Dear Meeting Guru,

"I'm responsible for planning three upcoming meetings for my department: an informative session, a decision-making meeting and a brainstroming session. Help! How do I plan these sessions? Could you describe the differences, as well as the objectives of each? Do you have any tips I should keep in mind?"


Blessed Meeter,

An informative session, a decision-making meeting and a brainstorming session have very different objectives. When planning a meeting, it is very important to identify the objective of the meeting. Only once the objective is clear will creating an effective agenda become simple. What follows are different objectives for the various types of meetings you mentioned and some related tips on how you can make them more effective.

A. Problem-Solving Meeting
Objective: To discuss an issue or conflict and decide how to solve it.

Tip: The following problem-solving process will help your group make better decisions the next time you meet.

1. Identify the Problem
The problem should already be clear in the minds of the attendees. In other words, participants will hopefully know why they're attending the meeting!

2. Determine the causes
What's causing the problem? What are the underlying issues?

3. Generate possible solutions
How could we possibly overcome this issue? What are the options at this time?

4. Evaluate the proposed solution
Is this the best solution for us? Is it feasible? Is it realistic?

5. Choose the best solution
If you've narrowed the options down to a few alternatives, vote to determine the best solution for the group. This gives everyone an opportunity to provide input on the final decision. If peer pressure is an issue or if substantial conflict surrounds the topic, consider holding a secret ballot vote.

B. Informational Meeting
Objective: To give or receive information about a specific idea or important matters concerning the attendees.

Tip: The majority of meetings today simply exchange facts or information about a specific topic. Given the widespread use of e-mail in today's workplace, many individuals are opting for quick e-mail updates instead of meeting. To determine if a meeting is worth your time, ask yourself, "Is this meeting really necessary?" If not, consider using e-mail to update or share information with the individuals who would have attended the meeting. For more information on whether a meeting is worth your time, please visit "To Meet or Not to Meet… That Is the Question". If you have decided the meeting is necessary and cannot be replaced with an e-mail, be sure that the meeting objective is clear and an agenda has been created before the meeting begins. Having a proper agenda and objective will help keep the meeting discussion focused and on track.

C. Brainstorming Meeting
To produce new ideas about a specific topic.
Tip: Here are some guidelines to follow for a more effective brainstorming session:
Before the meeting, participants should be told the objective of the session as well as their role in the brainstorming session. Background information, if available, should also be distributed to participants prior to the session.
The atmosphere of the meeting should be loose and informal.
Make sure that no idea is ruled out because it's too wild. Try to avoid judging ideas.
A facilitator should be appointed to control the flow of information and record ideas as they develop.

I hope that this information will help you effectively plan your upcoming meetings. Remember that having a clear meeting objective and well-planned agenda are the two most important elements of an effective meeting. For more guidance on how to create an effective agenda, visit "How to Create an Agenda, Step-by-Step". You may also find the article, "Things to Consider When Preparing for Your Meeting" useful for planning your meetings.

If you're overwhelmed by the new experience of planning these meetings, remember what Confucius once said, "Learning without thought is labor lost." In other words, lessons learned from challenging the mind are often the most rewarding. Having the responsibility of planning these meetings is an opportunity for you to learn something new and share this newfound wisdom with your colleagues.

Until next time…may good meeting karma always be with you!

Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.




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