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The Glossary of Meeting Terms describes terminology and acronyms related to meetings and all the activities we do in those meetings. We've gathered this information from far and wide, so enjoy! And hey — if you have corrections or additions, please don't hesitate to contact us!

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A

Accountability is the acknowledgment of responsibility for getting things done and then reporting back to the group about results. Leaders encourage accountability in meetings by:

Ensuring participants actively engage and contribute to meeting results, creating joint ownership for meeting outcomes. Assigning clear action items with a named owner and due date. Sending out meeting notes so everyone can see and remember the commitments made during the meeting. Following up after the...

Action items describe a discrete task that must be accomplished, usually by a single individual. Action items have a limited scope that can typically be accomplished in one to two weeks. The standard format for action items assigned during meetings documents Who, What, and When.

Who: ideally one person who takes responsibility for making sure the task gets done. What: a short description of the task. Descriptions that start with a verb work best. For example, "Review the project plan...

The agenda is the version of the meeting plan shared with meeting attendees. A meeting agenda may include a list of topics to discuss, a sequence of planned activities, or both. The simplest agendas are formatted as a short bulleted list. More complicated agendas may include detailed topic descriptions, including the expected outcomes for each item and reference material, such as reports and proposals for review prior to the meeting. Formal agendas will also include timing and presenter...

Attendance is the act of being present (at a meeting or event, etc.). Attendance is often tracked and reported in meeting records. For some meetings, a predetermined percentage of participants (called a quorum) must be in attendance before the meeting can start. In some organizations, meeting attendance is required to qualify for additional privileges such as voting rights or the right to participate in special events.

B

Organizers seek to achieve balance in meetings by ensuring people representing differing opinions, perspectives, and interests all have an opportunity to participate. Balance is a requirement for many non-profit and public sector meetings, where organizers must actively seek to include participants who represent diverse interests. For example, an organization working to create safety standards will include people who represent for-profit companies, government agencies, non-profit...

C

A meeting cadence is a pattern of regular team meetings. Short, frequent meetings increase a team's work momentum. Groups that provide oversight, such as boards and committees, hold longer meetings less frequently.

The chair (also chairperson, chairwoman or chairman) is the highest elected officer of an organized group such as a board, a committee, or a deliberative assembly. In formal meetings, the chair is responsible for driving the meeting content. The chair leads preparation of the meeting agenda, opens the meeting, and works to keep the conversation focused, engaging, and balanced. The chair is also responsible for managing the formal business of the meeting, such as recognizing speakers and...

Cognitive Biases are mental shortcuts we each make to help us make decisions in the face of ambiguity, overwhelming options, and limited time. Researchers believe cognitive biases have evolved so we can make mostly-correct decisions quickly, allowing us to survive, grow, and adapt to the most common challenges everyone encounters. These biases, though, often lead people in the complex modern world to jump to incorrect conclusions. Effective meeting designs will work to combat cognitive...

Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve a mutual goal or business benefit. Team meetings can be designed to encourage collaboration by providing opportunities for everyone to contribute to a shared result during the meeting. Poorly executed meetings, on the other hand, inhibit collaboration by emphasizing power dynamics, stifling discussion, and boring people.

In a complex decision-making situation, there is no obviously correct choice. Instead, there are multiple answers that warrant further experimentation before committing to a single approach.

Teams may use a compromise approach to making a decision when they can't agree on a single answer. The facilitator helps the team identify all points that they agree on to form the basis of the decision. Then, focusing only on the specific areas of disagreement, the team seeks an alternate approach, or compromise, that everyone can live with.

A conference room is a dedicated space for events such as business conference calls and meetings.

Consensus is a decision-making approach that seeks to secure the support of the whole group for the decision at hand. Many people believe that consensus is the same thing as unanimous agreement, but this is not necessarily the case. Unanimity is when everyone agrees. Consensus is when no one disagrees.

A specific definition of consensus may be spelled out in a team's ground rules or operating agreements. When the definition isn't clear in advance, facilitators recommend clarifying...

Conflict is when there is some form of friction, disagreement, or discord within a group. Conflict can arise when people perceive opposition to their ideas, values, or opinions. Many meetings are designed to encourage constructive conflict, where participants talk openly and respectfully about these disagreements in a mutual attempt to understand each other's perspectives and create the best possible solution. Meeting facilitators are trained to recognize the difference between constructive...

A consulting decision-making meeting involves a group that provides information and advice to one or more designated decision makers. The appointed decision maker(s) then take responsibility for making the final decision. There are several ways to run a meeting that consults to the decision maker. In some cases, the group will meet to discuss the decision separately and then provide a written report to the decision maker. In other cases, the group discusses the decision in the decision maker...

The classic structure for group decision-making meetings includes these phases: Diverge -> Emerge - > Converge.

Convergent thinking is the opposite of divergent thinking. Instead of creating a lot of new ideas, convergent thinking works to focus in on the "right" idea. When a group makes a decision and outlines next steps, they are converging around a single idea.

Cultural differences impact how people from different countries, socio-economic groups, and other distinct societal systems interact in meetings. For example, some cultures prize direct discussions and vigorous debate while others value ritual, formality, and polite discourse. People from different cultures may have different expectations about work deadlines and communication patterns. When leading a meeting with participants from different cultures, effective leaders make plans that take...

D

The classic structure for group decision-making meetings includes these phases: Diverge -> Emerge - > Converge.

Divergent Thinking describes thought processes and methods used to generate creative ideas by exploring a wide variety of ideas and perspectives. Many group meetings include activities designed to spur divergent thinking. The most famous example is brainstorming, where a group comes up with as many different ideas as possible.

Divergence can also refer to the...

E

In a meeting context, engagement describes the attention level of attendees and how much they participate in the meeting's activities. A participant's engagement is easiest to see when they are speaking or actively working in a group activity. People listening attentively may also be highly engaged.

Often it is easier to detect when a participant is disengaged. Signs of disengagement include multitasking, interrupting or holding side conversations, reading reports or email during the...

F

A face-to-face meeting is one where all the participants are physically in the same place. In other words, a face-to-face meeting is what everyone used to just call "a meeting" before the advent of conference calls and web conferencing. Now, meetings can be characterized as face-to-face (with everyone colocated), virtual (with most all participants joining from separate locations), or hybrid (some participants colocated, others joining from different locations).

Facilitation is the work involved in designing and running a successful meeting. To facilitate literally means "to make the process easy." Facilitation skills include:

Planning an appropriate process for a specific meeting Engaging the group during the meeting and maintaining a positive participatory environment Ensuring the meeting produces the desired outcomes and deliverables

The term facilitator can refer to a person's profession or their role in a specific meeting.

Professional facilitators are trained to design and lead meetings for teams and groups. A professional facilitator works for and with a leader to plan the meeting in advance, prepare the venue, materials, and conduct any pre-work, and to guide the group through the meeting. Facilitators focus on managing the meeting process and helping every participant engage successfully. Most facilitators...

Facipulation is the sneaky underhanded application of facilitation techniques used in an attempt to manipulate a group towards a pre-determined outcome. Facipulation is basically tricking people into thinking they had a choice, when you were really cleverly steering the meeting to make sure you got your way all along.

This is a common concern expressed by non-facilitators, who may worry that intentionally designing meetings to achieve desired outcomes will box participants into...

Facilitators and leaders ask for meeting feedback so they can work to improve future meetings. Asking for feedback helps the leader improve and sends a message about the importance of meeting quality to meeting participants. Meeting feedback is typically collected just before ending the meeting, as the last or next to last item on the agenda, or directly following the meeting using a meeting feedback form. When collected and reviewed over time, meeting feedback can give managers insight into...

A flip chart consists of a series of large pieces of paper which are attached at the top and which are used to present information to an audience by turning over one piece of paper at a time. Flip charts are used during meetings to present the agenda and for visual note taking. In professionally facilitated meetings, there may be separate flip charts dedicated to capturing ideas, actions, parking lot items, and other content relevant to the meeting. Groups that meet electronically use...

Meeting follow up includes the activities conducted after the meeting. Right after the meeting, the meeting organizer follows up by sending out meeting notes and collecting feedback. If the meeting resulted in action items or other plans, the leader may also schedule a dedicated follow-up meeting to check progress.

G

Ground rules detail the code of conduct for a meeting, explaining the behavior that's expected of all meeting participants. Ideally, ground rules are created and agreed to by the people participating in the meeting, because groups more easily accept and abide by rules they've set themselves.

Workshop facilitators often establish ground rules at the beginning of the workshop. Established teams, boards, and committees may also adopt a set of standing ground rules that cover all of their...

H

A hybrid meeting refers to the physical location of participants. In a hybrid meeting, a subset of the people attending the meeting is located together in the same place. Other participants join the meeting by conference call or web conference. For facilitators, hybrid meetings are some of the most difficult meetings to manage as you can neither rely on everyone having access to the meeting technology nor on people all using sticky notes or other tangible resources. Experts on remote...

I

An Introduction is a formal presentation of one person to another, including the exchange of names. Meetings that involve people who don't know each other often start with introductions, which may be as simple as going around the room and sharing names. Alternatively, some meetings will start with an icebreaker activity that incorporates basic introductions. Ideally, the kind of introductions used in the meeting will be appropriate to the meeting's purpose.

An invitation is a request or attempt to get another person to join an event such as a meeting. An effective meeting invitation includes details about when and where the meeting will be held, and information about the meeting's purpose, desired outcomes, and any recommended preparation that should be completed beforehand.

An Issue is an area of concern or uncertainty that impacts a team's ability to make progress. Teams identify issues during meetings, then work to find solutions.

Project teams and leadership teams will often create an issues list that they review and update during regular meetings. When the team identifies a possible resolution to an issue, the issue is removed from the issues list and may be replaced by one or more action items defining the steps the team will take to address the...

L

A Logical Fallacy is an invalid argument that relies on emotional tricks rather than sound logic. Many logical fallacies feel and sound persuasive, and they can be especially destructive when used in meetings. Some people use fallacies intentionally in their efforts to persuade others to agree with them. (This is especially common in politics.) Meeting leaders can help combat the impact of logical fallacies by:

Educating themselves and others on how to recognize logical fallacies (See...

M

A meeting is a defined real-time gathering of two or more people for the purpose of achieving a common goal through conversation and interaction. Meetings have three qualities which differentiate them from other kinds of conversations:

Meetings are declared.
Someone decides that a meeting should happen with some group of people. Usually this results in someone scheduling a meeting. Meetings have a purpose.
While the purpose may not be clear to everyone in attendance, there is...

Meeting Costs are a calculation of the money and resources required to prepare for and run a meeting. Costs can be calculated by assessing software costs, organizational costs (people time), meeting productivity and efficiency, or a combination of all three. See our meeting cost calculators for more information.

Meeting design is the practice of creating a plan for a specific kind of meeting that includes a draft agenda and explains how to achieve the desired meeting outcomes.

A Meeting Flow Model is a form of process documentation that highlights the main meetings used to achieve a business result. A Meeting Flow Model works by describing the specific meetings used for each situation. Like all process documentation, these models reduce ambiguity and create a common language for getting work done that, when applied properly, speeds execution.

Meeting Flow Models are composed of one or more reference documents. Each model includes:

The Meeting Flow...

Meeting Metrics are data points, collected over time, that can show trends and patterns of efficiency or efficacy in your meetings. Common metrics include the number of meetings and participants, time spent in meetings, attendance, and meeting ratings.

Meeting Minutes, or informally, notes, are the record of a meeting in written form. They typically describe the events of the meeting and may include an agenda, a list of attendees and no shows, a listing of issues and decisions made, and an action list with due dates and responsible parties. In formal meetings, the minutes become official after review and a vote at the next meeting.

A Meeting Operating System is the system used by a company or organization to ensure meetings are effective and strategically aligned to the needs of the business. A meeting operating system establishes the performance criteria, operating models, and support all employees require to achieve effective business meetings.

An organization's meeting operating system can be evaluated using the Meeting Performance Maturity Model, which describes five levels of performance maturity.

...

The Meeting Performance Maturity Model (MPMM) provides a framework for understanding how well an organization’s meeting operating system performs and the degree to which an organization optimizes meetings to achieve their specified purpose. Groups operate at one of five levels of meeting performance maturity.

Level 1: Individual Almost no repeatable meeting process. Meetings are poorly controlled and reactive. Success is entirely dependent on the...

The meeting's purpose is a statement explaining why the group needs to meet, and why meeting would work better than chat or email in this situation. The meeting purpose should provide a clear line of sight to an end result in a meeting, preferably something that can be documented.

A meeting's structure describes how the meeting is planned and organized. Every meeting has a structure. When a meeting leader works to create the structure for the meeting, they consider:

When and where to hold the meeting Who to invite and what each person will do The order of topics, activities, and presentations How decisions will be made and records tracked and more...

A meeting template is a pre-formatted set of information that can serve as a starting point for a specific type of meeting. The template may include (but is not limited to) a detailed agenda, facilitation and preparation instructions, dial-in or web connection details, and related documents or presentations. Example: The Essential Project Kickoff Meeting Template

A motion is a formal proposal put to a group for a decision by vote in a meeting. Meetings that use Robert's Rules of Order or another parliamentary process make official decisions using motions. The outcome of a motion gets recorded in the meeting minutes as part of the meeting minutes. When a motion is proposed, participants will typically vote Yes, No, or Abstain. The rules for working with motions and counting votes depend on the group and will usually be documented in the group's...

N

Neutrality is often considered a desirable trait for meeting facilitators, who seek to stay unbiased about the meeting content and the outcome of any decisions. A neutral facilitator pays attention to the meeting process and seeks to ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the discussion but does not work to influence the decision in favor of one option or another.

Meeting norms are the standards of behavior expected from those in a team and during a meeting. Unlike a working team agreement, which covers the tools and processes a team will use when working together, norms primarily express the group's values. This includes topics such as how people take turns speaking, how to handle conflict, and expectations about meeting preparation. Meeting norms are also known as ground rules.

Notes, or meeting notes, are the written proceedings of a meeting. Notes can be public or private, and they are typically sent to the attendees just after a meeting. Also see Meeting Minutes.

A notification is something written or printed that alerts people about an upcoming event, like an email that notifies participants about an upcoming meeting. Some formal meetings, such as board meetings, committee meetings, and those meetings subject to Open Meeting laws, have rules that say how far in advance notification must be provided before the meeting can be held.

O

An observer is a meeting role granted by some organizations to non-members to allow them to monitor or participate in the organization's activities. Most commonly, observers rights in the meeting are restricted to observing; they can attend the meeting and listen to the conversation, but they are not expected to actively participate in the discussion and cannot vote or otherwise officially take part in decision making.

P

Parliamentary Procedure is the body of rules, ethics and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies and other deliberative assemblies. Roberts Rules of Order documents the most widely known parliamentary procedures.

Participation, in a meeting context, describes a cooperative effort to give input, make decisions, resolve issues, and assign actions together. Meeting facilitators are trained to encourage participation from everyone attending the meeting in order to foster each individual's commitment to the team's objectives and make the meeting more enjoyable. While facilitation and the appropriate meeting structure can increase participation, it is ultimately the individual attendee's responsibility to...

Perceived Meeting Quality (PMQ) is a way to measure an attendee’s feelings about a meeting. This term comes from a 2011 study that examined 18 different meeting design characteristics (such as using an agenda or starting and ending on time) to determine which ones had the biggest positive impact on how people felt about the meeting.

You can read the full study here:
Cohen, Melissa A.; Rogelberg, Steven G.; Allen, Joseph A.; and Luong, Alexandra, “Meeting Design Characteristics...

A presentation is when a person communicates an idea to others. The term can be adapted to various speaking situations, such as talking to a group, addressing a meeting or briefing a team.

A proxy is a representative that has been designated to vote on someone else's behalf in a meeting. The representative may be a member of the same voting body or external.

Psychological safety is a term used to describe whether a person feels it is safe to take a personal risk around their team members.

Professor Amy Edmondson and researchers at Google both found that the presence or absence of psychological safety between team members was one of the key determinants of workplace performance, since this impacted whether the group felt they could raise issues or concerns, whether it was safe to make mistakes, and whether they could risk trying more bold...

Q

Quorum is a calculation of the minimum percentage of members who must be present at the meeting before business can be legally transacted. Formal meetings, such as board meetings and public meetings, must have a set percentage of members in attendance before they can conduct any official business. This is one reason groups take attendance at the beginning of a meeting.

R

A virtual or remote team is comprised of team members who share responsibility for achieving defined objectives and who perform from a flexible mix of stationary, mobile and/or remote work environments. Remote teams do not meet in a conference room. Instead, they use technology to meet over the Internet.

Remote work is an arrangement in which employees do not commute or travel (e.g. by bus or car) to a central place of work, such as an office building, warehouse or store. Instead, they work from home or from another location outside the main office.

Repeatability generally refers to the ease in which something can be done over and over. In a meeting context, implementing a similar process from meeting to meeting can increase the reliability of outcomes. Repeatability in achieving the desired meeting outcomes is one sign of meeting performance maturity.

A risk is something that could happen to impact a plan, causing delays, the need to re-plan, or even project failure. Teams work to identify and list project risks during meetings, then develop ways to protect against, or mitigate, the chances that the risk will happen. The RAID technique for evaluating and tracking risks helps teams think more thoroughly through potential problems by capturing Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies.

There are several roles different participants might have in a meeting. Some roles are officially appointed, some assigned on a per-meeting basis, and others simply assumed during the meeting without discussion.

Formal meetings, such as board meetings, may have people participating as: the Chair, the Secretary, Voting Members, Non-Voting Member participants, Guest Presenters, and Observers.

Structured meetings and workshops may have people assigned to...

An RSVP is the confirmation of and response to an invitation. When team members respond to an invitation confirming they will attend, the organizer can better plan how they will run a meeting.

S

Secretary is one of the defined roles in a formal meeting. The secretary’s role is to be the guardian of the process of meetings and the maintainer of the official business records. He or she often manages communication before meetings and keeps formal records of the group’s process and decisions: the minutes of the meeting.

Silence in a meeting happens when people stop talking or communicating. When used strategically, silence can be a powerful collaboration and communication tool.

Social loafing is a term used by social psychologists to describe how some people contribute less when they work in a group than they would otherwise. When working in a group, some believe that their effort is not required since the other members of the group are taking care of the work at hand.

Research into social loafing has found that this effect is minimized in smaller groups, in groups where people know one another fairly well, and when people believe that they can be held...

A stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization, who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project. The success of many meetings depends on ensuring that the needs and opinions of different stakeholders become part of the discussion.

A standing meeting is any meeting that repeats on a predictable basis and creates an ongoing obligation on participant's calendars. For example, you may have a standing meeting with your boss every Tuesday at 2pm. A standing meeting should not be confused with stand-up meetings, in which everyone remains standing throughout the meeting.

Sticky notes are small pieces of colorful paper, usually square, with a light-weight adhesive strip on the back. Sticky notes are used for brainstorming sessions in order for participants to visually post ideas in front of others and/or remain anonymous as they write down and share ideas.

T

If a group makes a decision during a meeting and everyone says that they support the decision, but then when they leave the room they talk privately about how they think the decision is flawed, that decision is said to have failed “the water cooler test”.

Meeting facilitators work to help everyone get all their opinions and concerns out during the meeting. The group is asked to have the discussion in the room—not later “around the water cooler”—then leave the meeting committed to...

A timekeeper in a meeting is a person who takes on the role of measuring or recording the amount of time taken to do something. The timekeeper essentially helps the facilitator move the group through the agenda, reducing the amount of stress on the facilitator or leader who is managing the discussion.

A meeting timer is used to help monitor time spent vs. time planned for the overall meeting and each segment of the meeting. Timers may also be used in large community members to limit the amount of time each person can speak on a given topic before they must give another person a turn to speak.

Toastmasters is an international organization dedicated to helping people become better public speakers. Membership is open to anyone who wants to become a more confident public speaker.

A topic in a meeting is the subject currently under discussion by the group. Topics should be chosen wisely and be relevant to all attendees. Meeting topics may be set on the agenda in advance or determined during the meeting.

V

A virtual meeting is a real meeting held over the phone or the Internet involving one or more people who are not in the same location.

Many meetings use voting to evaluate group consensus and confirm decisions. Some votes are formal and binding, such as the votes on a motion during a board meeting or other meeting using parliamentary procedures. Other votes simply make it easier to see the preferences and priorities of the group, such as those cast during Dot-Voting or straw polls.

W

A whiteboard is a flat wipeable surface that teams draw and post sticky notes on during meetings. Many face-to-face meeting activities assume the group will meet in a space with one or more whiteboards available. Many web conferencing tools include a virtual whiteboard feature that attempts to make it possible to conduct some of the same group activities online.