Meetings to convey information should be different than those to get input or make decisions, which in turn should be different than those to generate breakthrough new ideas or solutions. Deliver those different outcomes with different types of meetings:

1. Level One Meetings: One-way presentations to convey information.

2. Level Two Meetings: Two-way conversations to get input and make decisions. Better approach to most meetings.

3. Level Three Meetings: Joint sense making. Curated co-creation or problem solving.

In any case, work through context, objective, approach, connecting and impact.


Start by understanding the meeting’s place as a point in time on the broader journey. No one meets for the sake of meeting. You meet to present, converse or engage in joint sense making on the way to something else. Each meeting matters only in the context of what happens before and after the meeting. Get clear on those before starting to plan your meeting.


Get all aligned around a single objective for the meeting: the change you’re trying to make or the problem you’re trying to solve and why it matters at this stage of the journey.

If you’re not clear on the objective of the meeting, don’t schedule it.

If you get to a meeting and the objective is not clear, leave.


Think through your approach to the meeting or sub-sets of the meeting. As appropriate, consider leading with a hypothesis around your current best thinking. Then set up a juxtaposition of inputs to create a dialogue. If everyone’s going to agree with everything, you don’t really need to have a meeting. Value is created out of creative tension.

This is where the meeting level comes to play:

• Presentations are acceptable (but often boring) for level one meetings to convey information.

• Level two conversations are better for learning and crucial if you need input or decisions.

• Level three joint sense making generally requires a more structured co-creation or problem solving approach, perhaps offsite to hatch breakthroughs.

Then get all aligned around principles for how to conduct your meeting (which should look a lot like the principles for how you operate in general). These may take the form of guidelines or ground rules. Format doesn’t matter. What does matter is agreeing how you’re going to communicate and behave.

Possible simplified ground rules:

• Learn with in and out listening, giving yourself permission to take short mental breaks, and then being fully present while you’re “in.”

• Contribute by leading with headlines and telling back-up stories only when asked.

• Decide 80/20, getting the 20% of decisions that have 80% of the impact 80% vaguely right.


Webster defines meeting as “an act or process of coming together”. Thus, the core is the coming together — connecting. You can facilitate this by:

1. Suggesting pre-reading or pre-work to prompt thinking in advance,

2. Clarifying expectations for learning, contributions and decisions by agenda item,

3. Enabling joint interpretation, sense making and problem solving as appropriate.

A thought on pre-reading and introverts and extraverts.

• Extraverts like me think with our mouths. We like to engage in debate and discussion with others to refine our thinking.

• Hard as this is for extraverts like me to understand, introverts like to think with their brains. They prefer to mull things over themselves before engaging in a debate.

Thus it doesn’t really make a difference whether or not you give pre-reading to extraverts. While we may scan what you send us, we won’t engage until the meeting.

On the other hand, pre-reading makes a huge difference to introverts. It gives them a chance to get mentally prepared before the meeting so they can contribute their best in the meetings.


If you don’t care about impact, have a cocktail party. If you do care, drive to a current best solution, decision or action steps by the end of the meeting. Then follow through to prepare for and implement the next steps in the journey.