types of business meetings

9 Types of Business Meetings (and How to Lead Them)

When you spend the bulk of your time in meetings, each meeting can start to blend into the next. Soon, at the pace you’re going, you feel like you don’t have time to set proper, focused goals for each meeting. Right? However, it doesn’t have to be that way! By knowing the nine most common types of business meetings, you can automatically envision your goals for each session based on meeting type, instead of starting from scratch.

1. Status Update Meetings

Your weekly 1:1, your biweekly team sync, your Scrum “stand-up”—all of these meetings fall into the category of status update meetings. The purpose is to bring everyone at the meeting up to speed with need-to-know information. Small teams and whole organizations alike might have status update meetings, although most “all-hands” meetings wouldn’t fall into this category. (They’re more likely one of the other types of business meetings).

Focus on: Expedience

When leading a status update meeting, focus on keeping it brief and to-the-point. Don’t give participants the chance to get distracted and waste each other’s time just because you called a quick meeting.

After all, status update meetings usually have the most concrete goals of any meeting. The main idea is to exchange answers to super-straightforward questions, such as:

  • What did you do to further our goal since we last met?
  • What do you plan to do today or this week?
  • Is anything blocking you?
  • Do you need anything from me, or anyone else, in order to do your job?

Since the goal is so simple, status update meetings can easily run too long and become time-wasters. That’s the tendency, but you can prevent it by setting boundaries focused on expedience.

For example, if your company applies Scrum, you already know that the time limit on a daily status update (or “stand-up”) meeting is 15 minutes. But most status update meetings, even weekly or biweekly ones, can follow the same philosophy. Status update meetings are an opportunity to save time for other things, so keep them quick.

2. Decision-Making Meetings

In a typical decision-making meeting, someone presents options to a designated decision-maker, and that person makes a decision. Some people say that decisions are a “product” that a leader makes—and that’s a good way to think about it. The end goal of a decision-making meeting is, of course, to make the best possible decision.

Focus on: Locating Any Blind Spots

The spotlight effect is one of the biggest potential failure points of any decision-making process. The “spotlight” encircles the information you’re focused on at the time. It’s what you see in your purview—the resources you already have for making your decision. So, that spotlight governs the decisions you consider viable. Failing to explore the darkness outside of that spotlight makes you vulnerable.

Falling victim to the spotlight effect means making a decision based on that information without looking beyond the possibilities you can see in the moment. For example, if you’re starting an e-commerce store, but you only know about one e-commerce platform, you might miss the opportunity to get a better price or product. If you seek advice from someone with experience in e-commerce instead, you might find a platform that’s truly the perfect fit for your needs, avoiding the consequences of the spotlight effect.

So, before making an important decision, especially about a problem you’re solving, you need to move that spotlight around. That way, you can illuminate a more comprehensive buffet of options. That’s how you can avoid letting your personal blind spots weaken you, your team, or your business.

Seeking expertise is one of the best ways to do that. During a problem-solving meeting, ask yourself, “Who’s the expert on this? What expertise can I bring in to help me understand this problem?” Make sure you tap into the expertise of your team members and other allies to the fullest extent. This way, you’ll have the most thorough possible overview of the options available, and you can avoid risks in your decision-making process.

3. Planning Meetings

As a fundamental part of project management, planning meetings bring team members together around a step-by-step plan designed to achieve a specific goal. A single project can certainly involve more than one planning meeting, so think of each planning meeting in terms of that particular goal.

Focus on: Who Does What By When (WDWBW)

Ideally, at the end of a planning meeting, everyone should know the plan. That includes knowing which part of the plan they’ll “own.” That’s why, during planning meetings, you can get a lot more done by staying focused on “Who Does What By When.” In fact, the developers at Microsoft built a functionality for this into Microsoft Project: you can create a “who does what when” report if you use that tool.

In other words, make sure everyone leaves the meeting knowing their marching orders and the timeframe in which they’re expected to complete them. If you’re running a planning meeting on video, keeping and sharing a recording or automated transcription of the meeting can help with future accountability.

4. Collaboration Meetings

The purpose of a collaboration meeting is to produce a deliverable as a team. For example, if you meet to co-create a document, webinar, or creative asset. That’s a collaboration meeting. You could also collaborate on something more high-level, like a marketing campaign.

Many creative teams, marketing teams, sales teams, and legal teams, among others, do a large amount of their work collaboratively. That’s why it’s important to identify collaboration meetings as one type of meeting and plan for them accordingly. As part of the planning, make sure all your team members have the necessary collaboration tools at their fingertips, including both technology and the relevant documents or assets.

Focus on: The Mutual Goal

In our post about what makes a great collaborator, we shared several ways to avoid ruffling feathers while collaborating. If you have experience collaborating, you know that a blend of “people skills” come into play, and it takes practice to become a truly great collaborator who inspires and motivates everyone else on the team.

That said, there’s one important thing to remember and focus on: the mutual goal, or end result, matters more than anything else. That goal matters a lot more than individuals’ egos. It also matters more than any one idea or element of the project. If you can get this point across and keep the conversation focused on the shared goal (or deliverable), your collaboration meeting will run smoothly.

5. Presentations or Trainings

Presentation-type meetings include sales demos, team training, onboarding training, webinars, workshops, and general informational sessions. Presentations and trainings come in all shapes and sizes, from 1:1 to all-hands. Basically, it’s any meeting in which a clearly defined presenter shares materials with the group, or maybe a few presenters speak as part of a joint presentation or panel discussion.

Focus on: Keeping Listeners Engaged

If you’re taking center stage, you want people to come away with positive memories of what you said. The best way to do that is to focus on one goal: keeping listeners engaged.

Whether you do it through realtime polls, multimedia, or other engagement tactics, if you’re leading a presentation or training, be interesting! Put yourself in your listeners’ shoes, and bring in the kind of elements you wish people would use in their presentations.

Here are just a few examples of things you can do to keep listeners engaged:

  • Use plenty of pictures.
  • Ask questions. If the meeting is virtual, engaging people with questions via the chat box—even fairly simple questions—goes a long way.
  • Use polls, surveys, and other audience engagement technology.
  • Tell personal stories.
  • Invite an exciting or popular guest speaker.
  • Turn the presentation into a panel with multiple speakers.
  • Use gamification (here’s how to gamify training).
  • Bring the presentation back to relatable experiences that people have had in their own lives.
  • Talk with your hands! Studies show that this makes a big difference.

Above all, keep things light and keep things moving—if you keep your listeners engaged, you’ll make the presentation or training worthwhile.

6. Problem-Solving Meetings

People call problem-solving meetings during emergencies, and also when a general business issue needs a solution. Big picture, the goal of a problem-solving meeting is to understand the problem, evaluate the potential solutions, and decide on a solution. You can think of them as a type of decision-making meeting,

A problem-solving meeting often happens before the planning meetings start. After the team decides on a solution, they’ll jump into a planning meeting to map out the implementation of that solution.

Focus on: What Caused the Problem

“Firefighting” and instant, band-aid-style solutions can work when you’re extremely short on time—but they don’t work in the long term. That’s why, if at all possible, a problem-solving meeting should aim for a complete understanding of what caused the problem. By understanding the causes of the problem, you can build a long-term solution, not just a short-term one.

For example, if your team went over-budget this quarter, cutting costs in the coming quarter will solve the problem in the short term. However, to resolve the issue for the long term, you want to address the reason why you went over-budget. You want to find and mend any deficiencies in your processes and operating principles.

Often, the full “stack” of causes extends beyond the obvious. For example, many companies are over-paying for services that they don’t really need—or for which cheaper (or free) alternatives exist. Budget optimization starts with identifying these types of costs, which are often the deeper causes of budgetary problems.

When you identify all the causes of a problem, not just the ones that seem immediately obvious, you can build a long-term solution and make your company more resilient.

7. Brainstorming Meetings

Brainstorming is an open-ended process that’s usually associated with more creative work. In a brainstorming meeting, people come together to bounce ideas around and bring them out into the open, so that the best ideas can rise to the surface and eventually come to fruition. You might brainstorm for solutions to a specific problem, or you might have a broader brainstorming session around a topic, such as “improving our branding” or “better customer service.”

Focus on: A Friendly Atmosphere

The best brainstorming happens in a low-pressure environment when everyone feels that they’re able to contribute. To cultivate this environment as a leader, focus on making the atmosphere friendly. Bring snacks. Tell a joke. Encourage timid people to speak up, and ensure that everyone has a chance to speak. Set a tone that suggests, “not every idea will work for us, but we want to hear them all.” If you have a wacky idea that you’re not sure will resonate, lead by example: toss it out there, and show a willingness to laugh at yourself. Make sure people know it’s okay to share an idea that’s not perfect—after all, that’s the point of brainstorming.

Here are a few more great rules of thumb to set the stage for brainstorming:

  • Focus on quantity, not quality.
  • Don’t analyze. The goal now is to get ideas out there—the time to analyze, iterate, and prune will come later.
  • The crazier, the better. Encourage people to think big and say whatever crazy-sounding thing might come to mind.
  • Instead of voting on ideas right away, consider sending out a poll or survey after the meeting to ask the group which ideas have the most potential.

8. Team-Building Meetings

Team-building meetings can happen on-site, off-site, in small groups, or as an all-hands occasion. In a team-building meeting, you might do some structured activities to build up trust and communication among the team. Or, you might have a holiday party or team happy hour, where team members can mingle and maybe even introduce each other to friends and spouses.

Regardless of your workplace culture, you probably want a tight-knit team of people who care about each other and have each other’s backs. If that’s a goal for you, you need to have team-building meetings from time to time.

Focus on: Fun and Games

Even if you’re doing on-site team-building “exercises,” make sure people have a fun time. Otherwise, you won’t accomplish that core goal of bringing the team closer together.

Virtual team-building, which has become more important than ever, comes with another layer of challenges. However, “challenging” is not the same as “impossible.” Virtual teams can, and do, bond. Here are a few ways remote colleagues can build themselves up as teams.

9. Feedback or Debrief Meetings

Last but not least among types of business meetings: feedback meetings or debriefings. Both of these flavors of meetings fall into the same general category because they involve talking about past events.

Focus on: The Future

Even though you’re talking about things that happened in the past, feedback and debrief meetings should look ahead to the future. Whether the news is good or bad, you want people looking forward: you don’t want them feeling discouraged, and you also don’t want high-performers to rest on their laurels. So, make sure to emphasize future expectations and plans along with any information about past events. This will go a long way toward keeping your team upbeat and motivated, regardless of what’s happened historically.

Harness These Insights

Now that you know the nine types of business meetings, you can apply this framework to your everyday life. Before your next meeting, identify which of these nine meetings it is, based on its purpose.

Once you know which type of meeting it is, remember the focal point we listed for that type of meeting, and lead the meeting with that in mind. You might feel surprised by how much of a difference this can make.

About Sonya T.

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