadence Meetings
Board meetings and the like, used to review strategic progress and provide legal oversight.
Catalyst meetings focus on creating a successful change. Teams don’t run these every day; these are special occasions.
You can’t wing a catalyst meeting. Each one taps into aspects of human psychology and ingenuity that we don’t exercise in our day-to-day endeavors. To unlock the best thinking available in the group, there are techniques to learn and steps to follow. If you don’t already know how to run a catalyst meeting well, find and use an example agenda to guide you through.
Catalyst meetings require practice and the right process. Types include:
- Idea Generation Sessions
Including brainstorming and creative sessions, designed to explore possibilities.
- Planning Meetings
Used to turn a partial plan into a more complete plan.
Workshops invest a significant chunk of time to the creation of a high-value work product, such as a strategic plan or a design brief.
- Problem Solving Meetings
Used to understand the problem, evaluate options, and select an approach, all in a single session.
- Decision Making Meetings
Used to officially decide between several pre-determined options.
Learn and Influence Meetings
These meetings help people learn from each other and discover ways to work together in the future. Success hinges on small moments—a firm handshake, a confident smile, an insightful question—and less on sticking to a particular script.
These meetings require preparation and demand skill development. Types include:
Including informational interviews, analysis meetings, and discovery sessions, Sensemaking meetings result in new knowledge or insights.
Including sales pitches and the job interview, Introductions are all about making a positive impression so that other people will want to work with you again.
- Issue Resolution
Negotiations fit here. Two parties who do not agree on an issue work to find a path forward.
- Community of Practice
These bring together people with a shared interest to learn from one another and offer mutual support.
Used by a designated expert to train other people.
Including all-hands meetings and webinars, Broadcasts distribute information to many people at once.
Putting the Types to Work
Now that you’re aware of the 16 meeting types, how can you can put them to use?
First, improve existing meetings by following tailored advice. Rather than searching for tips on running better meetings, for example, you can seek guidance specific to weekly sales team meetings, or one-on-ones with engineers. Trust me, it’s out there.
Then, experiment! You’ll find many techniques optimized for specific meetings now that you know what to look for.
Every meeting has an impact. With 16 distinct meeting types in hand, you now can design for the impact you need.
Keith is the author of Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization