when is a meeting not a meeting?

By September 4, 2014Business, Management

When you need to get together with your peers, colleagues or business associates, what you call or describe this ‘gathering’ is really important. Why? Well, giving your invitees the right description helps in setting and managing expectations around how the gathering will be conducted and what they can expect from you, and importantly what you expect from them. The term meeting is the most commonly used descriptor given to a business gathering, however in actual fact these gatherings are not always meetings. You may be now be confused and be questioning what is a meeting?

Below we have outlined 10 of the most common types of business gatherings, including meetings:

The Catch up

The catch up usually runs no more than 30 minutes and shouldn’t involve more than 3 people. Catch ups are usually more informal by nature and can be held within any workspace within the workplace such as, a break out room, a colleagues desk or even in the hallway. They tend to not be documented, but follow ups and actions are often required.The key message in a catch up should be singular and easy to deliver and absorb. Catch ups are ideal if it is a precursor or follow up to a more formal gathering, such as a meeting, conference or review.

The Catch up coffee

Catching up over a coffee is a great idea if you are relationship building, need to deal with a sensitive topic in a relaxed atmosphere or you need to ensure your message is delivered without the interruption of other colleagues walking in on your discussion. This form of catch up is usually held out of the office and should run for no more than an hour. As per the catch up, the key message tends to be singular, but action points may be documented for follow up.

The Meeting

Meeting is the most common term used to describe a business gathering and is the one most of us are familiar with. So, what exactly is a meeting? In a business or organisational context a meeting is a more formal gathering of 2 or more people. Meetings are typically scheduled by invitation, have a nominated start and end time, and if run properly will have a set agenda, issued to attendees prior to commencing. In a meeting environment the person who called the meeting will normally chair it and attendees will be invited to contribute by way of reporting on events which have occurred outside of the meeting. Run efficiently, meetings can be very productive gatherings where issues are raised, solved or flagged for follow up, as a result a well run meeting will have one attendee take minutes capturing key issues, updates and most importantly necessary actions. Meetings tend to run no longer than 1.5 hours and post meeting the minutes should be circulated to all those in attendance outlining the actionable points that came from the meeting.

A Work In Progress (WIP)

A WIP is an essential part of project management and involves a regular get together of all the key stakeholders involved in a project. Depending on the size and scope of the project – such as developing a marketing campaign, building a new website or moving office premises, a WIP can be held daily, run from anywhere between 5 mins to 2 hours and involve anywhere from 2 – 10 people. Efficient and well run WIP’s are vital for a project manager to be able to keep on top of a project, as a result it is the role of the project manager (or their assistant) to organise the WIP, record WIP notes and identify or update action points. The most important outcome of a WIP is the updated project timeline or schedule which should be distributed in a timely manner after the WIP has been held.

A Forum

In its true sense a forum is a public meeting where open discussion is facilitated around ideas and views on various topics. Its application to the business arena sees a forum involve persons from outside the organisation or business, such as shareholders, regulatory bodies or community groups. Forums involve similar formalities to a meeting, including a designated chair, an invitation, an agenda and minute taking.  Forums tend to go for much longer than a meeting, with day long forums not unheard of.

A Briefing

A briefing tends to be a one way communication stream that has a single individual delivering a message to a group our audience with limited interaction. Briefings are a quick method of delivery and should not exceed 30 minutes. They are ideal for releasing information to the media, commencing a project with an agency, updating staff en masse or informing shareholders. Any longer and a briefing becomes a forum or meeting.

A Review?

A review tends to centre around one issue and requires focussed time allocation for the analysis of said issue. Reviews can be one on one, such as performance reviews or in a group setting, such as upon completion of a project and usually involve a great deal of preparation. The points necessary for discussion in a review should be circulated prior to the review start time to allow for preparation. Outcomes from the review are often agreed between the parties involved and recorded in a formal manner. For example outcomes in a performance review would be captured as per HR guidelines, signed off by both manager and employee and filed in the employees personnel file for future reference.

A Session

When you hear the word session expect to be in it for at least a few hours. Depending on the type of session – brainstorm & ideas generation, tissue or development, it is more than likely the purpose is for the attendees to attain some kind of relevant knowledge, generate ideas, give a project update or solve a problem. Sessions can run for any length of time, from one hour to a full day however to be efficient, a session needs 1-2 people leading it and a clear expected outcome of the session must be communicated prior to it starting to ensure attendees understand the point of the session.

A Workshop

Workshops are a structured way of interacting with an audience in order to generate ideas, solve a problem or reach a mutual understanding. Workshops are informal and are designed to allow a range of perspectives to be shared. Workshops formats are effective when dealing with multi-departmental issues or an issue that requires everyone to be ‘on board’ and can run anywhere from one hour to two days. To be efficient workshops should be facilitated by an experienced (an if possible external) person and feel inclusive. When run properly workshops can be extremely creative, productive and effective in bring teams together.

A Conference

A conference is usually an intense schedule of multiple sessions or workshops. Conferences can run from a 1/2 day to a week with a number of working sessions and non-working activities. A conference usually has a theme and is typically a way for industry or company information to be disseminated to a large group. Conferences take a lot of planning, involve detailed agenda’s and objectives and tend to be held off-site, sometimes in exotic locations. The conference is a great way to engage the whole business in future planning and also as a means of ‘rewarding’ staff or departments for their hard work throughout the year.

Is there is no explanation here that fits with the kind of gathering you want to host? Then invent a new term, leading Australian Architectural Firm Futurespace refer to their team gatherings as a scrum. This workplace ritual is unique in that it provides an opportunity for the organisation to hold a weekly “appreciation exercise” which has become a key ingredient in building their workplace culture.

Environments, rituals and control systems can have a profound impact on workplace culture and be an inhibitor to creativity and innovation. Simply taking greater consideration as to how you bring people together can make a big impact on the outcomes.

Image Credits: Shutterstock

About Zena Churchill

Zena Churchill is a Director at Max & Buddy Consulting. She has worked in senior level business roles across national and multinational corporations, as well as being a small business owner. Zena is a strategic thinker and brings a practical, straight-forward approach to marketing and social media. She has a passion for training & development running practical business workshops for small business. Zena is a Certified Practising Marketer (AMI), sometimes tutors in Marketing at the University of Wollongong and is a Senior Consultant with Trinity P3.

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