Let’s face it — communicating is hard work. It’s difficult to figure out when you need a meeting and when you don’t. The “I survived another meeting that should have been an email” meme took the internet by storm, and it’s no surprise why it went viral: everyone can relate to it. The negative connotation surrounding meetings is because people often schedule unnecessary meetings that result in wasting valuable time. Meetings don’t deserve such a bad rep and can be a valuable asset when organized for the right reasons.
Below are three situations when a meeting is necessary and an email will not suffice:
When a decision needs to be made quickly
When a deadline is quickly approaching and you require action fast, a meeting is often the most efficient way to get the answers you need. If you are working with someone who is extremely busy or non-responsive via email, a meeting is an easy solution to help them carve out time to provide the feedback or approval necessary for you to meet your deadline. Similarly, if there are outstanding decisions to be made and multiple players who require buy-in, a meeting is the quickest way to reach a mutual conclusion; opinions will be lost and frustrations will rise on an email string with multiple people trying to reach a joint decision.
When the topic is emotionally charged
It’s tough to navigate conflict in the workplace. Email provides a lot of room for interpretation and trying to hash something out through back and back-and-forth written communication will likely extenuate the issue and postpone a resolution. Sometimes even a phone call is enough.
Our good friend, Tim Metz, Founder of Saent, follows a simple rule to determine when something can be said in writing or should to be dealt with in person (or over the phone): when in doubt, talk. “Usually your gut will tell you whether something is not appropriate in writing and a feeling of doubt is a pretty good indication it probably isn’t right,” said Metz. Schedule a meeting and tackle the issue head-on–it will save time and reduce tension.
When you need to collaborate or brainstorm
Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up,” and successful brainstorming sessions occur in a collaborative environment. Tim Metz agrees. “While you can discuss an idea asynchronously in a Google Doc or Slack, nothing beats getting in a room together with a whiteboard,” said Tim Metz, Founder of Saent. “Sketching out a mind-map around a topic is an excellent way to tap into everyone’s knowledge, feed off each other’s creativity and gain great new insights.” A tip for making a brainstorming meeting more productive? Require that attendees come to the meeting ready to share a few ideas prepared in advance. If you are unsure if scheduling a brainstorming session is the right move, Renee Cullinan, CoFounder of Stop Meeting Like This, shared with us the four instances when collaborative brainstorming makes sense:
- When multiple and diverse perspectives yield better ideas
- There’s a high degree of interdependence in the organization
- The outputs are genuinely needed and will be used
- The outputs require cross-functional execution.
How about you?
Are there any other instances where you think a meeting cannot be replaced by other types of communication?