Most of us can relate: entering a meeting room without knowing what you’re in for. You might know the other meeting attendees, the occasion and who the meeting facilitator is, but that’s not always enough.
From the very beginning, it’s important that it’s clear for everybody what meeting type you’re having. Actually, it’s a crucial factor in order to plan a good meeting, and therefore it should be at the very top of the meeting agenda.
Harvard did a study that showed that 71% of managers find meetings unproductive and inefficient. That's alarming...
When you aren’t aware of the type of meeting, your time in the meeting room is more likely to be unproductive. Usually it goes either one of two ways.
First, and probably the more common way, is attending a meeting where you’ve been asked for information you didn’t have, or you didn’t prepare to present – simply because you didn't know you had to.
Second, you could’ve showed up for a meeting, prepared and ready, just to find out it’s a one-way information meeting, where you and your colleagues should only listen and take notes instead of sharing new ideas or facts to add to a discussion. Then you might as well shred all your prepared work...
This is why we made an overview of the most important types of meetings.
Each meeting type will have tips and tricks – like how to improve, pep-up and make the meetings more efficient.
The 4 most important types of meetings are
Let’s dive into the details:
Information meetings are meant to share relevant knowledge and facts with people in the company. How much preparation the attendees and meeting facilitators have to do varies greatly.
Sometimes, a certain person in a department has a lot of knowledge about the subject, other times it’s important that everybody prepare for the meeting by finding relevant information.
This is why it’s important that the meeting facilitator communicates clearly what the meeting is about – and who should prepare what.
Meeting attendees at an information meeting
Since information can be many things, it’s important to consider who needs what information.
Let’s say that the information meeting is a part of an initiation of a big project. The project has a large extent and, as a start, it’s important to get information from different departments in the company, and also to give information on what the project is about and how it will affect their work.
In such a case, it’s important to hold several smaller meetings. If you hold one large meeting with everyone it’s simply a waste of time for a lot of the attendees.
Make sure to only invite the people who need the same information, and then host another meeting for a different group of employees. All information must be relevant to all meeting attendees.
As mentioned, the meeting facilitator has an important job in making sure the meeting attendees know what they’re in for. But facilitating meetings effectively requires practice.
Facilitating meetings effectively, e.g. presenting the purpose and agenda at the start, will engage and motivate the attendees to participate for the meeting - if done right.
Meeting tools such as Capturi make it easier to engage participants, as it is possible to allow for everyone to create agenda items and assign tasks in the meeting process - no matter the meeting type. This way, the meeting process is more collaborative - both before, during and after the meeting.
In an information meeting, the meeting facilitator should focus on the expectations and uncertainties the attendees express and answer them to the best of their abilities.
It’s a good idea to make room for questions and further explanations in the meeting agenda, so they don’t cause rumors in the company afterwards.
Time frame for an information meeting
The time frame for an information meeting should be set in stone. It’s not the place for long and thorough discussions, but a place to give and receive information.
Remember to make space for questions, so it’s not all one-way communication.
At the end, it’s a good idea to sum up what information the attendees have given and received.
Decision making meetings
A decision making meeting’s goal is to, no surprise, make decisions.
In these meetings, it’s essential that the meeting facilitator doesn’t fall for the temptation of giving new information to the meeting attendees – like asking for new inputs or bringing up new opinions.
The focus should be on making firm decisions.
Meeting attendees at a decision making meeting
The attendees at a decision making meeting must have a certain degree of authority. It makes no sense to gather people who usually have to ask their managers before initiating decisions.
On top of that, it should be people who are capable and comfortable in making decisions. You won’t get very far if there’s five people in a meeting room and you’re all afraid of making a final decision.
When you’ve found the right people, the next thing is to make sure that they have the necessary information to actually make the decision. Decisions must always be made on an informed basis.
Again, in order to avoid unnecessary discussion, it’s important that only the most needed attendees are present.
How to facilitate a decision making meeting
It’s always important that the meeting facilitator steps into character and has the courage to control the meeting. This will lead to better focus at the meeting and thus more thoroughly considered decisions.
In order to keep the attendees focused and the meeting on track, the meeting facilitator must stop unnecessary talk and discussions.
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Time frame for a decision making meeting
A decision making meeting should also have a clear and firm time frame. Each agenda item should have a time stamp, and it’s the meeting facilitator’s job to stay on track.
A decision making meeting shouldn’t be long. All discussions, considerations, information, facts and so on have been presented previously at an information meeting or a discussion/debate meeting. Therefore, it’s important to just talk about the final decision.
If the meeting runs late, it sends a bad signal to the attendees that the decision isn’t strong enough. So, make sure to be on track.
Meeting tip: get approval from every meeting attendee that this is the decision and it’s good. This will eliminate disagreement and later uncertainty.
An innovation meeting is meant for generating new ideas in a group of people. A good innovation meeting is supposed to bring up new ideas, innovative solutions and open perspectives on projects where you are stuck or haven’t yet started.
A good innovation meeting promotes inspiration and will make way for exciting new views.
In your company, there’re loads of hidden resources and opportunities. In an innovation meeting, these hidden gems can be uncovered.
This type of meeting can lead to exceptional results, but it can also be difficult to manage.
Meeting attendees at an innovation meeting
Idea generating and innovation meetings demand a variety of different attendees and personality types. This could be employees from different departments, managers, customers, end-users or something completely different.
Really, it’s just about the attendees being creative thinkers with innovative mind-sets. By including resourceful people you ensure progress and minimize stagnation.
How to facilitate an innovation meeting
Creative and innovative minds can be hard to manage and discipline – also, you might not want to do that, because it can limit their originality.
With that being said, it’s obviously a real challenge how to facilitate a good meeting without restraining the attendees.
First and foremost, it’s important that the meeting facilitator gives everyone a chance to express their thoughts.
It’s also important that the facilitator understands that he or she is not the one in focus at this meeting, and thus introduce every meeting attendee and why they’re invited to join the meeting.
Preparation is another key element for the meeting facilitator at an innovation meeting. It’s especially important that the facilitator defines a clear purpose and puts it in the agenda, so everyone has a better chance for preparing.
The innovation meeting shouldn’t have a firm or strict time frame. Generating good and interesting ideas take time, and it’s important to have space to follow up on big ideas.
If the time is limited, it will most likely damage the reflection and there won’t be time to connect perspectives. So, make sure to allocate enough time – it might be longer than what you think.
Set time in the agenda to reflect and conclude on the ideas that have been brought up in the meeting.
Meeting tip: make sure you have the right meeting space for the innovation meeting. Inspiration is everything when it comes to creativity, so find or create an inspirational room.
Sales meetings, or customer meetings, have the purpose of creating mutual commitment. The point is to create a bond – strong enough for the potential customer to buy the service or goods.
It’s important to create a relaxed, yet professional, atmosphere and tone of conversation in sales meetings.
Meeting attendees at a sales meeting
All meetings are an expression of resources – they cost time and money. Sales meetings are no different, except for the fact that they might turn into solid income. Or they can turn into a waste of time, if you’re meeting with the wrong people.
In a sales meeting, you have to think about who has the right authority. It can be authority to buy something, authority to pass something on or authority to say no thanks.
If you’re meeting with a person who 1) doesn’t have the right authority or 2) doesn’t have the right information – you’re wasting time.
The meeting attendees in at sales meeting should be the salesman and sometimes a manager. If it’s a big deal, try including one or more persons who can make the decision to buy your product, someone with certain insider knowledge of the company and maybe someone from your company with certain knowledge or information that the other will require to know to be convinced to buy.
Remember, you must never invite someone who aren’t necessary – if possible, keep the meeting small.
How to facilitate a sales meeting
Facilitating a sales meeting depends on the level of formality.
If it’s a very formal meeting, the meeting facilitator should also be formal, polite and follow the strict and detailed agenda.
If it’s a casual sales meeting, the meeting facilitator can loosen up on the structure. This means talking more freely, spontaneously and making more room for discussion or small-talk.
Time frame for a sales meeting
It’s super important to not run over time in a sales meeting (in all meetings, but sales meetings have more direct consequences).
With that being said, this is not a free pass to schedule extensive meetings – that won’t give the salesman many bookings.
What’s the golden time frame then?
Unfortunately, there isn’t just one good answer except for: it depends.
It depends on the potential customer, the product, the place in the customer journey, the salesman and basically the overall situation.
The key takeaway here is that the meeting facilitator ought to make an agenda with the items they want to go through with the potential client.
There are four main types of meetings: information, decision making, innovation, and sales meetings.
Each of the meetings have different characteristics and criteria to be successful.
These criteria evolve around the attendees, the meeting facilitator and the time frame.
An information meeting is for sharing relevant knowledge and facts. The attendees should desire the same information. The agenda must be firm and direct, so everybody knows what they’re in for and thus can prepare. The meeting facilitator should make room for questions and explanations in the meeting agenda.
A decision making meeting should be focused on making firm decisions. It’s important that the attendees have enough information beforehand to make the decisions – and understand the consequences. The facilitator should be strict and stop unnecessary talk and discussions. It’s a good idea to get confirmation of the decision from everybody at the end of the meeting.
An innovation meeting encourages inspiration and creativity. The attendee list should include a variety of different creative thinkers and innovative mind-sets. It’s important to make time to follow-up on ideas in order to find the best.
A sales meeting’s purpose is to create a strong enough bond with the potential customer to buy the service or goods you’re selling. Depending on the formality of the meeting, the facilitator should be formal and polite or loose and more relaxed. The length of a sales meeting depends heavily on the potential customer, product, salesman and the situation in general.
Always keep the type of meeting in mind, when making an agenda, mobilizing people or preparing for a meeting.
These types of meetings are just the main types. Here’s a list of other meetings types – many of them are sub-categories.
- Discussion meetings
- Debate meetings
- Team building meetings
- Problem solving meetings
- Status update meetings
- Planning meetings
- Evaluation meetings
Smarter meetings? Yes please!
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