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Informal Vs. Formal Work Meetings



How effective are meetings? While a staple of corporate culture, many meetings could be more practical and a better use of time. Many companies schedule too many meetings during the month, affecting employee productivity and compromising morale. A business can improve morale and limit the disruption caused by informal and formal meetings.


What is a formal meeting at work versus an informal meeting? Each meeting type has pros and cons, but they can lead to greater productivity and efficiency when used in tandem.


Informal Vs. Formal Work Meetings


Informal meetings are more casual and less structured than formal meetings. The format is looser and more flexible, and the environment can be very different. It is not uncommon to have an informal meeting in a breakroom or bar.


That said, informal meetings still have some rules or structure. For example, a group might agree to rules like voice votes. Also, the meeting might have a scheduled time block, but it can run longer or shorter depending on the conversation and progress. Typical examples of informal meetings include:


  • Training sessions

  • Problem-solving meetings

  • Post-formal meeting discussions 

A formal meeting at work is more structured, with a set agenda and strict protocol. Usually, an appointed individual leads the meeting, and another individual takes notes. The meeting may also have rules about who can speak and when.


Typically, a formal meeting is broken into time blocks, and attendees receive a schedule in advance. The meetings can feel old-fashioned, but they still serve a purpose. Some examples of typical formal meetings include:


  • Board meetings

  • Departmental meetings

  • Quarterly reviews



Pros and Cons of Informal Meetings


What is an informal meeting at work, and what are its pros and cons? The informal or casual meeting is a valuable tool that allows attendees to speak freely. The open style of the meeting has several advantages over formal meetings, including:


  • Flexibility

  • Brainstorming

  • Creativity


Unfortunately, the loosey-goosey style of the meeting can make the format unpredictable. People may break off on a tangent and never really address the points they intended to at the start of the meeting. Also, since the meeting is more casual, there are no formal minutes, which means good ideas may get lost in the ether.


Pros and Cons of Formal Meetings


Formal meetings have the benefits of structure, predictability, and recorded minutes, but the lack of flexibility can stifle creativity. Without the ability to pivot or divert from the schedule, the group might lose momentum on a specific discussion point because the scheduled time for that point runs out.


Formal meetings are best for disseminating information, holding recorded votes, or featuring guest speakers. Informal meetings are better for brainstorming, problem-solving, and encouraging creative discussion.



Best Practices and Tips for Each Type of Meeting


Each meeting type includes best practices and tools to make the most out of employee time. For formal meetings:


  • Send out an advanced meeting agenda

  • Set parameters and expectations for attendees

  • Use an experienced notetaker

  • Send a copy of the minutes and related information after the meeting


Several tools can benefit formal meetings. Some of the most common include pens and notepads, screen-sharing software, a stopwatch or timer, and video-conferencing software.


An informal meeting is looser than a formal one but can benefit from a few practices. Some standard best practices include:


  • Agreed-upon conventions

  • Loose schedule

  • Moderator or facilitator

  • Notetaker

An informal investigation meeting at work can also benefit from several tools. Many tools are the same as formal meeting tools, but additional ones include collaboration software and document-sharing tools.


To avoid the drawbacks of too many meetings, a company can adopt a mixture of formal and informal meetings. Consult a business management specialist to learn more.

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