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When Can a Meeting Be an Email?

Updated: May 26, 2022

We’ve all heard the collective groan of our fellow meeting attendees after what we perceive to be a worthless meeting saying “this meeting could have been an email”. More often than not there’s usually a good reason for having a meeting but we’re going to dive into some cases where a meeting truly could be an email.

Announcement vs Two-Way Dialogue

Most meetings are intended to be an exchange of ideas. If there is an announcement to be made that does not require the interaction of other individuals nor is there a need to gauge the reaction of the recipients of the announcement then that might be a good candidate for an email that could simply be provided to the recipients.

Multiple Answers Needed for a Question

In the same thread of the core need for meetings being the exchange of ideas and information, when you have a question that may need multiple answers or perspectives, that is a great candidate situation for a meeting. The golden rule that I try my best to follow when attending a meeting is being able to answer “yes” to one of the two golden questions: a) Am I bringing information needed to this meeting? Or b) Am I going to be taking something away from this meeting? If I can’t answer Yes to either question then I tend to not attend the meeting since I’ve got nothing to offer or take away. I try to use this rule of thumb with the attendees that I select for a meeting too, in order to make it as efficient as possible without the perception of wasting others’ time.

Can Written Messages be Misunderstood

When you have a topic for a meeting that you feel could be done via virtual communication (email, IM), you need to ask yourself how easy the correspondence for the topic could be understood or misunderstood. If you think there’s a chance for significant misinterpretation of messages then that would be a good candidate topic to call a meeting. If you feel the answers could be very binary and not likely open to misunderstanding, you can go the virtual communication route.

Meetings are not fun (usually) but what adds to the dread is the overuse of meeting invitations when something with a little more communication effort would easily replace. Try using these ground rules to see if you can either improve your meeting vs email targeting or even better, make your meetings that you do have more efficient.


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