If you ever sat in a meeting that felt like a complete waste of time, that’s because it probably was – and would likely fall into one of the multiple categories of meetings that, quite simply, shouldn’t exist.
Atlassian research shows that one-in-two meetings are considered time wasted, and an eye-watering 31 hours are spent a month in unproductive meetings.
So it’s certainly cause to rethink every meeting you hit ‘yes’ to.
According to MeetingSift, most meetings can be categorised into six types – but not all of them need to be meetings.
Here’s what they are, and whether you should keep them or ditch them:
1. Information-sharing meetings
These are your one-way presentations that flow from one or a group of speakers to attendees. These are usually about new developments, updates or changes that everyone should be aware of, or possibly a new product or service. Usually, the listeners are passive, but there can be room for questions and answers at the end.
The key here is to ensure the audience is engaged, either through ensuring the content is relevant, or making the presentation interactive and dynamic.
Keep or ditch? According to productivity platform Zarvana, these can be skipped unless it’s a complex topic or there’s ample time for questions and answers. (But if it’s from a higher-up in the company, such as a leadership executive or the CEO, you might not often get a say in attendance.)
If you don’t show up to these meetings, make sure you’ve got your plan B, whether it’s obtaining the meeting recording to get across it later or request meeting notes. If you suspected you were added as an afterthought, you can politely decline.
2. Status update meetings
These are fairly self-explanatory and involve bringing a team together to get everyone aligned on the state or direction of a common project.
The point is to get everyone on the same page, so it’s important to get every team to contribute, and a good facilitator will encourage teams to share their insights.
Anyone who has useful information to share should be present – but those who aren’t directly involved, or people who might slow the meeting down, should sit out.
Keep or ditch? The value in these meetings is in getting information flowing between members – so if it’s very one-way, that’s probably an information sharing meeting. Consider sharing updates in a document or in slides sent to the whole team instead.
3. Decision-making meetings
These will vary, but will usually involve forming a consensus among invited members about a plan. The key is to keep in mind the ‘how’ of the plan’s execution, according to MeetingSift.
These meetings can involve decision-makers as well as their direct reports and other members, because their contributions can lead to more informed decisions. It’s therefore important to ensure everyone feels heard, because they will more likely embrace and carry out the decision because they feel some ownership for it.
During the meeting, articulate the short- and long-term vision. You also want to ensure you’re getting a broad scope of voices, and end the meeting by naming next steps.
Keep or ditch? Make sure all decision-makers are present in the meeting, and even if one can’t make it, try to reschedule. Otherwise, this one’s usually a keeper.
But if there is a ‘cast of thousands,’ McGeorge advises being very clear about the meeting’s purpose before accepting it. Any more than seven people in a meeting might be too many, she said.
4. Problem-solving meetings
What you want in these meetings is to find the best solution (or compromise) to resolve an issue. This will involve identifying possible solutions, and then nutting out the details from there, which will more likely than not involve a lot of back and forth.
Make sure the problem is clearly defined, because different team members will have different perspectives on what the issue is – and try to agree on one key criteria for the solution, said MeetingSift.
Keep or ditch? Keep. Try to decide whether you want only decision-makers to be involved, or if you want to broaden it to the teams that the problem will affect.
5. Innovation meetings
When done well, these can be some of the most exhilarating meetings to be part of. But if they’re poorly done, they can be frustrating or tedious.
These meetings are about everyone coming to the table and brainstorming new ideas, products or approaches.
After teasing out the ideas, you can collectively start to cull and refine ideas until you have a shortlist. The idea is to be able to come away with a fresh approach or a new idea.
Keep or ditch? You’ll want to be part of this one; and in the case of innovation meetings, the more the merrier (within reason) as these tend to happen early on in the planning process, so it’s a good idea to get a diverse range of voices in the initial brainstorm.
It could also be worthwhile inviting someone who isn’t too close to the project just to get a fresh perspective.
Just be sure to have everyone do some brainstorming before coming to the meeting.
6. Team-building meetings
If you just groaned internally, you’re not alone – executed poorly, these feel like awkward efforts to bring a team together, but organisations recognise the importance of team cohesion and trust in ensuring things get done, problems get solved, and people work productively.
These meetings should combine work with fun and help members share experiences together that will improve trust and communication in the long-term.
But keep in mind this meeting will backfire if disengaged team members bring a bad attitude to the meeting.
Keep or ditch: This meeting won’t work if every single member isn’t present. However, ensure the meeting is well-planned in advance so it isn’t a waste of time for everyone. Try to keep the teambuilding exercise to something non-work-related.
And if all else fails, there’s one solution that should work without fail, said McGeorge.
“A well written email, with a slide deck attached, and some questions to consider can replace a wasteful meeting every single time.”