7 reasons for one-on-one conversations instead of meetings

Posted on Posted in General, Meetings

Two people constitute a conversation, any more and it’s a meeting.

This distinction isn’t trivial. When a third person enters the fray, the nature of the interaction changes.

Might the meeting you have scheduled be more effective as a series of conversations?

It might. That’s because conversations are:

  1. Easier to schedule. More attendees make timing less flexible and some attendees are bound to get shafted with an inconvient time for them. Conversations make it more likely you’ll find a time that’s convenient for both people.
  2. Easier to decline. Meeting invitations feel like you’ve been subpoenaed to court…your presence is mandatory. Conversations feel more informal. It’s more socially acceptable to decline.
  3. Easier to exit. Leaving a meeting early can be socially akward. Even when the meeting runs over time, it can feel rude or inappropriate to stand up and exit in front of the other attendees. All it takes to end a conversation is a throat clear and the mention of another appointment.
  4. More personal. In a conversation your energy and attention is focused on just one person. This undivided attention can lead to interactions that are more candid, direct, and meaningful.
  5. Less political. Intelligent individuals can act like idiots in groups. The presence of an audience makes diversions, grandstanding, and blame more likely. Their tends to be less of those behaviors in conversations. I didn’t say none, I said less.
  6. Not weapons of mass interruptions.
  7. Less influenced by groupthink. In a meeting, people model their opinions off what the others in the meeting say (especially superiors). If you want the most genuine and effective feedback from people, one on one is best.

Conversations can take more work. They may not be the most convenient route (especially for the initiator), but if your primary goal is convenience…

maybe you need to rethink your priorities.

6 thoughts on “7 reasons for one-on-one conversations instead of meetings

  1. ¿how can I penetrate the diferents with this? Each country is a culture with pros and cons. Please, Send me information about a process for a incorportate this ideas.

  2. Al, this is the one point of yours that I struggle with the most. The series of one-on-one conversations vs. the small meeting.

    My mind goes to a meeting we had recently where 4 of us met to discuss what the process for regular approval of home page design was going to be. The meeting took just under an hour and we were able to talk through the options, give our preferences, make concessions, and be done. We agreed. The coordinator of the meeting summarized afterward. And that’s now the process.

    It seems that if the coordinator had tired to have individual conversations, then come back to inform us of the conflicts, and got our concessions, that it wouldn’t have saved us time in the long run at all.

    I don’t know that I believe it would have made the meeting any shorter had the coordinator made a decision about the process before calling us together.

    I WANT to make this move, but it still seems that there is a place for what you classify as a traditional meeting.

    1. Saving time isn’t always the point. It’s about creating a culture of decisiveness, that doesn’t constantly succumb to compromise and delay. If you guys are able to have effective meetings where group decisions are reached promptly, then that’s just fine.

      1. So then, there is some grace in this for meetings where decisions are actually made? I don’t think I’ve caught that in your writing to this point.

        1. Although I speak pretty emphatically about the Modern Meeting Standard…at it’s heart it’s really just a posture. It’s not a one size fits all approach. As long as your meeting culture is enabling progress, speed, and intelligent (and gutsy) decision making, that’s the point.

          If on the other hand, you’re culture is plagued by indecisiveness, excessive meetings, or compromise (I find that most are to some extent)…time to try something different.

Comments are closed.