Types of Meetings
After a while, all meetings may seem alike, but that isn't really the case. There are distinctly different types, and each can have its own requirements.
You're not looking to make decisions here. What you want is the opposite — to suspend decisions and simply generate ideas. You might use brainstorming, concept mapping, or other techniques, which emphasizes the role of a facilitator. After generating ideas, you might find you'll need an additional meeting to sort through the material and decide on which ones merit implementation. An idea generation meeting will have significant need for follow-up.
If you're sitting down to actually perform specific work, the approach is different from open discussion and debate of issues. Agenda and focus will be particularly important, because there are things that must come out of the meeting. Slack off and you could find the meeting dragging on and on because you may not be able to adjourn until everything is done.
In a review meeting, a group goes over some previously completed work. You absolutely need to get material to people in advance for this type of meeting because it will otherwise be next to useless and highly inefficient. Participation is critical because, presumably, the people who did the original work need feedback before they can proceed to the next step.
Before scheduling a review meeting, see if you can replace it by circulating a document by e-mail. Using electronic review and comment features, you can gather comments and make them stand out distinctly, so that it's easy to identify any one person's remarks.
A status meeting is generally one of the most abused forms. Always consider whether you can replace a status meeting with a memo or group of memos or reports. This is one of the best candidates for meeting by insistence — a meeting that doesn't occur unless one of the participants has a specific need to meet in person with the others.
Project and Kick-Off
A project meeting is one designed for the people working on a specific project or task. It generally involves some aspects of status, review, and work. Typically the attendee list is critical, and often you cannot hold the meeting unless everyone will be able to attend. Although often treated as a cheerleading session, a kick-off meeting is the initial meeting on a project. It lets the group members discuss each of their roles and responsibilities to help ensure a smooth working relationship in the future.
Regular or Standing
After the status meeting, this is the most over-used meeting type. Anyone who has sat through regular staff meetings might wonder what most of them were supposed to achieve. Most regular meetings feature selected participants taking turns reciting information they have on paper in front of them.