How to name your next work meeting for maximum effectiveness

How to name your next work meeting for maximum effectiveness
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If you’ve been in the workforce for more than five minutes you probably have heard a lot of meeting advice, such as “don’t schedule a meeting without an agenda.” But people who give advice on better meetings often overlook the lowly meeting name. This is a huge miss! A great meeting name can dramatically improve the chances that your invitees will arrive prepared and ready to engage.

This post will walk you through why you should pay attention to meeting names, how to determine the purpose of each meeting, and how to replace the default meeting name with one that conveys the purpose of the meeting. We’ll also briefly cover how to write an excellent meeting description.

Let’s get started!

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The underrated power of great meeting names 

You want your meeting to stand out as obviously worth your invitees’ precious time. In a competition for limited time, “Marketing sync” isn’t super compelling.

Here are five key benefits to naming your meeting well:

1. Less guessing

No one likes seeing a meeting invite and having to guess what the meeting is about. It can provoke anxiety and irritation. A great meeting name makes it clear what the purpose of the meeting is.

2. Better attendees

A well-named meeting lets invitees quickly ascertain whether they should be at your meeting. Not only does this save time for those who don’t need to be there (benefitting the organization as a whole), but it also can lead to smaller meetings, which research shows are generally more effective.

3. More preparedness

Invitees who choose to attend your well-named meeting have an easier time preparing for the meeting, and are thus more likely to show up prepared.

4. Shorter meetings

When everyone shows up prepared and informed about what you need to achieve so that the meeting can end is usually a shorter meeting.

5. More interesting calendars

Well-named meetings make for much more interesting calendars! It gives attendees the chance to look forward to interesting discussions and a greater sense of accomplishment.

Sounds pretty good, right? Okay, so now let’s talk about the first step to better meeting names: Figuring out your meeting’s purpose. 

Aligning on the purpose of your meeting 

If nothing else, a great meeting name answers the question "Why are we meeting?" It should be, or at least contain, a verb. 

Everyone reading the meeting name should know why the meeting is happening, why they were invited, and why they should attend. Not only does that give you what you need for a name that does overtime, but it also helps you ensure that you really need to have the meeting. Not every meeting should be an email, but not every email should be a meeting. 

If you want to share project updates, sitting around a table or on a Zoom call may not be the best use of everyone’s time. There are other ways to update a team. Dedicated Slack or Microsoft Teams channels can serve as the catchall for status updates on a predetermined cadence – daily, weekly, monthly, etc. You can also make better use of project management apps to house all the information anyone on the team needs – and refer teammates to it regularly to help encourage a routine of seeking information first and asking questions second.

Here’s one way to nail down your next meeting’s purpose. Just fill in the blank.

We must meet in order to _________.

Examples:

  • Decide whether to move forward with a particular candidate
  • Decide whether to adjust a deadline
  • Brainstorm marketing ideas
  • Finalize the sprint plan

Naming the different types of meetings 

There are many types of meetings, but here are five types of meetings that are actually worth having:

1. Weekly team syncs

Well-run weekly team meetings offer at least three vital benefits. They can:

  1. Clarify every team member’s roles and top priorities
  2. Offer a place to communicate complicated or controversial ideas ill-suited for email or Slack
  3. Provide a place to offer public praise to team members, in real-time

However, “Weekly team sync” is a pretty terrible name for a meeting. Remember, the purpose isn’t to share status updates. That’s better suited to project management software or Slack. Instead, these should be team building meetings. Your agenda should include things like clarifying roles and priorities, talking through questions that aren’t suited to asynchronous communication channels, and/or boosting morale and team cohesion.

To give this meeting a better name, tie it to the purpose of the meeting. Maybe you could call it “Weekly team-building,” “Weekly priority aligning,” “Weekly issue clarification,” or “Weekly team shout-outs.” Or “Weekly team priority setting and shout-outs.”

2. Manager one-on-ones

One-on-one meetings offer many important benefits. In fact, CEO and investor Ben Horowitz thinks one-on-ones are so important that he once threatened to fire a senior leader unless he started holding them. When managers and direct reports meet regularly workers feel confident that they’re on the right track. It boosts employee engagement and offers you both a place to give each other feedback. A performance review should never come as a surprise. Regular one-on-ones, utilized correctly, help ensure that never happens.

As such, you could call your one-on-one “[Manager name]/[report name] priority setting and feedback.” 

3. Decision-making / problem-solving meetings

Decision-making meetings help everyone feel heard and included in the decision-making process rather than feeling like they’re just taking orders. Tons of research links a feeling of autonomy with job satisfaction, and job satisfaction with higher performance. A well-run decision-making meeting can be a huge win for both morale and productivity.

Name this meeting with the word “Decision” and a few words to refer to the decision that needs to be made.  

4. Brainstorming sessions

According to Professional Development thought leader Brian Tracy, “Brainstorming builds involvement, commitment, loyalty, and enthusiasm.” He writes that brainstorming meetings unlock people’s creative talents, build self-esteem, and help create a better climate for cooperation and teamwork. “The most important payoff is that you will come up with lots of good ideas and sometimes ideas that change the direction of the business.”

Instead of just calling a meeting a “Brainstorming session” or something equally vague, get your invitees’ creative juices flowing by including what kind of ideas you’re looking for. For example, if you’re looking for ideas for a big marketing project to tackle in Q2, consider naming the meeting something like, “Q2 big marketing project brainstorm.”

5. Project kickoffs

A great project kickoff can improve the working relationship between stakeholders while increasing the likelihood that a project will stay under-budget and on-time. This kind of planning meeting is a great way to decrease the likelihood of missed deadlines, issues, scope creep, and change orders.

Again, the goal of the meeting is to understand and align on the following about a project as much as possible before getting started:

  • Goals
  • Likely effort
  • Technology requirements
  • Key dates and deliverables
  • Assumptions

Use the name of the project in the meeting name, and include a verb. Example, “Q2 marketing project needs alignment.”

Finding the ideal title for your meeting

Let’s take another look at the examples of meeting goals from the meeting purpose section.

  • Decide whether to move forward with a particular candidate
  • Decide whether to adjust a deadline
  • Brainstorm marketing ideas
  • Finalize the sprint plan

How are they named now, and how we might be able to improve their names?

Let’s say the purpose of the “Interview Debrief” is to decide whether to move forward with a particular candidate. “Debrief” isn’t really the goal or purpose of the meeting, but rather something that will happen during the meeting. To make the name refer to the purpose, you could instead call that meeting “Candidate decision” or “Hiring decision.” Similarly, if you’re holding a meeting to decide whether to adjust a deadline, you could call that meeting “Deadline shift decision.” 

If you’re meeting to brainstorm marketing ideas, a good name might be “Marketing ideas brainstorm.” If you’re looking to finalize a sprint plan, you might call that meeting “Sprint finalization.” 

Another idea from Lucid Meetings: Design your meeting names to convey your cultural values. They offer examples like “The Huddle, the Adrenaline call, the Council, the Braintrust, the Conclave, the Tsunami, the Tiger, the Bullpen, the Dory.” It’s true that they don’t reveal the purpose of the meeting to outsiders. But once you're on the inside, you feel like part of the team because you know what these words mean in this context. Another example: I once worked for a company that was obsessed with Star Wars. There, we could have named meetings with Star Wars references. Or, for Clockwise, we named our meeting rooms after time-related concepts. We could do the same for our meeting names. 

Pro-tip: Go through and re-name all your existing meetings as practice and to get the benefits mentioned above. While you’re doing this, audit your meetings to be sure every meeting on your calendar really is necessary. Another tool that can help you is Clockwise’s 1:1 dashboard where you can see, evaluate, and move all your 1:1 meetings at a glance. 

Writing an excellent meeting description 

When describing your meeting, the goals are similar to naming. You want to get, and keep, the invitee’s attention. You want to let them know why they were invited and why they should attend. You want them to know how to prepare for the meeting and what’s going to be expected of them during the meeting. And you want them to know what the group needs to accomplish before the meeting can end. Keep it concise to help them feel reassured that you’re being judicious with their time. 

Going forward

A great meeting name offers tons of benefits. Naming your meetings better starts with aligning on the purpose of the meeting and then fitting that purpose into the meeting name. 

Clockwise offers a meeting scheduling tool that does more than look at open blocks of time on your team’s calendar. The intelligent scheduler suggests the best time slots based on ten different factors. These include work hours, time zones, meeting preferences, and focus time.

About the author

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is the former Head of Content at Clockwise. She has covered business software for six years and has been published in Newsweek, Forbes, the Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications.

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