Formal vs. Informal Meetings

Formal vs. Informal Meetings

A guide to pioneer your formal and informal meetings

Meetings are an important part of the corporate world. In recent times, important discussion making has shifted from the boardrooms to our laptop screens. Online meetings have become an efficient platform for exchanging views, opinions and reaching solutions. In the era of online meetings, it is essential for one to know the difference between formal and informal meetings and how the dynamics change when you move from an informal environment to that of a formal one.

Informal meetings majorly focus on exchanging views or information. These are spontaneous meetings that are usually conducted during ideation and implementation stages where teams come together to brainstorm ideas and come up with strategies benefitting the organization. These meetings may or may not have time constraints.


The etiquette of formal meetings

Formal meetings are well planned in advance and are conducted at the stage of culminating organizational decisions. Formal meetings cover pre-planned agendas and umbrella tasks assigned to an individual or a team that are recorded in the ‘minutes of the meeting’ or ‘meeting record’, a document which is later shared with the attendees upon conclusion of the meeting. 

Some of the must-follow laws to ace formal meetings include :

Scheduling a meeting beforehand
One should always plan and schedule formal meetings a week or two prior to the event. Meeting invites should be sent to attendees beforehand so as to allow them to manage time out from their schedules to attend the meeting or even prepare for it in advance. To keep the time in the meeting productive and focused, attendees will need to come prepared. They'll need time to review the agenda, read any reports, and consider the questions they'll ask.


Creating agendas ahead of the meeting
Meetings should not be conducted just for the sake of it. It is important to have well-defined plans. Make a list of issues to be discussed at the time of the meeting. Make sure you do not deviate from the key points and aim to keep the meetings succinct. Time spent in planning an agenda will likely save time for all meeting participants by providing a clear set of topics, objectives, and time frames.

Moderating the meeting to ensure it is on track

Imagine yourself as the architect of a virtual meeting.

  • Brief the attendees on the Agenda: Brief the attendees on the flow/structure/proceeding of the meeting to glide through your meetings. Set an easy structure to your meeting containing your greetings, agenda, discussion time, A.O.B., etc.
  • Keep a track of time: Employees are generally not very excited about business meetings as they can interrupt the workflow. Put in extra effort to start and end your meetings on time. Track whether each discussion point is being covered in its allotted time duration.
  • Keep a track of your Agenda items: Having a detailed agenda can reduce meeting time up to 80%. Once clear with the purpose, you can create an agenda and attempt to stick to the written pointers. Send the schedule to the attendees beforehand to have a clear idea about the conference and prepare for it. Doing so will save time and also help attendees to prepare for it.
  • Set the right tone and atmosphere: It is crucial to set the right tone for the meeting. Decide how you want your business meetings to be. It can be formal or informal. Create an atmosphere of mutual respect. Actively listen to the participants and respect their views and ideas. Change the atmosphere if it seems essential. Formal meetings are often a tedious affair.
  • Do post-meeting follow-ups: Contact attendees after the meeting, provide a recap of the meeting and thank them for participating. Solicit feedback and tell them you are willing to answer any questions they might have. This can help reinforce that they attended a valuable meeting.


The shenanigans of informal meetings

Although Informal meetings are generally more relaxed, even so, a sense of professionalism and apt documentation is required for teammates to refer to while moving ahead with the task. It also helps to evaluate the outcome of the meeting. 

Here are a few points to consider with informal meetings :

Never be late for meetings. Turning up late for a meeting speaks volumes about one’s professional order. If you would not be able to attend a meeting, make an effort to register an apology and let the other attendees know that you respect their time.

Be concise. Have you ever wanted to bang your head on a wall when the guy across the table will just not get to the point? Don’t be that guy. Ask your question or say what you need to as succinctly and clearly as possible.

Don't Zone Out. It can be a challenge to stay engaged in boring meetings, but it can be disastrous to zone out, let alone insulting. Participating actively can help you stay engaged and focused. If you can't participate, listen actively and take notes.

Speaking Etiquette. Urge to interrupt can be quite definite at times but waiting for the meeting to open for discussion is an undeniable solution. Wait for your turn to present your points and listen to others patiently while they present theirs.

Meetings can feel like a waste of time, and sometimes they are. At their best, though, meetings can bring people together around a common goal and improve your business. To ensure you get the best out of your meetings, following certain guidelines never hurts. Certain approaches that remain common to both formal and informal meetings are - 

  • Dress for your meetings. Look tidy. A sight of unkempt hair and messy background is only a distraction for the fellow attendees.
  • Have a quick healthy round of greetings. This would set a positive tone to the meeting right in the beginning and also familiarize people with each other, in case there are any new attendees to the group.

Lastly, be flexible. You can’t control everything, so do your best to put the attendees at ease. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. And, above all, have fun!



Effective Meetings

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