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What is the purpose of this meeting?

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A target with an arrow through it’s center

Many of us have done some soul-searching over the last few years, trying to figure out our purpose in life. We don’t claim to be able to help you with that big question, but in this blog, we are going to explore how being clear on the PURPOSE can help us to host more effective meetings.

We have explored the first 2 P’s of effective meetings in previous blogs:

  • Is the meeting PRESSING? Do we need to have the meeting?
  • Where is the best PLACE for the meeting, including considering whether it would be most effective online or in person?

PURPOSE, the next P, considers the intention of the meeting answering the question, “Why am I organising this meeting?” It provides a clear and direct statement setting out the reason for the meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page. The purpose can also be a tool to help manage the meeting and to call people back on task when discussions lose focus.

A meeting purpose is sometimes confused with the objective of the meeting but there is an important distinction between them. The purpose is the reason behind the meeting. The objective is the desired outcome. The objective is usually measurable (the all too familiar SMART goals) and enables us to answer this question at the end – Did the meeting meet its objective? The purpose isn’t necessarily measurable and may capture more of the motivation behind the meeting. Both are important tools in working towards successful meeting outcomes.

When exploring whether a meeting is PRESSING? in an earlier blog post, we divided meetings into 2 key categories - task-based meetings (usually information focused) and relationship-based meetings. This distinction assists us when setting the purpose of the meeting too. Setting a purpose (or indeed an objective) for a task-based meeting tends to be easier, for example:

  • The purpose of this meeting is to provide a progress report on stage 2 of the project.
  • The purpose of this meeting is to brief the team on the challenges being faced by the project which have caused the delay in meeting milestones.
  • The purpose of this meeting is to meet compliance requirements on anti-discrimination training.

It can be harder to express a clear purpose for a relationship-based meeting. However, advance notice of the purpose can help attendees come prepared and can avoid fear from employees of a sudden unexpected meeting with a senior. A purpose for a meeting focused on relationship building might include:

  • To touch base about priorities for the next few months.
  • To brainstorm ways the team could more effectively support each other.
  • To reconnect as a team after completion of the latest campaign.

If it’s a regular meeting, such as a team meeting, is a purpose necessary? Sometimes team meetings have a dual purpose – they may provide information updates, but they may have an underlying purpose of checking in with the team and building channels of communication between team members. Making this purpose overt can help participants to feel empowered to raise any challenges they are facing in communication and relations with other attendees in the meeting.

Expressly setting out the intention of the meeting by sharing the purpose with attendees in advance provides clear guidance as to why they should invest their time in preparing for and attending the meeting. Spending a few minutes setting a purpose will also help guide you on what you are expecting from the meeting and if this purpose is achievable and clear. A vague purpose may trigger you to revisit the PRESSING ingredient of the toolbox – and allow you to avoid an unnecessary meeting.

  • Bec Ordish avatar
    Bec Ordish
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