The 7 Purposes of a Meeting

As an association leader, what are your thoughts about the transformational role that meetings can have in advancing your organizational objectives?

I say can have because meetings are often seen as anything but transformational.  For too many people “meetings” is synonymous with boring, time-consuming, soul-sucking gatherings.  For the media, meetings and conferences too often are how politicians and bureaucrats waste our tax dollars.  And for too many association executives, Board Meetings are something to be endured rather than embraced.

Organizations like Meeting Professionals International have been fighting this perception for years with campaigns like Meetings Mean Business and When We Meet We Change the World.

But in this crazy-busy, hyper-connected and fragmented world, it’s easy to lose sight of meetings’ true purpose.   It is up to each and every one of us to ensure that the meetings we organize are purposeful.

Because, at the end of the day, does the theme of the conference, the taste of the food or the quality the AV presentation even matter if the people at the meeting didn’t connect – to the material, to the presenter, to the organization, to each other?

And speaking of purpose, when was the last time you thought about your next meeting’s purpose?  A few years ago, Marriott Hotels conducted research that identified seven distinct purposes to a meeting.  Some meetings of course may have multiple purposes:

  • TO CELEBRATE: This is when the event is to commemorate a milestone or accomplishment.
  • TO DECIDE: With this objective, the event should focus on meaningful dialogue so an outcome or direction can be initiated.
  • TO EDUCATE: When the meeting objective is to impart knowledge, where participants learn new things or acquire new skills.
  • TO IDEATE: I prefer to call this objective to innovate or generate new ideas, develop new ways of thinking or doing things.
  • TO NETWORK: This is when the objective is to meet and get to know people, often with a mind towards a transaction or exchange.
  • TO PRODUCE: When the objective calls for people to collaborate to towards a specific goal or develop a specific output.
  • TO PROMOTE: Related to or following the networking objective, this objective is to introduce a new offering (product, service) or promote a new idea or message.

I have been working with and dissecting the above purposes ever since I read about the research, and been unable to come up with any other true, positive purpose that focuses on the human interaction (hint: making money isn’t a purpose).  Can you?

In our upcoming series on #PurposefulMeetings, it is my intent to explore different ways we can all plan and produce business events that fulfill their purpose in an engaging and meaningful way.  If you have any questions, suggestions or challenges, drop me a line!  I love to discuss, exchange and debate… So reach out at

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