The most important step you can take to have a successful meeting is to know when not to meet.  Holding meetings that are unnecessary numbs participants and trains them to believe that meeting rooms are torture chambers and meetings are a waste of time.

Before you decide to hold a meeting it may be helpful to define what one is.  According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary a meeting is:

  • A coming together of two or more people, by chance or arrangement
  • A gathering of people for a particular purpose
  • A situation or occasion when two people see and talk to each other

The business dictionary gives a more elaborate (and stuffy) description of meeting:  a formal or informal deliberative assembly of individuals called to debate certain issues and problems, and to take decisions.  Formal meetings are held at defined times, at a definite place, and usually for a definite duration to follow an agreed upon agenda. Sounds a little boring, but it does list a few of the important elements.

With today’s technology we can choose to meet face-to-face in one location, on a conference call, over a video conference, or some combination of the three.  All of these options offer live, two-way conversation, however there are pros and cons to each.  Once you answer the following questions you can decide if you should meet and then the best way to meet:  1) Why do you want to communicate with people and 2) What do you want to accomplish.

Here are some common reasons people hold meetings:

  • Provide information or an update
  • Receive feedback on an idea
  • Exchange information
  • Generate ideas / brainstorm
  • Analyze or deconstruct an issue
  • Bring a group to consensus
  • Teach a new concept or skill
  • Teambuilding / connection
  • Air grievances / Be heard
  • Networking / build relationships
  • Because the boss said to meet

Why you want to communicate and what you want to accomplish aren’t necessarily the same thing and should be individually defined.  At first glance, “provide information” could be read as an answer to both questions.  You want to provide information and you want the participants to receive it.  In order to decide if a meeting is the best way to share your information it will help to expand on what you want to accomplish.  Asked another way, what do you want your participants to feel or do when they leave the meeting?  Do you want them to feel confident that they know the direction of the company or do you want them to take the information and share with their teams or something entirely different?  Knowing your detailed objective helps you plan the best way to move forward.

Meetings are a great tool to facilitate two-way conversations and relationship building in a setting where the participants are focused.  If you’re not looking for two-way conversation and only want to push information maybe you should think of a different way to convey that information.  That way you don’t train your team to avoid meetings.