The modern business world has changed dramatically in just the past few years, as new communications technology, new standards of office culture, and an increase in the prevalence of remote workers have begun to fundamentally change our work environments. Modern business owners can’t continue adhering to the customs and practices of more traditional businesses; they need to adapt and change with the times.
Accordingly, one of the most important and ubiquitous office institutions—the meeting—also needs to change. Today’s managers have a number of options when it comes to conducting business meetings, so how can you choose the right format and structure for your team?
Meetings can be time sucks if they aren’t carefully planned and executed. Overall, there are three main goals you’ll strive for when selecting the format of your meeting:
- Minimize disruption. One of the leading reasons for meeting hatred is the fact that they often disrupt the normal flow of work, and serve more as a distraction than a communicative tool. You should create meeting environments that minimize this disruptiveness as much as possible.
- Maximize medium efficiency. You have your choice of mediums these days, from text-based communications to phone calls and video chats. You’ll need to pick the right one if you want to communicate effectively with your team.
- Meet specific goals. You also need to be able to meet the specific goals of your meeting; for example, are you trying to make a decision on an important matter? Are you brainstorming for some end purpose?
You’ll have several options to achieve these goals, so let’s take a look at the different formats you can choose from.
First, think about whether you actually need to have a meeting or not. Many businesses decide to have a formal meeting every time they have an important announcement to make. If this is a platform for gathering feedback or discussing the topic at hand, this is appropriate; however, if you’re just making an announcement, you can make the announcement over email. Email has a number of advantages; it’s on record, it’s two-way (in case your team has questions), it can be opened and read at your employees’ leisure, and it doesn’t take any more time than making the announcement at a meeting would.
Other types of meetings can also be held over email, especially if you’ll be working with a small group on a topic that requires a bit of back-and-forth. For example, if you’re trying to settle the answer to an important strategic question, you can list your main points of concern and start an email thread where your other workers can pitch in their ideas as well. This carries the same advantages as the email announcement, with the added benefit of giving more voices to people.
Conference Call/Video Chat
Conference call meetings have been standbys for years now, and they work well when you need the entire team to engage in a discussion, but the team isn’t all present in one room. One of the biggest problems with phone meeting is the tendency for people to speak over one another, complicating your potential productivity. Video conferencing is similar, but may cause you to experience lag issues. Only opt for conference call meetings if you need a full-fledged team discussion and in-person meetings aren’t possible.
Team chat is another text-based format of discussion, so it carries many of email’s advantages. However, team chats require more immediate participation, making them ideal for conversations with lots of back-and-forth anticipated, or ones with many different participants. There’s no risk of talking over each other, and there’s less of an interruption than there usually is with in-person meetings, making them an interesting hybrid model. I recommend this format for the majority of modern meetings.
In-person meetings do have a few advantages over the other types here. They allow for face-to-face communication, which can be more efficient, and allow for more interactive forms of communication (without any lag or risk of multitasking). Still, it’s tough to rope in remote workers in this format without significant working disruptions.
Setting a Timetable
With the exception of email announcements and email threads, you’ll also need to set a timeframe for your meeting. This will help you stick to the point, accomplish your goals in a reasonable timeframe, and minimize potential disruptions.
- 15 minutes or less. This format is best for quick discussions, such as hashing out a problem or going over a new announcement that requires feedback.
- 15-30 minutes. These are more extended meetings, better for a high number of participants, or where a number of different goals need to be accomplished. It’s also ideal for group discussion of a single significant issue.
- 30-60 minutes. These meetings are better for extended discussions with large groups of people, or for meetings with long agendas. I don’t recommend going over an hour; at that point, you can break it up into smaller meetings.
In today’s world, meetings are still necessary as a mode of exchanging information, but the term “meeting” can describe any number of different types of interactions. It’s up to you to decide which of these interactions works best for your brand, your team, and the specific meeting you had in mind. Without those considerations, you run the risk of destroying your team’s productivity in the modern workplace.