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The Top 2 Ways to Communicate in Meetings

The problem with your meetings? You're talking about the wrong things, in the wrong ways.
The top two ways to communicate in meetings
infographic by Oliver Munday

"Rules for Renegades"

“Of the hundreds of companies I’ve worked with over the past 30 years, I repeatedly see only five types of communication,” writes expert coach and consultant Christine Comaford in Forbes. “And only two of them drive results.”

Those two are:

Requests — When you need something from another person at the table. Your request should be clear and precise, notes Comaford. Avoid the vague (“Can you get me info on our top advertisers?”) in favor of the specific (“Can you get me a report of our top 50 advertisers in the USA with spending history for the current + past 5 years in a spreadsheet by 4pm this Friday?”)

Promises — The commitment, by a person or persons at the table, to fulfill a request. This is why specificity is important; it gives the promiser a deadline and a detailed deliverable. It’s the job of the meeting leader to record all requests and promises. After the meeting, the leader shares her summary with the group, so there is a single record of deliverables and a timetable for executing them.

The three that are ineffective, but still happen too frequently:

Info Sharing, Sharing Oneself, and Debating/Decision Making/Point Proving — Too often, participants waste time with what could’ve been relayed via e-mail, social networks, or water-cooler conversation. Debating and sharing can be fruitful activities, but a meeting is the wrong setting. “The goal isn’t to solve detailed problems in the meeting,” notes Comaford. “It’s to assign responsibilities based on requests and promises made.”

When you think about the way your top team approaches meetings, the two changes you’d most like to see are:

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When it comes to recording requests and promises, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! and formerly vice president of search products at Google, is a strong advocate of the process.

During her Google heyday, she held an average of more than 70 meetings a week, always assigning a notetaker, reports BloombergBusinessweek in the article, “How to Run a Meeting Like Google.”


  1. While everyone loves snacks on the tables in meetings, I’d gladly forgo another can of Diet Coke for a 20-minute meeting with a quick status update and actionable items to go forth and conquer.

    The stance that Info Sharing, Sharing Oneself, and Debating/Decision Making/Point Proving are “are ineffective, but still happen too frequently” feels a little corporate prison on my end. Meetings become MORE effective if you take the time for a little sharing to build trust, confidence and camaraderie between common meeters. We feel more emotionally invested in the team’s success by building teamwork relationships. And by cutting out those three “communication” techniques completely from your meeting, you could be missing out on your next big innovation.

  2. A company is not a democracy nor are all initiatives negotiable. There comes a time when all (are accountable for the job & direction they are doing & giving.) Hopefully sooner rather than later the vision, direction, responsiblity, and tasks are presented and distributed. Life is negotiation “on-the-fly”….without the vision, the people perish but ONCE the vision is presented — put your hand to the plow and push with all you’ve got. Most often the plow blade will deflect off and around the rocks while the path will be moving forward. Come on, there are many different reasons to call a meeting: comaraderie, information, brain storm, consensus, distribution of tasks, coordiation. Just be as pricise as possible, move the meeting along, be a good steward of other’s time, energy, contribution.

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