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Better Meetings

How to write a meeting purpose statement [+ objectives]

Meeting purpose statement blog post featured image

Another day, another calendar full of meetings. Will the next meeting be productive and actually move work forward? 

Or are you doomed to endless bad meetings?

A funny GIF by Angie Tribeca

GIF Source: Giphy

The good news is that there’s a way to turn this situation around – and it all starts with knowing how to find the purpose of a meeting. 

In fact, the path to good meetings can start with you simply reading this guide. You’ll learn what a meeting purpose is and how to write a meeting purpose statement.

Spread the word, and before long, you’ll say goodbye to wasted time and hello to effective meetings.

Table of contents

  • What is a meeting purpose?

  • Meeting purpose vs. meeting objectives

  • Examples of different meeting purposes

  • How to write a meeting purpose statement in 3 simple steps

  • 3 tips for writing better meeting purpose statements

What is a meeting purpose?

A meeting purpose is a statement that defines why you’re scheduling a particular meeting. It should help the participants understand why they’re attending it and what they might need to prepare or contribute.

Nobody likes meetings that drag on, so having a clear purpose means your team can avoid being sidetracked. A clear and well-thought-out meeting purpose statement can then guide your meeting agenda items and streamline the meeting process.

It’s a simple concept that can help make your organization’s meeting culture more effective.

Meeting purpose vs. meeting objective

The main difference between a meeting purpose and a meeting objective is that the meeting purpose is the reason why you’re having a meeting, while the objective is the desired outcome of the meeting.

Meeting purpose vs meeting objective

Typically, a meeting will have one purpose (such as “brainstorm new homepage ideas”) but can have more than one objective (such as coming up with 3 new homepage layouts  to share with the wider team for feedback). You’ll want to establish the meeting purpose before you send the invite to other participants. 

Objectives, on the other hand, are the meeting goals that all team members will be working towards.

Together, the meeting purpose and objectives help you determine the invite list for the meeting. Knowing why you’re meeting and what the outcome of the meeting should “weed out” people who don’t have to be there.

A meeting purpose is: 

  • The cause of your meeting that brings everyone together

  • A bit abstract and not measurable: it's the driving idea behind the meeting, not the concrete goals to accomplish

Meeting objectives are:

  • Specific goals that you want to achieve (e.g. make a decision about launch date, come up with 3 team OKRs for the next quarter, review and gather input on latest landing page designs)

  • Measurable and concrete — these objectives will guide the meeting agenda and action items

Remember: you need both a purpose and objectives to have an effective meeting! And you can combine these into a "meeting goal" if you find that simpler.

Examples of different meeting purposes

There can be many reasons to call a meeting and many types of meetings too. The key is to know why you’re asking people to take time out of their workday to join you. 

Here are some common meeting purposes to help you determine yours.

1. Kick off a new project

When you’re starting a new project, it’s a good idea to get your team on the same page about deadlines, responsibilities, and expectations. 

The purpose of a project kickoff meeting is usually to explain the tasks and the timeline for the new project. Including a clear meeting purpose in your meeting agenda will communicate to the team that they should come prepared to hear important info on how they’re expected to contribute.

On the objectives/outcomes side, a kickoff meeting should result in: 

  • Tasks for each team member 

  • Project deadlines 

  • A workback schedule 

  • A schedule/process for keeping the project on track

2. Align on project/team status and goals

When you have to keep many plates spinning, a meeting is often necessary to check progress and follow up on outstanding issues.

These meetings are usually short and involve a smaller group of people working on a given project or team. 

Many companies make team or project meeting recurring, e.g., weekly or monthly, so that team members can share regular status updates with stakeholders. But status updates should not be the only goal of the meeting — most of these updates can be shared async (on Slack), with meeting time used to get clarity on priorities, unblock or redistribute tasks, and look ahead to next steps. 

3. Brainstorm

Brainstorming is a way to get good ideas from a group of people. Most great ideas don’t come fully formed at the start of a meeting. Instead, the meeting attendees work together to explore and refine ideas.

This type of meeting is an example of a situation when there’s one purpose but there can be many objectives. For instance, one brainstorming session could be around logo concepts or website priorities for the next quarter. The objectives could then be “come up with 5 new logo color concepts” or “make a list of 6-10 website priorities for next quarter.”  

Tip: Use this meeting template to run better creative brainstorm sessions! 

 4. Make decisions

When your organization needs to come up with tough and complex decisions, it’s time for a decision-making meeting. These involve subject-matter experts who can give specific and actionable insight. 

In general, the purpose of every meeting is to have people come together and produce a common decision. But this can be tricky. 

One thing that helps is limiting attendance. Having too many people in your decision-making meetings can be unproductive and confusing. Having too few means you can miss out on important and diverse perspectives. 

Aim for a group that’s big enough for all relevant voices to be heard, but small enough to actually end the meeting with a concrete decision or next steps. 

5. Share information

Information-sharing meetings usually have one or two people presenting information to a group. Team briefings, town halls, and all-hands meetings are examples of gatherings with this purpose. 

Unlike other meetings, there’s no attendance sweet spot: the limits are only set by available space and technology.

Because of that, information-sharing meetings are a good opportunity for team building, as employees benefit from regular face-to-face communication with upper management, especially when they can come to expect what updates will be shared (e.g. team updates, shoutouts, metrics, upcoming launches, etc.). 

6. Introduce new team members or clients

When a new member joins your team, you might want to introduce them to the rest of their new colleagues. These meetings are often part of new employee orientation or onboarding. It’s a great way to welcome new hires and start integrating them into the team and the company’s culture.

Landing a new client is another reason for an introductory meeting. Formally welcoming a prospect brings that customer into the fold, and setting expectations right from the start goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

7. Evaluate projects (and reflect on what to do next time)

After a project is done, it’s useful to get together and see how the results align with what you projected. You can then discuss what went well, what could be improved, and what to keep in mind for the next project. 

A meeting with this purpose (often called a project retrospective) helps provide direction to the team and can help managers identify areas for improvement.

How to write a meeting purpose statement in 3 simple steps

Whatever your reason for calling a meeting, the aim of a purpose statement remains the same. Your goal is to communicate to all invitees why the meeting is necessary and what they can expect. That, in turn, helps you write a good meeting agenda and gives everyone a chance to prepare. 

Consider this quote as you write your meeting purpose statement:

“Reverse engineer an outcome. Think of what you want to be different because you gathered, and work backward from that outcome.”

Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering

Step 1: Define the purpose of the meeting in one sentence

To define the purpose of your meeting, think about what has happened or what has changed to make you decide to hold it. It’s important to consider if there are other ways to share information without calling a meeting. That’s the way to avoid the dreaded “meeting that should have been an email” situation.

A screenshot of the meetings dashboard in Vowel

When you use Vowel, you can keep related meetings in shared folders for easy reference throughout a project, giving you an overview of how many meetings have been held and scheduled. Recurring meetings might have the same goal each time, but different objectives.

Step 2: Define the meeting’s objectives

Knowing what the objectives of your meeting are is an important step in meeting preparation, as they let you write a good meeting agenda and action plan while giving structure to the meeting — so you don’t waste everyone’s time on unimportant points. 

Once you’ve set the purpose, think about the desired outcomes of your meeting, ideally with a number or concrete result attached. For example, the goal of your brainstorming meeting could be to come up with at least five options for the name of your new product. 

If you’re using Vowel to power your virtual meetings, you can add a meeting agenda in the app and share it with other attendees, without the need for a separate document. 

Step 3: Share your meeting purpose + objectives with all participants

Your meeting purpose shouldn't stay with you. You need to share it with all the other participants so that everyone knows why they’re attending (this can also help them decide if they truly need to be present or if they’re an optional attendee).

Be sure to include the meeting purpose in the meeting agenda, right at the top (you can list it under “goals” if that’s easier). Using Vowel as your meeting platform, everyone can see the goals of the meeting both before, during, and after it happens. 

A screenshot that shows Vowel's shared notes feature

3 tips for writing better meeting purpose statements

When you’re writing your meeting purpose statement, you want to be precise, brief, and informative. So…

  • Make sure you know why you’re having a meeting: A vague purpose statement is useless. So, avoid statements like “let’s have a discussion.” Tell your team members why you need to have a discussion (and list objectives afterward, if it makes sense). 

  • Keep it short and sweet: Your purpose statement shouldn’t be long or too specific — keep it to one sentence. 

  • Don’t overanalyze it: Writing a purpose statement shouldn’t be hard. If you find yourself wondering for too long why the meeting is important, there’s a good chance it isn’t. Consider sharing information asynchronously if it doesn’t merit a meeting. 

To help you out when you’re writing your own, here’s an example of a well-written meeting purpose statement. 

Meeting purpose: To narrow down the list of qualified candidates for the open account manager positions. 

Meeting objectives:  Choose the top three candidates to reach out for a second interview.

Say goodbye to ineffective meetings 

Writing a good meeting purpose statement helps you and your team understand why you’re having a meeting, guides your meeting agenda and action items, and increases meeting effectiveness. 

That’s why including a meeting purpose statement (and objectives!)at the top of the agenda is one of the best ways to avoid ineffective meetings. 

If you’re looking for a meeting app that makes it easy to set and share meeting agendas and keep everyone aligned on goals, sign up for Vowel for free.