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9 Types of Meetings (And Which to Avoid)

Charles Kergaravat
November 18, 2021

Picture this. After a wonderful weekend you log on, coffee in hand, rested, ready to take the week by storm.

A quick check of your calendar brings that momentum to a screeching halt as you realize you have a day full of meetings.

And you already know that many of them are going to be painfully unproductive (who hasn't walked out of a meeting thinking “this could have been an email”).

This is a devastatingly common experience amongst both leaders and their employees, with 56% of workers feeling that their “swamped calendars” negatively impact job performance.

We’ve also all experienced the opposite situation, where a simple memo quickly turns into an indecipherable email chain (or Slack thread) that probably could have been resolved in a more comprehensive async voice message or screen share.

To solve this issue, it’s important to understand the purposes of different types of meetings, how to determine whether they should even be a meeting at all, or whether they should be held asynchronously.

This guide will teach you exactly that. We’ll discuss the nine most common types of meetings, what they’re useful for, and how you can make them more productive.

1. Standups

Purpose of the standup meeting

Traditionally, standup meetings (a.k.a. standups) are part of the Scrum methodology, used by Agile teams as a sort of progress report.

In these standups, typically held at the beginning of the day, the Scrum team stands together in a circle (hence the name).

Each member of the team gets a couple of minutes to discuss:

  • What they worked on yesterday
  • What they will be working on today
  • What challenges or roadblocks they are currently facing

The idea is that everyone knows what everyone else is working on and how that relates to what they are working on. There is also an opportunity to briefly discuss those challenges and propose potential solutions.

The point of standups is to be brief and keep everyone on the same page.

How did standups get so popular?

Standups are an important part of the Scrum methodology due to the way power and authority are distributed within Agile teams.

In the traditional top-down approach to project management, a team leader or manager is responsible for the planning and delegation of project tasks, and only they require a holistic understanding of team progress. In this structure, individual team members report directly to the manager.

For Agile teams, the authority is more distributed (even the ScrumMaster is more responsible for ensuring the values of Scrum are upheld than they are for the project’s success). In this model, it’s vital that each individual knows how others are progressing.

How to make standups more productive

The biggest problem with standup meetings is that they quickly become bloated and go over time (strictly speaking, standups should be no longer than 15 minutes).

This, of course, is assuming you’re conducting standups within the Scrum methodology. If you’re not an Agile team, it’s questionable whether you should be holding these standups at all.

For a team of 9 (the upper limit of most Agile teams), this equates to around 90 seconds each.

Essentially this means each person gets to rattle off their three points but doesn’t get an opportunity for further discussion.

The best way to make standups more effective meetings is to conduct them asynchronously.

How to conduct standup meetings asynchronously

Standups can be done asynchronously to combat disruptive, lengthy, and often unnecessary check-ins.

Individual updates can be written and submitted to a Slack or Teams channel, for example. Even better, they can be recorded in a 90-second voice message in Yac.

Sending a voice recording inside Yac.

Voice message standups save time because people are less likely to get lost in a conversation (of course, these conversations can still happen elsewhere—just not in the Standup Discussion).

Guidelines for standup messages should ensure input is kept prescriptive and to the three-item formula mentioned above.

Converting to asynchronous standups would allow each team member to prepare and provide their update within a reasonable timeframe (say, before 10 a.m.), and would leave more room for feedback and discussion on roadblocks without turning into a one-hour meeting.

2. Progress updates

Purpose of the progress update meeting

Progress update meetings (a.k.a. status updates) are a type of project or team meeting designed to report on movement toward a goal.

They’re different from a traditional standup in that they tend to be longer and require more in-depth discussion about project stages.

Progress update meetings are pretty common, with 89% of people attending at least one weekly team meeting.

Project progress meetings, for example, might be held weekly to discuss what the team has achieved in the last week and how this relates to the overall timeline.

In the team context, a sales team might meet to discuss progress toward their monthly quota and next week’s strategies.

How did progress updates get so popular?

Managers like progress update meetings as they can be used to:

  • Build buy-in from their team
  • Motivate them toward the goal
  • Hold teams accountable where progress goals aren’t being met

How to make progress update meetings more productive

If a key part of your status update meetings is to discuss roadblocks and reasons for lack of progress, then these meetings can be made more productive by requesting updates before the meeting.

Teams don’t always have the answers to questions asked on the spot. Setting an agenda and requesting details before the meeting starts can help teams compile the information they need to keep the meeting flowing.

It’s also worth considering that progress update meetings need not always be scheduled. It may be worth canceling the weekly catch-up in favor of meeting only when significant progress (or lack thereof) needs discussion.

How to conduct progress update meetings asynchronously

If you’re working in a project management platform such as Asana, then status reports are already democratized, and those who wish to access them can.

You can take this a step further by automating weekly or monthly updates (as an export from your project management tool) to be emailed to key stakeholders.

If you don’t use project management software, or simply prefer to do it another way, hold your status update meetings asynchronously.

Set up a Discussion group in Yac, and request everyone’s progress updates via voice or screen share when you reach a milestone.

The best part is, you can customize this group to include all of the teams on the project or just a few people. You can use Discussions to cover all communications across the project, or you can create a group for each team, task, or milestone.

Instead of mobilizing everyone into another meeting, share progress visually and asynchronously. Teams can send screen shares of what they’re working on, snapshots of progress metrics, feedback from clients—the possibilities are endless.

You can ingrain sharing progress into your communication culture. For example, you can invite colleagues to regularly share items and get feedback when it’s convenient for everyone, or you can set expectations to share updates at a particular time (say, every Thursday).

If you want to keep asynchronous progress updates timely, set a deadline (e.g., Please send your updates by Friday).

3. Workshops

Purpose of the workshop

Workshops are a form of meeting where the intention is to produce a tangible work result or outcome (rather than to discuss something like progress).

Common examples of workshops include:

  • Design workshops and design sprints
  • Strategy workshops
  • Project planning/kickoff meetings
  • Value stream mapping

For example, a marketing strategy workshop would involve a group coming together, developing goals, discussing hurdles and roadblocks, gathering information (such as customer persona documents), debating the pros and cons of various tactics, and then landing on a clear path forward. The outcome of the workshop is a defined strategy.

Because of their intensity and need for detailed discussion, workshop meetings can span several hours or even days.

How did workshops get so popular?

Workshops are an important type of meeting as their interactive nature inspires creativity, collaboration, and teamwork.

Ideas are formed and fleshed out in workshops that may never have been considered by a single individual.

For this reason, companies typically hold workshops when they need to produce a new plan or result, and they need to harness group creativity to do it.

How to make workshops more productive

A paper by Reid Hastie and Cass Sunstein, published in Harvard Business Review, details several strategies to make the most of your workshop group. Among them are:

  1. Begin by introducing and encouraging constructive critical thinking to promote an environment where people feel comfortable critiquing ideas.
  2. Nominate one member of the group to play devil’s advocate so that each idea put forth is actively challenged.
  3. Refrain from having senior team members speak first. Team members are often highly influenced by authority, so this can actually detract from the creative process.

How to conduct workshops asynchronously

Most pre-workshop and post-workshop activity can be done asynchronously. You can get input for activities ahead of time by requesting comments and questions from team members.

You can also debrief the workshop, check up on follow-up activities, and set the next workshop’s objectives without sitting everyone down for a meeting.

You may be surprised to hear that the workshops themselves can be effectively run with asynchronous collaboration.

To do this, you’ll want to leverage your best tools: voice messaging software, organization/project management apps, and “source of truth” documentation.

The pyramid of async collaboration.

For example, say a team wanted to workshop their social media strategy for the last quarter of the year. They’ll map out their tasks for the workshop in Asana and assign roles to whoever needs to contribute.

Perhaps they give themselves two weeks to tackle the workshop and set deadlines for each milestone.

Once the workshop is planned out, the team members can tackle the steps in order by sending voice messages and screen shares with their thoughts in a Q4 Social Workshop Discussion.

To fast track workshops, initial talking points can be distributed prior to the workshop itself. These points can be used to inspire pre-meeting collaborative thinking between team members.

This can be used to jumpstart workshops and build engagement quickly, as participants are “coming in warm.”

Finally, the team notes down important points and results for each phase in Notion to keep everything in one place. This way, no one worries about forgetting that great idea that came up in the workshop, and no one has to waste time tracking through Slack threads to find out what happened.

Meetings vs Workshops

4. Planning and brainstorming

Purpose of planning and brainstorming meetings

Planning meetings are often project-based, such as creating an email campaign strategy.

The idea is for a team to come together to discuss a roadmap for a pre-defined project, possibly agreed upon during a workshop meeting.

Planning meetings focus on details where team members discuss:

  • What needs to be done
  • When it needs to be done by
  • Who is responsible for doing it
  • What roadblocks and task dependencies exist

Brainstorming sessions can be far less prescriptive. They are a collaborative meeting that is less dependent on a tangible outcome than a workshop meeting. They also tend to be much shorter than a workshop.

Teams might get together to brainstorm anything from content ideation to activity planning to settling on top picks.

How did planning meetings get so popular?

Group planning happens when more than one person is involved in the process. They’ve gained popularity with managers for two reasons:

  1. Gaining buy-in from project team members (as they are engaged in creating the initial plan)
  2. Democratizing the planning process (so everyone on the team has their say about how the project should be completed)

How to make planning meetings more productive

Planning meetings can be made more productive by setting a clear agenda.

67% of respondents to Doodle’s 2019 State of Meetings report believe that clear agendas are crucial to meeting success.

Key elements of successful meetings

This should be distributed in advance of the planning meeting and include:

  • The information that individuals will need
  • The tasks or projects that will be planned
  • Time allotted to each project or task
  • Expected outcomes of the meeting
  • Outside of scope topics (if some aspects are to be discussed in a follow-up meeting)

How to conduct planning meetings asynchronously

It’s not difficult to hold planning meetings asynchronously by using many of the tips we’ve already discussed. To avoid wasting time, planning meetings—even asynchronous ones—should only involve people who really need to be there.

For example, the leader of a design planning committee could create a new discussion in Yac and kick things off with a screen recording discussing the client, the goal, what tasks need to be done, and whatever else needs planning.

The team leader can leave questions relating to the first task that needs to be planned to get input from everyone involved.

Use Yac for async meetings.

The team could then reply with async voice messages with their feedback. The project manager can check in with the discussion and assign tasks and due dates within their desired project management platform.

It’s no secret that we love asynchronous communication at Yac. We recognize that sometimes people need to be in the same virtual or physical room, like when major events need important strategic planning (rebranding, crisis exit strategies, etc.).

5. Introductions

Purpose of the introduction meeting

Introduction meetings are for welcoming new staff members onto a team or introducing clients to the names and faces who will be helping them. Introduction meetings are typically seen as part of an effective onboarding process.

How did introduction meetings get so popular?

Real-time introduction meetings are important for bonding and team building. Video introduction meetings have become particularly popular during lockdowns as teams were unable to meet in person.

Managers turned to introduction video meetings to build relationships and help thwart isolation. As you’ll see in a moment, we don’t mind introduction meetings being synchronous. But keep an eye on your team’s calendars. They can quickly start to fill up if you’re not careful.

How to make introduction meetings more productive

It’s not wise to do away with introductions altogether; people need to know who they’re working with.

On the other hand, 38% of remote workers have experienced “Zoom fatigue” from being involved in too many video calls since the pandemic hit, so you do want to be careful not to schedule too many intros if you’re hiring fast.

One way to make intro meetings more productive would be to lump several together, where you could introduce three or four new hires in a single meeting.

Alternatively, you could introduce the new team member as part of an existing, essential team meeting.

How to conduct ​​introduction meetings asynchronously

Introductions are a meeting that we’re happy to have face-to-face (or over video). We believe in building relationships and helping new colleagues or clients feel comfortable.

But if you’re 100% committed to going asynchronous, here’s how you can do it.

  • Invite colleagues to drop a voice note saying, “Hi,” their job role, and a little about themselves.
  • Set an icebreaker question or task for everyone to answer (e.g., two truths and a lie).
  • Let leaders go first to set the expectations for replies.
  • Encourage emoji reactions for acknowledgment.

Using voice regularly can help to build those relationships that people often rely on physical locations to do. 

In fact, it’s been shown that voice-only communication increases empathic accuracy due to the vocal cues we naturally pick up on.

Hearing the nuances in colleagues’ voices connects people in a way that text-based communication can’t.

6. Problem-solving and decision-making

Purpose of the problem-solving meeting

With problem-solving meetings, the clue is in the name.

In such meetings, a group of people gathers to sort out some problem they’re having, and after a bit of collaboration, they make final decisions on what to do about it.

How did problem-solving meetings get so popular?

Because you need to solve problems!

McKinsey found that 61% of executives said that at least half the time they spent making decisions (typically in meetings) was ineffective. Additionally, only 37% of executives surveyed said their organizations’ decisions were both high-quality and timely.

Despite the avoidable time wasting, problem-solving and decision-making meetings are some of the most powerful types of meetings in your arsenal.

These collaborations often result in some new process or system designed to avoid the issue going forward, making for a more efficient organization.

How to make problem-solving meetings more productive

Problem-solving meetings, while important, are also the kind of meeting that can be wildly unproductive.

This mostly happens when everyone comes into the meeting cold, fairly blind, and unaware of what the problems or details are.

Often, these meetings are scheduled at the point of need (“Oh, we better solve that! Let’s schedule a meeting.”).

And because teams don’t know what they’re going to be solving, they haven’t had time to let the issue percolate in their minds. So, they can’t brew up a viable answer.

Another way these meetings lead to ineffective answers or end up going around in circles is the influence of several cognitive biases.

Everyone has built-in biases that affect decision-making. From confirmation bias (where we tend to favor ideas that agree with our own) to the anchoring bias (where we favor the first idea we hear) to the fundamental attribution error (where we favor ideas because of someone’s personality rather than the context).

We’re predisposed to think a certain way and agree with certain people. But if we give ourselves time to acknowledge more of the context before making a rushed contribution or decision, we can avoid making common errors.

A simple way to make these business meetings more productive, therefore, is to notify everyone of the details ahead of time and have each member bring at least one potential solution to the table.

Giving everyone time to think about their contribution and reflect on any biases they may have can expedite better solutions.

How to conduct problem-solving meetings asynchronously

Complex problems, particularly ones that are sensitive in nature (such as personnel issues), can be sorted out synchronously. However, not every problem necessitates a meeting.

For example, a software development team collaborating on a new product release would be better off solving bugs and coding problems asynchronously, using voice and video communications tools like Yac.

Sending a screen share with a voice recording can help you communicate better.

Yac’s screen-sharing capabilities let teams reveal what they’re working on. The on-screen drawing feature lets them show instead of telling everyone else what the problem is, avoiding misunderstandings and confusion.

This is paramount in problem-solving. When teams understand exactly what the issue is, solutions can come to light faster.

It also avoids wasted time listening to poorly thought-out solutions because each respondent gets time to think before contributing.

7. Retrospectives

Purpose of the retrospective meeting

Retrospectives are a type of meeting held when a project wraps up, such as once a new product release has shipped.

Teams reflect on the development and release process and recap what went well, what didn’t, and what could be improved upon in the next project.

How did retrospectives get so popular?

Retrospectives can allow team members to voice concerns, solve process-related problems, and identify roadblocks that could be preventing them from working more efficiently.

Altogether, the idea is that the team gets better in each project, as they collectively learn from their mistakes.

Retrospective debriefs are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to enhance performance. In a meta analysis, researchers found that debriefs increase team and individual performance by 25%. They also noted that the average debrief time they examined was only 18 minutes.

Holding these retrospectives asynchronously can buy your team even more time to shine.

How to make retrospective meetings more productive

The average retrospective can take up to 90 minutes.

They can be one of the more sensitive meetings if not carefully managed, as team members can feel personally attacked when colleagues bring up things that went wrong. When this happens, it’s easy for retrospectives to spiral out of control.

Average retrospective sprint: 64% of retrospective sprints take up thirty minutes to one and a half hours

The best way to hold better meetings of this type is to create a framework for each person to give feedback.

This could be something like:

  • What did you feel went very well?
  • What problems arose?
  • How would you go about solving those problems so they don’t exist going forward?

Whether you’re holding this meeting synchronously or asynchronously, you should send out your meeting framework a few days in advance.

Luckily for those who don’t want to schedule another meeting, responses can all be discussed asynchronously.

How to conduct retrospectives asynchronously

You can use the above framework to discuss feedback within, say, a Slack or Teams channel, but this can quickly get disorganized and text-based feedback can be taken the wrong way.

To keep retrospective streamlined and considerate, opt for async voice communication combined with a documentation source (like a Google Doc).

Example collaboration using a Google Doc.

Meeting leaders can pose questions in a Retrospective Discussion, and team members can reply with their thoughts. They can also react with emojis if they think someone else has already nailed their idea.

Retrospectives are important so that teams can move forward and continually optimize. But they don’t need to be another block in the calendar.

8. One-to-ones

Purpose of the one-to-one meeting

Strictly speaking, one-to-one meetings are about individual professional development.

For example, a sales manager might have weekly one-to-ones with each of their sales reps to discuss the previous week’s performance, discuss progress toward the employee’s performance plan, and provide guidance, feedback, and training.

In some cases, they can be formal meetings that need to be documented for HR.

More loosely, one-to-ones are any meeting involving just two people.

How did one-to-ones get so popular?

Traditional one-to-ones are important for the consistent development of an employee’s skillset (for example, they may be an up-and-coming leader).

They also provide space to check in on wellbeing and to provide individual assistance on roadblocks and challenges.

Infographic: What is the purpose of one-on-one meetings?

How to make one-to-one meetings more productive

The type of one-to-one discussed above can be made more productive by providing an agenda for both parties upfront and by sticking to a similar set of topics to discuss at each meeting.

But let’s talk about this other kind of one-to-one.

The kind that simply involves two people meeting to discuss, well, anything.

With many businesses making the move to remote work and communication during the pandemic, one-to-one meetings rose by 1230%.

Of course, when working remotely, you can’t just tap your colleague on the shoulder and ask them a quick question. So, it became all too easy for colleagues to fall into the “Can we just hop on a quick call?” trap.

In many cases, though, these shouldn’t be meetings at all.

Asynchronous communication can make much more efficient work of these conversations.

How to conduct one-to-one meetings asynchronously

Traditional one-to-ones (the sensitive kind we mentioned above that centers around professional development) are often best saved for in-person meetings.

But consider the other type of two-person meeting that regularly occurs:

“I’m nearly finished with that report I’m working on, but I need some feedback from you please. Can we jump on a quick Zoom tomorrow morning?” 🤢

Meetings like these can be easily held asynchronously:

  1. Upload the draft document to your project management platform.
  2. Create a screen share video going through the report and highlighting areas that require feedback.
  3. Let them know when you need the feedback by (if time-sensitive).

9. Training

Purpose of the training meeting

This type of meeting can be client-facing (like webinars about using your platform), or it can be internal (like new employee training).

In any case, the purpose is to transfer some kind of knowledge or protocols from one person to another.

While client-facing training is often necessary as part of retention, staff training can take up a lot of time. The caveat here is that it’s entirely necessary.

How did staff training meetings get so popular?

Staff training sessions are vital, as up to 70% of employees surveyed by Gartner reported not being sufficiently equipped to do their job due to increasing digitalization.

Managers use staff training to bolster their talent pool, and employees feel more valued when employers invest in their growth. It’s a win-win.

So how can we make sure staff training meetings are as efficient and effective as possible.

How to make training meetings more productive

Training meetings can be made more productive by:

  • Keeping training sessions to 90 minutes at a maximum
  • Having your team take and share notes collaboratively (51% of attendees still take notes individually)
  • Taking a hybrid or async approach (read more below)

How to conduct training meetings asynchronously

Not all training needs to take place in person or synchronously.

Sure, some skills need to be roleplayed and refined based on feedback (think cold calling skills), but others can be more easily documented (a process for content management, for example).

In the case of the former, you can take a hybrid approach.

For example, the facilitator could initially provide a video of how the cold call should sound as well as a script for practice.

Then, the team could meet for a physical (or virtual) training session, having already had a chance to practice.

Essentially, the team is given the material to study and practice, and then they can bring any questions they have to a synchronous session (or post them in an asynchronous meeting discussion).

Why you should make the move to asynchronous communication

We strongly believe that teams (especially remote ones) should prioritize asynchronous communication.

Why?

Because traditional, real-time meetings just aren’t efficient in today’s working world.

For example:

A study made the case that some types of business meetings are better handled by voice apps as opposed to scheduling an online meeting using video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Researchers found that in meetings that required group collaboration and problem-solving, video actually hurt more than it helped, as audio cues are far more important to task success than are visual cues.

This is largely down to speaking turns. Video access was found to decrease social coordination in group meetings because there was greater inequality when it came to whose turn it was to speak.

Essentially, it was felt that whoever had control of the video had the right to speak, leading to less input from other team members.

Asynchronous voice communication, on the other hand, offers several benefits:

  • Spend less time on meetings. 91% of Yac users had fewer meetings and saved 35 minutes per person per day.
  • Reflect before you respond. Async communication means everyone can carefully reflect and consider what they want to say before they actually say it.
  • Prevent burnout. Executives can spend up to 23 hours a week in meetings, a key driver behind the rising prevalence of burnout.

Key takeaways

The increasing frequency of meetings since the large-scale move to remote work is problematic. It leads to a lack of productivity at work, longer work hours, and ultimately burnout.

To solve this, it’s up to every team leader to consider what we’ve covered here today before booking that meeting:

  • Why is this meeting important?
  • How can this meeting be more productive?
  • Could this meeting take place asynchronously?

Wanna learn more about running asynchronous meetings? Check out our guide on how to run effective asynchronous meetings.