What are the features of different types of meetings?
The "type" of meeting depends on (a) the purpose of the meeting, and (b) the level of formality of the meeting. We will define both of these in more detail.
Meeting purpose is roughly defined as the desired outcome or result of the meeting, the "why" of the meeting. The fact that there is a specific desired purpose on the part of the initiator of the meeting is what makes it a "meeting" in the first place. This differentiates it from the various other communication which goes on in a business environment.
The attached reference gives a handy short list of typical meeting purposes (informational, decision-making, etc.). The common thread to these, and any other ways of categorizing meetings, is the degree to which the goal is increasing the participants' knowledge versus motivating or enabling specific action.
The formality of the meeting is defined by the extent to which the features of the meeting are predefined and inflexible. These features are:
- participant list ("who")
- time allotted ("when")
- venue ("where")
- rules governing interaction ("how")
Let's look at a couple examples to integrate all of this and define the range of meetings. At one end is the manager who goes over to her employees workstation area impromptu (no time allotment or schedule) to convey something she was just alerted to by her manager (knowledge increase purpose). The employees stand next to their cubicles (venue), and ask questions as they occur to them during their manager's presentation (no explicit rules on interaction). One of the employees comes back to their cubicle from the restroom midway through the talk, and employees of another adjacent unit listen in, just in case there is something important being talked about (no defined participant list).
At the other end is the monthly Board of Directors Meeting. Starting time and allotted time are clearly defined in the invitation memo. Participants are limited to those receiving the memo, and some members are identified as "required" indicating negative consequences for failure to attend. The venue is the Executive Conference Room, which provides for restricted access, prevents outside parties from hearing the proceedings, and has facilities for media as well as accommodating the participants' physical needs (refreshments, snacks). This is a decision-making meeting, and formal Rules of Order govern who may speak, at what point, and for how long. Decisions are presented in the form of motions which must be proposed, "seconded", and then voted on.