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Meeting Types

Scheduled meetings occur regularly, while impromptu meetings arise by chance or as project conditions change. Some meetings are triggered by the project’s phase, such as the kickoff or closure meetings. Whatever their cause, all project meetings serve one of three purposes: to create value, to share information, or to find consensus, and they can be classified as collaborative, informative, or decisive meetings, respectively. Some events may blend types; for example, a two-day all-hands meeting could combine a presentation (informative meeting) with a tabletop exercise (collaborative meeting).

In collaborative meetings, all attendees have equal control over and input into the meeting’s outcome, regardless of their place in the organization’s hierarchy. Decisive meetings also empower their attendees, but senior management and sponsors may drive the outcomes. Informative meetings are mostly driven by the presenter and facilitator, and attendees have little control over the meeting’s format. (While daily stand-ups are a collaborative exchange of information, their format cannot be varied.)

Collaborative Meetings

Collaborative meetings bring a group together to work in unison to achieve a specific goal. The purpose is usually to generate value, such as customer feedback, prototypes, new ideas, or a solution to a problem. Collaborative meetings are primarily creative, and information flows in multiple directions. They work best when they are conducted in person and are kept small enough that everyone can communicate clearly and stay on task. Meetings with more than a dozen participants benefit from periodically forming small breakout groups for targeted discussion. The main formats are workshops, focus groups, brainstorming sessions, and joint application development/review (JAD or JAR) sessions.


Workshops are centered around a scheduled activity that all attendees should perform, such as a tabletop exercise or strategic planning session. Facilitated workshops are used to quickly define requirements (or some other aspect of the project) and reconcile the differences. This type of meeting requires a stakeholder balance, particularly if the project manager suspects that members will have opposing viewpoints. For example, accounts payable and accounts receivable may each think a different component of a financial application needs to be completed first. Workshops need a facilitator who can keep the group moving along but does not try to affect the decisions being made. While the project manager may facilitate a smaller group, it is often best to separate these roles because the project manager should be the voice of the project and may have to negotiate conflicting requirements.

For a workshop to succeed and not waste participants’ time, all attendees should take part in the activity (except for scribes). Project managers and facilitators should take care not to let the workshop spin into a presentation or demonstration led by one person or dominated by a small group. All lessons learned and group findings should be provided in written form as soon as possible after the workshop concludes.

Focus Groups

The purpose of a focus group is to conduct in-depth research within a small audience to better define a market or a set of requirements. It brings together SMEs and attendees, who may or may not be stakeholders, and gathers the attendees’ expectations and ideas around a particular project or result. Focus groups work best when they are limited to five to twelve participants, plus at least one facilitator and one SME. In between answering prepared questions, the attendees take open discussion time to share examples of use cases and give their views on success criteria.

Focus groups can also recruit external participants to represent a theoretical customer. In this style of group, the mock customers are presented with a product demo or concept, and the facilitator documents their honest reactions in a controlled way. After viewing the demo, the participants discuss the product’s pros and cons among each other. They may have one or more rounds of discussion, each facilitated (but not guided) by the moderator, before taking a final survey or other assessment. This style yields real-world insight into the product’s likely reception in the marketplace, and the conversational style allows more insight into opinions than surveys or other tools.


Brainstorming is a popular technique that inspires creative, associative, nonlinear thinking from the participants. Brainstorming is fast, informal, and usually fun; its purpose is to rapidly generate a large number of ideas in a short amount of time and then distill them into a workable list relating to an open-ended scenario or problem to solve, such as project risks or alternate approaches to a design issue. After the list is generated, its line items are analyzed to find the most feasible and discard the least workable. Like workshops, brainstorming sessions typically include SMEs, stakeholders, and team members. They also require facilitation to keep the meeting on track and constrained to its designated time block. Uncontrolled brainstorming sessions can waste time and generate more chaos and noise than value.

Joint Application Development/Joint Application Review Sessions

Joint application development (JAD) sessions, sometimes called joint application reviews, are a type of workshop in which the customer and the project team collaborate on software product design and review prototypes as they are developed. They were invented in the 1970s as a faster way to gather requirements and specifications than interviews, and they are easily adapted to both Agile and predictive projects.

The mandatory JAD roles are the facilitator, an executive sponsor, SMEs, business users, and a scribe. The executive sponsor is the ultimate decision-maker who owns the results. Each JAD session has a defined set of objectives, an agenda, documentation, and a schedule of activities and exercises. Because JAD sessions can run from a full day to a week or more, they require an outlay of time and budget, can be difficult to coordinate, and can become overly complex for nontechnical users. Their advantage is generating prototypes with direct customer involvement and less rework or rejection.

Informative Meetings

Informative meetings are meant to convey project details, persuade an audience, or provide training in a process or tool. Meetings in this category place more limits on back-and-forth interaction between the presenter and attendees. Information primarily flows one way, from the presenter to the attendees, except during questions or feedback. Stakeholders and team members are expected to evaluate the information as it is presented, minimize chatter, and ask questions only during designated timeboxes so that the meeting stays on track. The meeting should produce an informed audience that can form opinions about how much value the product or initiative poses.

Unlike collaborative meetings, informative meetings can be easily scaled to hundreds or even thousands of participants by renting a convention facility or providing a virtual meeting link. They are an effective way to coordinate knowledge, sell products, or roll out new products or company initiatives. However, they run the risk of low audience engagement.


Demonstrations show the functions or features of the product or project results. They are one of the most valuable ways for Agile projects to align actual project results with the customer’s requirements and gather the feedback needed to guide the next iteration or sprint. This type of meeting requires more discussion time to go over the customer’s reaction and would be followed by a product refinement meeting. Regular demonstrations should be scheduled in the communication plan. However, demonstrations apply to any project methodology and are a primary avenue for product sales.

Presentations share information about the project or product, usually in the form of slides, charts, graphics, project dashboards, audio-visual files, graphs, and project documents. Presentations are used to share schedule and budget progress (or lack of progress), threats/opportunities, issues, burndown charts, and so on. Online webinars are a classic example of an externally focused presentation.


Daily stand-up meetings are a key Agile tool and a core component that makes the Agile team align rapidly to shifting requirements. Stand-ups require that the project team members report on their individual progress and align their daily priorities at a high level. Each team member takes turns reporting the prior day’s accomplishments and pain points. They may note issues that need later follow-up, but the strength of a stand-up is its brevity: the goal it to limit the session to 15 minutes. Stand-ups were originally developed as part of the scrum methodology, but because they are an easy, flexible format that adapts to any type of project, they can be part of any project framework.


Project status meetings are scheduled in the communication plan, which should also include a template for their agenda and an attendee list. They are not intended to resolve issues or discuss any one point in depth but rather to align project knowledge. They should present a summary of the progress made since the last report, such as milestones reached or deliverables completed. Status meetings are ideal for low-information stakeholders who want to be kept informed but are not responsible for project work.

Decisive Meetings

Decisive meetings are held to make a decision about the project's next steps and then formulate the action to take. They may require additional project documents related to the flexion point, such as change request forms or the issue log, the project scope baseline, or the schedule. They also require a clear agenda so that everyone who enters the meeting knows its purpose and their personal level of authority over the decision. It is important to document the action items generated from these meetings and distribute them to the correct team members so that the decision is carried out.

Because decision requires consensus, the meeting should be small enough to facilitate open discussion. It is unlikely that a large number of people all have the power to weigh in on a project decision; the project documents should list the person with final decision-making authority if there is no easy consensus.

Change control board meetings, which were covered in Chapter 3, “Change Control Process Throughout the Project Life Cycle,” are a type of decisive meeting.


Refinement meetings, also referred to as backlog refinement meetings, are a scrum meeting type that decomposes the highest priority backlog items into user stories for inclusion in the next sprint. They also help the team prioritize the backlog in the first place and to insert new items by their relative priority. Items near the bottom of the list are least relevant, may be vaguely worded (“This seems like a good idea at some point”), and may be pruned away during refinement.

Task Setting

Task-setting meetings decide which tasks or activities the team will focus on in the next timebox and then assign the tasks to the appropriate team member. This can be done during a daily scrum meeting or whenever a new action item is found. If tasks are set during an ad hoc meeting, the manager should send a follow-up communication to document the request.

Sprint planning meetings, also referred to as iteration planning meetings, are task-setting meetings in which the project team decides how much of the backlog can be delivered in the forthcoming iteration.

Project Steering Committee Meeting

Also referred to as a stakeholder board meeting, a project steering committee meeting is held regularly to ensure project success and goal achievement and to provide governance from start to finish. Its purpose is to identify the next steps that will keep the project moving forward successfully. If the organization includes a PMO, it will be part of this meeting. The project steering committee usually controls the project’s budget and is authorized to make project decisions that are outside the project team’s authority.

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