Painting by: Joos de Momper (II) (1564–1635). Image by: PaulineM

Types of Meetings

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”
As You Like it. undefined William Shakespeare

Every day we play many roles, both: formal and informal, major and minor, task and relationship. And the more roles that you play, the more likely it is that you will say the right thing at the right time. Remember, you can be a star on the stage of work or a bit player. Bit players never get noticed. But stars play many roles allowing them to create high performance teams, run better meetings and, and make better decisions. 
To be the star on the stage of business, you must have a deep understanding of:

  • Meeting Processes, 
  • Types of Groups, and 
  • Social Roles (both major and minor).

Factors Affecting Group Communication

Group communication is extremely complex and there are many different factors impacting group communication (Gorse, et. al., 2006).

Type of Group. There are many different type of groups. Some such as reference groups have a huge influence on our thinking — even shaping our values. While others such as Some like a family will hold together for many years while others such as a project team are time limited.

Group Size. On the aspect of size, we have a lower limit of two people and an upper limit of millions. The communication patterns displayed during interpersonal communication when two people are talking are very different from those in a group of three or more. And the communication patterns shown in a group of five, a quite different then the group of ten, fifty or hundred.

Group Organization. Some groups are organized to communicate a certain type of way. Let’s take a look at a simple network model. As you see even a very small group of five that can be of varying pattern of communication between members.

Group Task. In this case, the communication patterns one sees in a mob are quite different seen in people waiting for bus. 

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication. Some groups tend to communicate more nonverbally than they do verbally. A perfect example of this is a basketball game. There has to be a set of nonverbal communications between members in terms of when the ball gets passed.

Let’s take the example a group of individuals on an assembly line. Their ability to communicate maybe limited by management, since everyone is expected to put their total attention on assembling the product. Or they may be free to carry on informal conversation while they’re working. In any case, the communication tends to be the person on the right and the person on the left.

The Three Major Types of Meetings

Typically, you’ll see three types of meetings:

Information Giving. The first type is where the chair or the leader just provides information. For example, a manager provides news, a teacher provides concepts and a preacher offers salvation.

Information Receiving. This is the reverse of information giving. So in this case, the chair focuses on receiving information from the group. Since American meeting leaders tend to be extroverts who to take joy at hearing themselves talk, this type of meeting is not as common as informational giving. 

Problem Solving. Communication patterns are extremely complicated than the simpler roles played when one is giving information or receiving information. During problem solving meetings, three processes go on simultaneously:

The Communication Process. The first one is the communication process use by members. This process often runs unconsciously and so very few people pay attention to it. Big mistake. 

Meeting Process. The second process, is also often undefined since many meetings run without an agenda. Often people walk into a meeting confused on why they are there.

Problem Solving Process. And finally, the last process affecting communication is the problem-solving process (or lack there of). Again in many groups this process is vague and ill-defined. In fact, you might find that most people don’t even understand the difference between a problem and a decision.

Image by Murray Johannsen. From a Training Program he developed on How to Use Basic Problem Solving Tools

Measuring Communication Effectiveness

How you define effectiveness, depends on your purpose. Let’s say your purpose is to inform. In that case one can measure the ability of people to comprehend your message. A simple way would be to send out a written message and then ask a question in a meeting. Of course, asking a question has its limitations. Most members won’t want to admit that they didn’t read the message or didn’t understand it.

One can also try to measure confusion. It’s amazing how often people and groups are confused but fail to say anything. This happens many times in every meeting. And of course, there are certain types of meetings where the audience is almost always confused, almost all a time. Think about when you’re a student listening to professor’s lecture.

Another type of purpose has to do with persuasion. Different people define persuasion differently. 

Why can also indirectly measure effectiveness of group communication by the actions taken by group members. However, the realm of action also depends on other factors such as human motivation.

Cool Stuff on Group Communication

Glengary Glen Ross (1992)

This is a tale of the more nasty side of groups in business. The focus is on four real estate agents who will use about any persuasive tool they can, legal and illegal) to close. One gets a feel for why there are so many victims out there and who easy it is to persuade.

12 Angry Men (1957)

You are stuck with a twelve strangers you would rather not be with. It’s very hot in the room and a decision has to be made whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. Almost everyone present wants to leave.The first vote is taken and it’s eleven to one — you being the only one to vote innocent. What to do?

A jury has a foreman, but that person may or may not be the real leader of the group. In this movie, emerging leader Juror 8 (played by Henry Fonda) rather than caving to peer pressure, uses a number of different techniques to get the others in the room to reconsider their positions.

Through the cleaver use of subtle patterns of persuasion and questions, Fonda emerges as the de facto leader of the group. After watching this leadership movie, you may want

Work Skills For the 21st Century