Another day, another meeting. Or three, or five.  When you literally have to schedule time on your calendar to think, that means you are in too many meetings.

But meetings aren’t all bad. They are a great tool for collaboration when used well.

Here are a few meeting basics, regardless of what you are meeting about:

Include the expected outcomes on your agenda.  Everyone needs to know what the meeting is about, and just as importantly, what they are expected to do during the meeting. Will you be brainstorming options or making a decision, or both? What information are people expected to have with them during the meeting? What will happen next after this meeting?

Schedule the meeting for the right amount of time. Most meetings are too long, especially if you schedule them for an hour by default. Think in terms of 15-minute chunks of time instead. Many meetings should only be 15 minutes. Others might need two or three hours. Think it through, rather than defaulting to 30 minutes or an hour.

Work on what happens next during the meeting. If you will be making task assignments during a meeting, open up a project management tool and get those to-dos recorded during the meeting.  If someone is responsible for taking notes or creating a summary, they should do it immediately after the meeting, and get clarity on any key decisions or points with participants before they leave the room. If nothing new will happen after this meeting, odds are you don’t actually need the meeting!

The Types of Meetings Communications Directors Need

As a communications director, you need to ensure that several different kinds of meetings are taking place at your organization so that you can do your best work.

Strategic Direction Meetings. These are the “why” and “vision” meetings. During these meetings, which are ideally both annual and quarterly, managers should share the longer-term view of the organization’s work. For example, which programs are rising or falling in importance over the next several months? One good tool for this kind of meeting is a Big Picture Communications Timeline. The meeting outcome for a communications directors is the ability to forecast any needed shifts in communications strategy or messaging.

Scoping Meetings.  These are “what” and “who” meetings. You hold these meetings when you are starting something new or trying to flesh out an idea. You can use a creative brief to guide the meeting. These meetings are about getting ideas, information, concerns, and insights out on the table and shared among team members. The outcome for the communications director is a clear understanding of the assignment, the resources available, the roles of different staff members in doing the work, etc. You should leave these meetings with a clear set of next steps assigned using a roles and responsibilities model.

Accountability or Progress Meetings. These are the “how” and “when” meetings and include your typical editorial meetings as well as most project-specific meetings. You hold these meetings to ensure that work is progressing in a timely way and that team members remain accountable. Use them to share progress, to address changing circumstances, to pose and answer questions, and to troubleshoot any issues that come up. You’ll often use these meetings to prioritize tasks when too much is going on. That means adjusting assignments and schedules as needed. Keep that project management tool open during the meeting!

These can be 10-minute daily meetings or hour-long weekly meetings. It just depends on what works best for your organization.

Beware: these are not just “status report” meetings. If everything is going smoothly, focus on what needs to happen next and ensuring that those tasks will be accomplished on time — or end the meeting early and get back to your priorities!

Decision Meetings. While you can make decisions in scoping and accountability meetings, sometimes you need a special meeting where options can be laid out and discussed as a group so that a final decision can be made. These meetings require a good deal of preparation so that the choices are described well and it’s clear how the decision will be made (e.g., executive decision, voting, consensus, etc.).

Professional Development Meetings. These meetings are used for cross-training staff and practicing new skills. Think about what you need to learn from program or fundraising staff, and what you’d like to coach them on as well. Topics might include the elements of a good story or writing for different audiences, for example.

Are there other kinds of meetings that you think communications directors need? Share in the comments.