What is a meeting?
There is a common misconception about meetings. Many people believe that a business meeting involves a group of people discussing problems. In business, this definition is entirely too narrow. A meeting is any two or more people exchanging ideas. It can occur anytime, any place, for any reason. Business meetings happen all the time, so you must be prepared all the time.
Meetings are not like presentations. Presentations are special events that can be planned, timed, controlled, directed and practiced. Meetings are seldom so rigidly defined. Meetings can be impromptu, free-wheeling, disjointed and disguised. Unlike a business presentation–which is usually identified as an important significant event–a business meeting is often not even labeled as a meeting.
There are three main categories of business meetings:
- Formal meetings are business meetings scheduled in advance. Participants are invited in advance, an agenda or plan is prepared, a time is set, a format for the conduct of the meeting is followed, and a leader is selected. In addition, participants are often asked to prepare and present or discuss their thoughts on the topic of the meeting. Finally, there are objectives or goals to be achieved through the meeting.
- Informal business meetings have much less structure, although they may have some of the same elements as formal meetings. For instance, informal meetings may have a leader or an agenda. They frequently have no time limit, participants are not asked for prepared presentations, and often the specific objectives and goals are not as clearly defined. Social meetings are a type of informal meeting. They may be conducted at work with people from work, but not about work. They may occur at any time or place. At times they are announced and open to the public. Sometimes they have a purpose; sometimes they don't. Often, the purpose is simply to have fun, relax and to kick back a little.
- Work meetings are those that are conducted at work, during work hours, about work issues, with work people. Those meetings lack the structured, planned elements of formal meetings. They may occur after normal work hours or include outsiders who bring a special expertise to the meeting, but they are clearly meetings called to deal with work-related topics. Work meetings can be formal or informal.
Communication skills are required in all types of meetings, but there are different kinds of speaking going on in each category. You must be able to identify the differences and speak accordingly. There are no clear-cut, 100% foolproof rules. This is because the categories–formal, informal, work and social–are frequently mixed or mislabeled. Sometimes meetings that are planned, announced and even conducted as one category can switch to another category without notice. This can happen mid-meeting. In fact you will encounter people who purposely mislabel meetings. What is presented as a formal meeting can easily be changed to an informal meeting. An informal meeting may produce very formal results. So don't be fooled, be ready!
What is a Meeting?
Written by: Dr. Dennis Becker, Senior Coaching Partner
Excerpt from: Customer Service and the Telephone
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