In the US, an estimated $37 billion is lost to unproductive meetings every year, and 73% of workers admit to doing other work during meetings. That ladders up into significant losses for businesses over time. Unfortunately, despite the productivity black hole that we find ourselves in, we still won’t hesitate to click “accept” for every invite we get. After all, meetings are required…right?

It’s tempting to just cancel every meeting on our calendars, but we know that’s not an option. Instead, it’s time we take a critical look at meetings and rebuild them with intention. What that means is determining which approaches minimize downtime and maximize productivity.

Here are five types of meetings we should be having and how we can utilize them to the fullest:

1. The decision meeting: come to a consensus.

In many cases, coming together to make a decision is mission-critical. For instance, in a hiring panel, team members have individual opinions but need to reach a consensus. The most strategic method to achieve that is through decision meetings, where key stakeholders hammer out the details and leave with a decision.

Advice: Decision meetings need strong facilitation. Attendees won’t want to sit there debating for hours on which candidate to choose or the name of a new product. It’s recommended to have a facilitator that guides the discussion from start to finish.

2. The discussion meeting: brainstorm ideas for new projects.

Discussion meetings are the exact opposite of decision meetings. The objective isn’t to come to a conclusion but to encourage the free flow of ideas within a topic. Say there’s a project that’s still in ideation. The goal of that discussion is to exchange ideas, angles, and inspirations to help kickstart the project. Or, in the case of a project retrospective, participants can dive into the details of what worked and didn’t work on that particular project. 

Advice: Discussion meetings only need light facilitation to gently direct and frame conversations should they drift away from the original topic. For the most part, the meeting’s participants will keep the discussion flowing without needing to follow strict guidelines.

3. The information-sharing meeting: make announcements to the entire company.

Sometimes the best way to address a large group of employees is through information-sharing meetings. Executives and other leaders use these meetings to make announcements, provide major updates, conduct lectures, and more—usually paired with snazzy PowerPoint presentations. 

Advice: Information-sharing meetings cut into employees’ individual schedules, so the secret is to not overuse them. Presenters push the meeting forward by staying focused and making every point concise.

4. The in-the-moment meeting: clear up confusions and logjams.

When group chats become too disorganized or multi-threaded, in-the-moment meetings help to steer projects back on track. Imagine a small engineering team discussing a project through team messaging. If the leaders are struggling to explain what they mean over text, they could host an impromptu meeting where team members join online. This allows them to clarify directions through voice instead of messaging.

Advice: The secret to perfecting in-the-moment meetings is limiting them to 10–15 minutes each. With a time constraint and a single thread of discussion, participants are much more likely to stay focused on the topic. 

Additionally, in-the-moment meetings require the right communications technology to execute properly. Employees want to zip in and out of meetings with the click of a button—not spend 10 minutes setting up for an impromptu meeting. The right technology is one that unifies voice, video, and team messaging so employees have everything they need to switch between each channel seamlessly, preferably with one click.

5. The check-in meeting: keep the entire team on the same page.

A check-in meeting is an opportunity for every member of the team to discuss what needs to get done and what hurdles they face. Check-in meetings are usually conducted once a week so team members can align their goals and stay in the loop of each member’s tasks. If the entire team is working on a critically important project, check-in meetings can be upped to once every day.

Advice: Check-in meetings are usually round-robin meetings, where each participant has a turn in speaking. But be careful of rabbit holes. Detailed interactions can be done outside of the meeting, and each participant should be limited to just a minute or two. The facilitator (usually the team leader) should choose which participant is next to speak.

Explain the rules for each type of meeting.

Before you wipe your calendars clean, it might be helpful to establish public guidelines on what meetings can be used and when. Your employees should know the rules of each meeting so conversations never veer off course. Demonstrate each meeting beforehand so your employees know how they look and feel. Once you’ve established the ground rules, your employees will be able to make their own informed meeting decisions and take charge of their calendars.

Having the right technology is also critical to perfecting your meetings. With more remote workers today than ever before, meetings are moving toward a hybrid of office and online. Employees need access to team messaging, video, and phone within their collaboration solution. When joining meetings is quick and effortless, your employees can worry less about the technology and focus on achieving their best work.

See how RingCentral’s unified solution for messaging, video, and phone can make your meetings quick and effortless for your teams.

Check out Cancel Every Meeting to learn more about reinventing your meetings with structure and intent.