Meeting – an organised conversation with defined participants and topics
In organisations, many conversations take place every day. But not every conversation is a meeting. A meeting is an organised exchange between defined participants on a defined topic, whereby the purpose varies from information exchange to decision preparation to decision-making.
The difference between a conversation and a meeting is not really clear-cut. An exchange in the coffee kitchen of a company is usually not dubbed a meeting, but could still be one. The difference lies primarily in the organisation of the interaction: planning and structuring are the two essential aspects here. The place of the exchange is secondary. A meeting could also take place by telephone – e.g. in a telephone conference – or online – e.g. by video conference.
Interestingly, a telephone conference is practically always a meeting, whereas a video conference – e.g. if you participate in a webinar or an online barcamp – is not. Since many online events now also offer opportunities for individual participants to discuss a defined topic in smaller circles – via so-called breakout rooms or sessions – meetings can also occur there.
The elements of an organised meeting
Planning and structuring are the primary aspects of a meeting. I.e. in most cases there will be
- be a formal invitation. The more participants there are in the exchange, the more important it is to have a formal invitation with the date, time, location, duration, topic, purpose, goal and group of participants.
- It may make sense to publish the agenda in the circle of participants in advance of the event, but at the latest at the beginning of the encounter. Explicitly stating the purpose, goal and structure of the exchange is also highly recommended.
- Often the inviting person also takes on the role of moderator. In many cases there is nothing wrong with this, but in some situations it may be better to deliberately separate these two roles.
- In addition – depending on experience and corporate culture – the appointment of a minute-taker can be useful. The use of a time keeper to ensure that the timebox is adhered to is also often useful.
- Depending on the purpose, the conduct of a exchange varies. However, documenting the findings, results, agreed actions, next steps, next dates of discussions, etc. is always useful.
Ad-hoc meetings are also not unusual in many organisations. In a smaller, well-rehearsed group of participants, the exchange can also take place on demand, without a formal invitation and possibly even without a minute-taker. And even in the coffee kitchen.
Types of meetings
There are a number of types and variations of meetings. Here you will find a small selection with additional links:
- A jour fixe refers to a regular get-together of a group of people at a fixed time, usually to talk about constant, important topics.
- A kick-off meeting is a gathering in the course of a project for the exchange of information and motivation, which takes place at the start of the project with all participants.
- A stand-up meeting is a time-limited encounter of people in an organisation that is held with all participants standing up.
- A walk-and-talk meeting is a exchange held while walking outside the usual premises. It offers advantages but requires individual preparation.
- A brown bag meeting is an informal exchange between colleagues and business partners where each participant brings their own food – usually in brown paper bags.
- In agile projects, there are a number of so-called Scrum meetings that take place regularly between the participants in the course of development: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective.
In addition, there are also
and also meetings of committees such as
Tips for meetings
There is a whole range of tips for meetings (feel free to see our supplementary information from the t2informatik blog). Here we would like to offer you some tips for a specific challenge in running an organised exchange: What to do with colleagues who arrive late? Should you wait for the latecomers or start on time?
- You could use the n-1 rule, i.e. start the conversation as soon as all participants (n) but one are present. This way you can usually start on time without having to wait for notorious latecomers.¹
- You could start on time and address in the check-in what almost stopped each participant from coming on time today.
- In cases of notorious dawdling or absenteeism, it may also help to remind people of rules and agreements, either collectively or individually. In some organisations, this is also known as a code of honour, which certainly reinforces the commitment to punctual attendance.
- You could also ask late participants to tell a joke. This adds to the delay of the session, but at the same time lifts the mood and probably often works better than minor fines or being asked to bake a cake for the next meeting.
What tips do you have? Get in touch with us – we’d be happy to extend the list.
Impulses to discuss:
 There are many tips on how to run a successful meeting. What do you think is the reason why so many are not successful in practice?
 Is a lean coffee a meeting?
 The tip comes from the book Retrospektiven in der Praxis by Marc Löffler.
Here you will find a useful online timer for your subreddits.
Here you will find additional information from our t2informatik Blog: