Without question, business meetings play a fundamental role in the day-to-day running of organisations.
Meetings give us an outlet for discussions and brainstorming, where business goals and objectives can be addressed in a group or one-to-one environment.
But it’s important to know what each meeting format entails to drive better, more purposeful meetings that generate value.
In this post, we’ll explore the various types of business meetings and how best to conduct them to drive focus and productivity.
Types of Business Meetings
1. Formal meetings
As the name suggests, this type of meeting is based on an organisation’s standing orders, constitution, rules or articles of association.
A specified threshold must be met for such meetings to happen, for example, it might be that there’s a minimum number of participants to legitimise a sitting. Usually, formal records of such meetings are kept and referred upon in subsequent business meetings.
As a chairperson, you can do the following to ensure their success:
- Lead the discussion from one point to the next.
- Maintain focus and prevent participants from straying off the main agenda.
- Identify workflow bottlenecks and determine how to address them.
- Shed light on any misunderstandings or miscommunications.
- Help out the minute-keeper if need be.
- Take control of timing. Make sure the agenda is covered within the allotted time.
- Highlight the essential points gathered from the meeting.
- Establish if another meeting is needed and agree on the date and time.
- At the end of the meeting, thank all members for their contributions.
2. Informal meetings
These types of meetings do not follow conventional rules like the formal ones above. Most of the sessions are more casual and, in most cases, don’t require minute keeping. They are commonly conducted among business managers or line managers who may wish to deliberate on particular issues such as progress reports.
However, to create value from such settings, you may have to:
- Develop a plan for each meeting
- Prepare participants with an agenda, time and date, along with anything they can prepare in advance
- Give members a chance to air their views and collaboratively seek to understand any relevant concerns
- Elicit any relevant positive feedback if possible
- Establish expectations and standards from the team moving forward
- Explore roadblocks and specific issues that are preventing progress
- Brainstorm and agree on the SMART goals and follow-up actions to address the issues at hand
- Develop a comprehensive improvement plan
- End the business meeting on an optimistic but realistic note
3. Project status or update meetings
These meetings are usually held to determine the current status of an ongoing project. This usually occurs between the project manager, facilitators and employees involved in a forthcoming, ongoing, or completed work project.
In such meetings, every participant is usually encouraged to provide insight and outline any existing challenges or roadblocks.
Doing so enables project managers to:
- Remain up to date with general project progress
- Review the budget status
- Schedule ongoing status updates
- Review quality of project work-to-date
- Determine any anticipated roadblocks, bottlenecks or current issues
- Address simple teething problems
- Set new goals or KPIs
As a project manager or facilitator, you can ensure the effectiveness of such meetings by implementing the BLISS strategy. An acronym for best practice meeting tips is as follows:
B – Be efficient
Doing so will ensure that everyone’s time is respected, allowing them to focus on the immediate task.
Some of the techniques you can use include:
- Assigning time-intensive tasks as homework rather than going through excessive material during the meeting
- Only inviting the most critical members into a meeting
- Having a timekeeper to alert members about the remaining time on each agenda item
- Conduct simultaneous documentation to allow quick development of ideas and content for later review
L – Look back: Look forward
This refers to previewing an immediate past timeframe and an immediate upcoming one to allow your team to zero in on a project’s current status.
To put this technique into action, you can consider:
- Producing a project plan that emphasises immediate needs
- Highlighting primary achievements on a project’s schedule
- Summarising significant activities that have contributed to a project’s current state
- Asking team members and leaders to prepare for potential challenges
I – Insist on accountability
To ensure that your project runs effectively and on schedule, every team member must be accountable for their given tasks.
For such to happen, you need to:
- Develop a flip chart detailing the tasks assigned to each member and their respective due dates
- Ensure each member confirms that they have understood their given roles
- Allow members to suggest when they can complete the duties – if need be, negotiate with them.
- Review past action items at the start of the update meetings
- Explore any repercussions of inefficiency or bad prioritisation and outline how to rectify this
S – Simplify the agenda
For a short and effective meeting, you need to make the agenda concise and straightforward. You can achieve this by simply highlighting what would be dealt with in each update meeting. Furthermore, distribute a meeting’s agenda early enough for members to prepare if necessary.
S – Stay focused
To avoid deviating from the topic at hand, you need to keep your team members focused.
This can be achieved by:
- Appointing someone to take care of timekeeping, ask them to point out if a meeting starts going off-topic
- Creating specific rules concerning team focus – for example, ask participants to put phones on flight mode or refrain from email checking for the meeting’s duration
- Use a timer when discussing issues that are not on the agenda
- File off-topic matters for later discussion
- Ask if the raised issues can be discussed outside the meeting.
Don’t forget to keep informal meetings, short and engaging. Using visual aids and tools such as PowerPoint slides could be the key to keeping your participants aligned, focused, and engaged with the task at hand.
4. Planning meetings
Your organisation will require this type of business meeting to drive growth and rally members to get on board with developmental plans. Planning meetings can be aided business planning apps, and could come in the form of project, product roadmap and campaign planning, among other key strategies.
They mainly involve an already established team and occasionally a few experts, or outsourced consultants who can be onboarded to provide specific experience or insights.
Such meetings are usually chaired by an outside facilitator or project manager and require team members to participate in the discussions actively.
Their primary aim is to get the job done, working through the agenda to get a clear, comprehensible and measurable plan in place for a given project or strategy. Therefore, personal relationships aren’t that important in the initial stages – individuals can get to know each other as time goes by.
A unique feature about these gatherings is that they are typically not governed by any specific rules; neither do they follow particular rituals. Most of the meeting time is spent on producing a plan.
They mostly happen early in a project’s life cycle, which makes them noteworthy and worth understanding.
To effectively chair such a meeting, you can:
- Start by explaining to the members the overall objects or goals of the meeting.
- Analyse the existing scenario and formulate the planning details
- Review the plan’s content and confirm its development
5. Governance cadence business meetings
As a company CEO or business executive, you’ll require this type of business meeting to develop your business’s oversight and strategic decisions. Examples of such include quarterly strategic reviews and board meetings.
They follow a formal format and are mostly chaired by a senior company representative. Members are allowed to air their views regarding governance freely and what they feel is essential for the organisation.
How to conduct such meetings:
- Share the meeting agenda in advance for members to prepare
- Personally brief each member on what is going to be discussed to avoid surprises
- Conduct a check-in process to enable members to eliminate distractions and stay engaged. Allow each member to speak, one at a time
- Share administrative concerns with the members. For example, how long the meeting will take, among other housekeeping details
- Add a few items to the existing plan if necessary
- Brainstorm each agenda item using an integrated decision-making process
- End the meeting with a closing reflection to help improve meetings moving forward.
6. Innovation meetings
From time to time, your organisation will require new ideas to drive growth and innovation. These types of business meetings can come in handy for agile teams in competitive markets or those seeking to continually improve their products or services. They provide an environment for generating and collating ideas, the best of which can be filtered and fine-tuned to offer the best service or product for customers, stakeholders or clients.
At first, they might appear obscure to your team members; however, they are crucial for the growth and survival of your company, allowing for better creative thinking and the scope to experiment with something new.
You can use the following tips to gain value from an innovation meeting:
- Set out clear objectives by developing a solid agenda regarding the discussion to minimise time wastage
- Recap the previous meeting to resolve any miscommunications that could have taken place, as well as improve information retention
- Identify a redesigned or new approach to a problem
- Set the stage and generate a flow of ideas
- Freely share ideas with the participants without judgment
- Tap into the members’ different perspectives
- Brainstorm and evaluate the presented ideas
- Involve the stakeholders to guarantee a follow-through
7. Team building meetings
To bring about effective collaboration between your teams, it is crucial to conduct such business meetings from time to time. They enable the development of working relationships between your employees, which in turn can support productivity, growth and progress.
Examples of team building meetings can include team outings, events for the entire organisation or team departments to provide incentives and opportunities for bonding.
You can achieve a fruitful team-building meeting by:
- Preparing the event’s agenda in advance, with any objectives (other than teambuilding) clearly outlined
- Asking for input from some of the members regarding what activities to run and what to include on the agenda
- Spicing up the session by incorporating some entertainment. For instance, celebrating something, running a team-building exercise, inviting guest speakers, or live music, among other activities
- Allowing some time for spontaneous engagement and creativity
- Collaborating on particular activities, for example, working with the teams to arrive at a specific decision or solve a specific problem
- Following up on the action items and making sure that the participants live up to their words
- Being a role model leader by not letting down your guard
8. Problem-solving meetings
Problems are part and parcel of running a business. To resolve them, you might need to convene during sessions such as conferences to discuss the way forward.
This kind of business meeting happens with specific objectives in mind depending on the issues at hand.
They provide team members with an opportunity to discuss and analyse possible answers to the existing problem.
To ensure the success of such meetings, you can consider the following steps:
- Precisely define the meeting’s objectives or problem to solve
- Determine and prioritise constraints and requirements of the potential solutions
- Allow the participants to air their thoughts and then consider the most appropriate solutions
- Ask questions, brainstorm on the provided answers, combine the ideas and closely analyse the top solutions
- Agree on a specific solution or give the business owner or manager a chance to have the final say
9. Decision-making business meetings
Running a successful business requires real-time decision-making. To make a big decision, you need input from the different groups or members of your organisation which calls for this kind of business meeting.
Such decisions might require several separate decision-making meetings to allow members to collect relevant details, develop solutions and deliberate on the best way forward.
One of the significant downsides of this type of meeting is that it can be time-consuming.
Therefore, as a leader, you can integrate the following steps to ease the process:
- Consider all the essential details from as many stakeholders as you can to identify the most suitable solutions
- Develop and analyse the possible solutions
- Involve everyone on board when considering the most appropriate solutions
As you can see, business meetings can take many different forms and each can play a pivotal role in the effective running of your organisation.
Therefore as a team leader, small business owner, or manager, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the different formats of each type of group meeting. Whether you’re line managing a small group of workers, or running a project that spans a broader team throughout the organisation, being on top of your meeting strategy is crucial for driving better productivity, and streamlining your teams’ workflows.
Originally published 31 Oct, 2022