There are many types of meetings. Most meetings fall into the non-participatory category, where attendees are briefed on new information rather than asked to participate in the meeting process. The best meetings are highly participative, where everyone in the meeting contributes to the purpose of having the meeting. When scheduling a meeting, ask “What type of meeting or approach best fits the purpose and meeting attendees?" This will help in determining if more than one type of meeting needs to be held or if a combination of meeting types is possible. Consider the definition and common uses for the different types of participative meetings; such as decision-making, list generation, problem solving, project planning, or strategic planning. Then determine which best fits the purpose and participative needs of upcoming meetings during the planning stage.
Decision-making meetings review different alternatives and decide on best alternatives to select for implementation by a specified deadline. This type of meeting requires that key decision makers attend and should be held if the group is required to make and then support or carryout the decision. The tool used most often in decision making is a Pro/Con list. However for a highly complicated or technical decision a criteria grid may yield a better result.
List Generation meetings will create a list of ideas, alternatives, solutions, issues, etc. for discussion. After creating the list, a discussion to narrow the list may follow in the same meeting, prioritizing or voting on the list of items may occur, the list may go to someone else to work with, or planning of another type of meeting may follow for utilizing the list. Brainstorming is the easiest and more popular tool used for list generation. Diagramming tools such as mind mapping or fishbone may also be used as they use specific categories to focus the list generation.
Problem Solving meetings are used to resolve business and process problems or to determine potential issues and how to handle them. These problems could reference production, quality, services, or other things. In order for problem solving to work, those closest to the problem must participate, in other words representatives of each area affected by the problem should agree that a problem exists and be involved in finding the solution. This is seldom a single meeting as it typically takes a series of meetings to move through the process that includes problem definition, research, analysis, solution selection, testing, and implementation. Problem solving requires a defined process and method to root out the true problem and then find the best solution. Many great tools exist for this purpose under the topic of quality improvement.
Project Planning meetings are specialized to a certain task, job, or project and extend through planning and implementing the project from opening until end of project. These meetings work best when they consist of project team members, leaders, and sponsors or customers. Additional project related meetings may be for project plan updates, solving problems, reviewing budget, celebrating accomplished milestones, and evaluating risks. The tools used in project meetings will include the project schedule listing phases and milestones, as well as many of the same tools typically used in list generation, problem solving, and decision making.
Strategic Planning meetings are typically held annually to determine the strategy of a group or organization. The results of such meetings are usually vision, mission, goals, business ventures, and future direction. The strategic planning meeting may be one long meeting or several meetings spread out over a specified period. After defining the strategy, then a communication plan or deployment plan is developed. Future meetings are typically status of plan accomplishment, problem solving, or other needed revisions to the strategy and therefore no longer called strategic planning but instead change management. A tool often found useful in this type of meeting is a SWOT Analysis regarding the business efforts, products, or services of the group or organization. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
With an understanding of the definition and common uses for different types of participative meetings, it should be easier to determine which best fits the purpose and participative needs of upcoming meetings. It is important to remember that the best meetings are highly participative, where everyone in the meeting contributes to the purpose of holding the meeting. Therefore, always before scheduling a meeting, ask “What type of meeting or approach best fits the purpose and meeting attendees?" Determine if the meeting purpose is decision-making, list generation, problem solving, project planning, or strategic planning and then select the meeting type and the best tool to use to accomplish the meeting purpose.
NOTE: The types of meeting listed in this article and their definition are adapted from the book “R. A!R. A! A Meeting Wizard's Approach" by Shirley Fine Lee copyright 2007.
Shirley Fine Lee has considerable training and expertise in leading effective meetings and projects, as well as training others within the corporate world to be able to do the same. Her book, “R. A!R. A! A Meeting Wizard's Approach", is a much-needed guide to planning and conducting meetings so that they are as productive, effectual, and smoothly run as possible. Find out more about her, her books, and learning options she provides on her website.