When should Organisations use a Meeting?

The Meaning Of “Meeting” As Used In These Notes

1 These notes use the following definition of a meeting: a group of People who can communicate orally with each other at the same time where,  at least, one person achieves communication with the others.

2 These notes only consider meetings of three or more people.

Aids to deciding When, and How to use Meetings

3 Readers may wish to skim over the next sections. They discuss the objectives of meetings and the advantages, disadvantages, and pitfalls of the various classes of meetings. The final section on Recommendations should prove most valuable.

4 A Reader who does not understand and/or has doubts about a particular recommendation may find more understanding and/or fewer doubts by reading parts of the earlier sections.

Broad Objectives For Meetings

5 A meeting can aim to pass information:

(a) From one Member to other Meeting Members. This “one Member” has often called the Meeting and will often have the role of Official Leader.

(b) From other Meeting Members to one Member.

(c) In both directions i.e. a two-way flow occurs which deserves the term “discussion”.

6 Some variations exist within these three classes. They depend on: (a) the number of people in each receiving and/or sending group and (b) any restrictions placed on who can send information and to whom.

7 The following sections give more information about the different types of meetings (as classified by the meeting objectives listed above).

More Details On The Objectives Of Meetings

Pass Information from one Member to Other Members

8 Information passing gives one possible reason for having a meeting. If one person wants to give information to two other people usually it will save time to tell both people together rather than talk to each person separately.

9 The more people who need the information, the more time a meeting will save. However this statement will not always prove accurate. Meeting Organisers should consider the answers to the following questions:

(a) Do the particular Meeting Members need to have the knowledge someone wishes to pass to them?

(b) What other activity will each Member give up to attend the Meet­ing?

(c) How long will it take each person to travel to and from the Meeting?

10 The saving of time by a meeting will lose some of its value where Members need different pieces of information. Sometimes, some information will have little or no value to one or more of the Meeting Members.

Collect Information from Members

11 The second major reason for having a meeting involves the collection of information from Members.

12 If the information available from the different people rates as inde­pendent, a meeting serves no useful purpose. The Leader could contact each person one after another and obtain the appropriate information.

13 However a meeting will help if collecting information from one person will help to stimulate the recall of information by another.

14 Another variation exists where more than one Member needs information which one or more Members of the meeting have.

15 Example. Tom and Harry both need the same information from Dick.

Exchange Information

16 The third major reason for a meeting combines both information giving and information collecting.

17 Example. Mary wants to obtain information from one or more other Members and one or more of those other Members want to obtain information from Mary.

18 This situation often occurs when people want to obtain information regarding the attitude of other people to information given to them. In this case the meeting involves a discussion. It deserves the label: Conference – defined as a Meeting where two-way communication occurs be­tween at least two people at the meeting.

Make Decisions

19 Another class of meeting exists where Meeting Members aim to make decisions at the Meeting. Sometimes an Organisation structure exists which specifies that a group of people have the job of making certain decisions.

20 Examples. A Board of Directors, New Product Development Committee, Council of an Institute, Parliament.

21 Where a group of people have to make a decision usually they need to meet together.*

22 Where an Organisation has such a structure, a Meeting must occur if one or more Members want to ensure they take part in the decision-making.

Persuade Others

23 A common variation within a Meeting to exchange information occurs where one or more Members wish to persuade one or more other Members to accept a given viewpoint.

Gain Acceptance of One or More Objectives

24 Sometimes people who call Meetings aim to gain the greatest amount of acceptance from the group. This situation occurs when they believe that the attitude of Meeting Members will play a part in the skill and enthusi­asm, etc., they will use to try to implement a given decision.

General Comments

25 Many Organisation have regular meetings of the same group of people:

26 Example. A New-Products Committee Meeting in a Company, a Board of Directors, the Membership Sub-committee of a Golf Club.

27 Sometimes these group meet together to make decisions.

28 Examples. “Will we continue to develop Product X?” “Who will we appoint as our next Managing Director?” “Will we declare a dividend – and what size?” “Will we admit Mr Smith as a Member of our Golf Club?”

29 In other cases they meet together to monitor a situation by receiving reports from various people.

30 Example. (a) The Head of the Social Committee reports on the arrangements for the coming Annual Dinner to the General Commit­tee. (b) The Board hears the progress on the plans for a new factory. (c) The New Product Committee hears the results of the Market Research on Product X.


31 The following sections list some objectives for deciding whether to use a meeting and how to use wisely a particular type. These notes classify them under the broad objectives for meetings used in previous sections.

Information Giving

32 Consider whether a written communication will pass on information more economically.

* Probably they could decide something by passing information around. However it would prove rare,

33 Consider the time spent in (a) preparing a written communication to give information as compared with (b) preparing to communicate to a group of people.

34 Consider to what extent the Receivers of the written communication will read it, understand it, and communicate back any point they do not under stand. (But will people at Meetings tell Senders they do not understand them?)

35 Consider whether other people at a later time will need to receive the same information.

36 Example. The Organisation policy on granting credit. The procedure to use in recording Annual Leave due and taken. Each new person coming to work in the relevant Department will need this type of information. Thus the preparation of such a written communication will prove useful for a number of different occa­sions when different people need to get the information it con­tains.

37 Check which people need which information. Consider the possibilities of arranging the sequence of giving information so that some Members can leave the meeting when they have received all the information related to their needs.

38 Check what people have to give up to attend a particular Meeting.

39 Create an atmosphere where people will inform Meeting Organisers of the problems caused by attending a given meeting at a particular time.

40 Consider the cost and time involved in each person attending a particu­lar Meeting.

41 Consider whether each person can make more use of the travelling time to do other useful things at the place of the Meeting before and/or after the Meeting.

Information Gathering

42 Warn people of the information they should provide for a particular Meeting.

43 Check that the vital Members (the Givers of the information) can attend and intend doing so.

44 Check whether relevant people could/should write the information and distribute it to appropriate people instead of a Meeting – or before the Meeting.

45 Check what other ways exist of gathering the information. Compare the cost/time involved of the various methods.

46 Check whether the information givers will need stimulation of other people to recall some of the information required.

47 Consider whether people at a Meeting will gather more useful informa­tion because discussion will stimulate Members to: (a) ask more useful questions, (b) give more useful answers, and (c) find/collect more useful ideas.

Make Decisions

48 Consider whether a group at a meeting will make wiser decisions than just individual decision making – even if several individuals check each other’s individual decision making.

Persuade Others

49 Consider whether having a group of people meet together will help or hinder persuading one or more Members to agree to some particular idea, objectives, etc.

Gain Acceptance

50 Consider whether a meeting will gain greater acceptance of an objective and increase the probability of achieving the relevant objective and/or with fewer resources.

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