The new State of Meetings Report 2019 published by online meeting scheduling company Doodle, combines survey data and insights gleaned from the company's vast database to shed light on the state of modern business meetings. Buried in all the charts about meeting length, poor practices, and personal preferences, there's one illuminating statistic.

It highlights why all this time, money, and effort gets funneled into what often turns out to be a collective snoozefest. From the study:

What kinds of meetings are we having? We analysed data from over 10 million meetings arranged on our platform in 2018 to find out the most commonly used words when arranging meetings with colleagues and clients. 
What do we call a meeting?

  • US/UK - Meeting
  • Spain/France - Réunion
  • Germany - Meeting, Sitzung
  • Switzerland - Meeting, Sitzung, Réunion, Rinunione
  • Brazil - Réuniao
  • Italy - Riunione

Now you know how to say the word "meeting" in six Western languages. 

In the decade that I've spent researching meetings, I've learned that there are 16 distinct types of business meetings that work. Sadly, this study tells us nothing about what kind of meetings were actually held. In every language, the word "meeting" is understood to mean both "a gathering of two or more people to discuss common interests" and "a boring, obligatory blight on my calendar that keeps me from doing other work."

Meetings are necessary, but the word "meeting" screams boring. 

So here's the secret: Eliminate the word "meeting" from your calendar. Literally, ban the word "meeting" from how you invest your team's time. Saying you'll have a "meeting" is not clear enough, and it's not inspiring. 

Here are three strategies for finding a name that will stand out.

1. Call it like it is.

Are you scheduling an interview? A strategic planning session? A one-on-one? If you're planning one of these instantly recognizable types of meetings, use that as the title to change how your invitees perceive the event. The anticipation we all feel going into an interview is totally different than the excitement we muster when contemplating our next "meeting."

That's the simplest approach. To stand out, identify exactly what kind of meeting you're scheduling and use that as the name. 

2. Bestow a culturally meaningful name. 

Companies that operate using the Great Game of Business management methodology don't run a weekly team meeting. They have a Huddle. These companies name their meetings to reflect a culture full of sports metaphors and a dedication to winning as a team. 

Startups across the globe don't hold staff metings. They have town halls (invoking the sense of community), or weekly briefings (focusing on the pulse of information). Teams using Lean practices to continuously improve their operations don't hold process improvement meetings. They run Kaizen Events--simply a specialized way of running a process improvement meeting, but doesn't it sound way cooler?

Using a culturally relevant name for your meeting signals that you've got a plan. You're not inviting people to a free-for-all gabfest; you're dedicating time as a group to walk through a step-by-step process that delivers results. 

3. Focus on the action.

Finally, for those times when you're not sure what kind of meeting you need and you don't have a culturally-rooted name to use, consider using the meeting purpose as the meeting name.

The meeting purpose is typically stated as a verb, and it answers the question "Why does the group need to meet?"

To figure out the purpose of your next meeting, fill in the blank.
We need to meet to _________________.

Examples:

  • Decide who to hire
  • Review our progress and adjust the plan
  • Brainstorm marketing ideas
  • Finalize the plan 

With just a few tweaks, each of those purpose statements serves as a more inspiring, interesting, and informative event name than the same event called a "meeting."

For example, at my company, our project managers rename each of their project status meetings to highlight the big new development each week. Clients always show up when we invite them to "Get a demo and decide what to change" on their projects. Status meetings? Eh, not so much.

Those of you who take this challenge on will discover two things.

First, you'll have a more interesting looking calendar--and you'll find that you and your team are more interested in how you can use the time you spend together well. Second, you'll have fewer meetings, because anything that's too poorly planned to warrant an interesting name will get cut.

On both fronts, you'll see that this small practice has a big ripple impact. When you stop to think about it, meetings can be pretty darn interesting after all. 

Published on: Jan 28, 2019