Seven categories of meetings

By Jamie Zachary

There are as many kinds of meetings as there are reasons to plan them. Yet what distinguishes meetings from one another? In the book How To Make Meetings Work, authors Michael Doyle and David Straus separate meetings into seven categories:

Problem-Solving Meetings: Ideally in these types of meetings, a specific problem is well defined and agreed to by key decision-makers in advance of the meeting. The objective is to use appropriate methodology to help participants solve the problem, while incorporating time for discussion and debate.

Decision-Making Meetings: Includes key decision-makers, “coaches” and attendees. Generally, these meetings are smaller in nature. The emphasis is placed on pre-meeting communication, meeting activity analysis and participant analysis.

Planning Meetings: These types of meetings are considered “future-oriented” problem-solving meetings. They generally are defined by the scope of the planning, creative flexibility and whether it includes short-, medium- and long-term goals. Fewer attendees are required for short-term meetings, with more needed for long-term meetings.

Status Meetings: Characterized by prioritized agendas, focus on new developments and relevant information. These meetings tend to feature smaller delegations – those who need to discuss the issue, not just hear it first-hand.

Feedback or Follow-Up Meetings: These are often forums that allow attendees to contribute opinions, comments and feedback. Also allows decision-makers to gauge attendees’ responses. Some might require a facilitator. Some might also include a note-taker, who then compiles and distributes after the meeting.

Leaderless Meetings: This is generally used to encourage active participation among participants without the intimidation of a “leader.” A good leaderless meeting, however, will still include a facilitator that can keep the group focused. Some potential pitfalls of this type of meeting, however: dialogue can stall or become monopolized, and organic group dynamics can occur.

Combination Meetings: As the name suggests, these types of meetings can incorporate elements from above. Most are clear on the roles and responsibilities as the meeting changes from one type to another. Most are also clear on decisions that must be made at the end of each section.

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