When to turn your meeting into an email, and vice versa

We’ve all left a meeting and asked the age-old question, “couldn’t this have been an email?” 

On average, an organization’s staff spends 15% of their collective time in meetings. More if they’re in executive roles or senior leadership.  

 If you’re a team leader or manager trying to avoid making your staff ask this question, this issue of The Pulse is for you.   

It’s all about the clearest communication.  

We all consume, digest, and apply information differently.  

In any strong team, there’s a diversity of thinkers and communicators. Some of your team members are going to be better in meetings than others. Some will be more attentive to their emails. You might be stronger in one area than another.  

At the end of the day, it’s important that you know your team and what method of communication will be clearest and most effective for them. Even if it’s not the medium you personally prefer.  

When is a meeting necessary?  

There are certain times when a meeting can’t be avoided or is just a better choice than sending out an email notice. These include: 

  • When you’re looking to build camaraderie among your team. 
  • When you’re discussing a project or task that requires collaboration or input from multiple members of the team.  

When does an email suffice? 

On the flip side, it might be better to default to an email under the following circumstances: 

  • If you are simply relaying information without need for collaboration. 
  • If the collaboration is straightforward between one or two people.  
  • If it’s an issue that can be easily resolved, or a simple question that needs answering. 
  • If the group of people you’re speaking to is quite large, making a meeting confusing or unproductive.  

When to end or skip a recurring meeting.  

Recurring meetings are incredibly useful for ongoing projects or duties that are shared between multiple team members. They can be some of the most productive hours of your work week.  

However, recurring meetings likely aren’t needed every week indefinitely and it’s worth checking in for feedback periodically to ensure the meetings are still serving their intended purpose.  

If you’re unsure… 

If you’re still not sure whether to hold a meeting or send an email, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What is the purpose of the contact? Does it require collaboration or group input? 
  • Is the issue complex? A difficult problem to solve or concept to explain might get lost in the “translation” to email process.  
  • Has your team been bogged down by video meetings recently? Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and avoiding unnecessary video calls can be a kindness to your staff.  
  • Will this meeting disrupt productivity on other important tasks or projects? 

Finally, the biggest question you should ask before you commit to a meeting over an email is this: is it worth company time and money to have this many staff in a meeting for this length of time? 

If the answer is no, an email notice, or conversation over another platform like Teams or Slack, is much likely a better route to take.