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Making Meetings Matter

Why meet? Meetings make it easier to communicate with more than one individual, communicate face-to-face, and better enable questions and concerns to be raised. In addition, they allow discovery, provide valuable information and can identify key issues.

Types of Meetings

While meetings can cover any topic, there are typically three types of meetings. Each type of meeting has a specific model and style.

1. Information Dissemination

These meetings allow individuals to share information with and update others. They typically do not allow interruptions, have one-way communication, and only allow 1-2 minutes per person. These are excellent meeting models when used for weekly/monthly updates.

Step 1: Everyone speaks for 1-2 minutes maximum
Step 2: After everyone has shared their information there is a 10-minute (maximum) opportunity to ask questions for clarification
Step 3: If necessary, follow up tasks may be assigned
Step 4: If necessary, follow up meeting should be agreed upon

Communication style: The communication style that works best is clear and precise language, in a summary format, since only one person is speaking at a time without interruption. Listening skills play a very important role in this type of meeting

2. Decision Making

The sole purpose of this meeting is to end with a decision. They are typically used after one or more brainstorming/problem solving meetings and are only used when group consensus is required or desired. It is important to have a meeting facilitator.

Step 1: Set meeting, clearly defining the decision that must be made and providing all relevant documentation and/or materials
Step 2: Set time parameters for meeting
Step 3: Set reasonable deadline for all participants to prepare their research, questions, etc
Step 4: Facilitator must stay to task and manage the time guidelines
Step 5: Assignments for follow-up should be made

Communication style: This type of meeting requires a facilitator that is adept at both verbal communication and active listening. The facilitator must clearly verbalize the input from the participants to the entire group and identify the key points from the discussion.

3. Brainstorming or Problem Solving

The sole purpose of this meeting is to create answers, possibilities, and solutions. There are no limits, no wrong comments, and no interference. The problem or issues is defined with the intention of finding the best solution or answer. The meeting must consist of people who are at least somewhat familiar with the problem or issue.

Step 1: Clearly state and post meeting guidelines
Step 2: Encourage creativity within the group, help each other with the free flow of ideas
Step 3: Set specific time limits and stick to them
Step 4: Allow sufficient time to review the results of your session
Step 5: Determine what you will do with your results

Communication style: A style of open and engaging communication works best with this type of meeting. The whole point of brainstorming is to create possibilities so the communication style should be encouraging, supportive and enthusiastic. The facilitator may need to persuade the participants to think outside the box.

The best models in the world will only go so far…You will always be dealing with issues such as: personal accountability, fear, ineffective listening skills, ineffective communication skills

Adapted from: Greene, S. (2008) Making Meetings Matter: Learning ways to maximize your communication style in meetings, Commonwealth Corporation

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