Nobody likes a meeting that could’ve been an email. According to a recent study on meeting attendance, unnecessary meetings can potentially cost your company $25,000 per employee per year!
Every team huddle isn’t a waste of time, though. Both planned and impromptu meetings have their place in driving business success.
However, ad hoc meetings are more likely to interrupt workflows than regular ones since they happen unexpectedly. On the other hand, they’re great for hands-on decision-making when unforeseen circumstances happen or new opportunities arise, giving you an edge in fiercely competitive markets.
So, how do you use ad hoc meetings to propel your business forward instead of inviting unproductivity? Keep reading this guide for practical tips on:
- When to call an ad hoc meeting
- What steps to take to run it effectively
- How to avoid common pitfalls while organizing last-minute meetings
Bonus: We’ll introduce tools within ClickUp that can transform unstructured ad hoc meetings into productive sessions focused on the desired outcome. Let’s dive in!
- What is an Ad Hoc Meeting, and How is it Different From a Planned Meeting?
- Best Times to Call an Ad Hoc Meeting
- 7 Essential Steps to Run a Productive Ad Hoc Meeting
- 3 Common Challenges with Ad Hoc Meetings [With Solutions]
- Making Ad Hoc Meetings More Efficient with ClickUp
What is an Ad Hoc Meeting, and How is it Different From a Planned Meeting?
The term ad hoc means for this purpose or as needed. An ad hoc or impromptu meeting is a type of meeting that is organized spontaneously, typically to address a specific issue or opportunity on an urgent basis. The matter, in most cases, arises unexpectedly and requires immediate attention.
Unlike regularly scheduled meetings, ad hoc meetings are not planned in advance. As a result, such unplanned meetings, if organized frequently, can halt the predetermined flow of anyone’s day and disrupt deep work.
Here’s an overview of the key differences between ad hoc and planned meetings:
|Ad Hoc Meetings
|They’re scheduled in advance and are often recurring
|They’re convened spontaneously, as needed
|Time for preparation is available. The agenda is formal and set beforehand
|Little to no time for preparation, and the agenda may be informal
|Discuss ongoing projects, regular updates, and strategic plans
|Address high-priority issues to make fast and informed decisions
|Typically held at regular intervals (daily, weekly, or monthly)
|No fixed schedule
|Often fixed and longer
|Tend to be shorter and more focused
|Usually includes a consistent group of participants
|Usually includes a small group of participants relevant to the issue at hand
|Less flexible—adheres to a schedule
|Highly flexible—honors immediate needs
Best Times to Call an Ad Hoc Meeting
An expert team leader or project manager uses impromptu meetings only when it’s absolutely necessary because of productivity-related concerns.
We tend to be the most productive when focusing on a single task, and unplanned meetings interrupt this flow state. Plus, no matter how short the meeting, it takes over 23 minutes on average to regain focus after distraction! 😅
Here’s the million-dollar question: How can you tell if calling an unplanned meeting right away is super vital? It may appear as though a pressing issue requires a quick chat with the team, but is it really the best choice or just a knee-jerk reaction?
These are five of the most common scenarios when an ad hoc meeting can be appropriate:
- In the event of a crisis or emergency that affects the business
- If there are urgent information or updates that need to be shared with the team and require further explanation or discussion
- If a sudden opportunity arises that requires swift discussion and decision-making to capitalize on
- When immediate feedback or input is required on a pressing issue, project, or decision
- When team alignment is necessary because an unexpected turn of events has led to confusion within the team
Quick checklist: Is an ad hoc meeting necessary?
Even in some of the aforementioned situations, there might be better ways to deal with the issue at hand than calling a meeting right off the bat.
Remember that the cost of an ad hoc meeting varies depending on what your team is busy with at the moment. If they are working toward a deadline that would cost your organization a fortune if missed, that’s wildly different from a typical day at the office.
Consider the following questions when deciding whether to convene an emergency meeting over reserving the discussion for a regular meeting or sending an email:
- Is the issue both urgent and important? [Tip: If you’re conflicted, use the Eisenhower Matrix to determine the priority status]
- Does it require group discussion with immediate feedback from team members?
- Is the topic too complex for email?
- Is confidentiality a concern? Do you have a good reason to avoid leaving a digital trail?
- Can the necessary people be gathered on short notice? Will colleagues in certain time zones have a problem?
- What will cost your business more, an ad hoc meeting or a delay?
If you have taken all these factors into account and decided an ad hoc meeting is the way to go, let’s find out how to make the most of it.
7 Essential Steps to Run a Productive Ad Hoc Meeting
If you don’t want to contribute to this grim statistic, you need to ensure that your meetings are focused, effective, and beneficial for all participants. Let’s explore the seven core steps to optimize your ad hoc meeting logistics.
Step 1: Define the objectives and prepare an agenda
Allowing the discussion to veer off-topic is a one-way ticket to an unproductive meeting. You need well-defined objectives to give the meeting a specific direction. A meeting agenda helps in prioritizing the specific topic and sets clear deliverables that need to be addressed.
While most managers would kickstart ad hoc meetings without a formal agenda, some level of preparation would do no harm. Knowing the agenda, say even 15 minutes in advance, allows participants to gather their thoughts, relevant data, or any necessary materials, leading to an intent-focused session. At the end of the meeting, you can evaluate whether the objectives were met, partially met, or require further action.
Need a quick and easy way to create and share a clear agenda for your unplanned meeting? It’s a breeze with ClickUp.
This all-in-one productivity platform lets you create documentation within ClickUp Docs and share it both internally and externally. Attendees can use ClickUp’s interactive features, like comments or checklists, to add inputs or questions before the meeting.
The platform has a selection of free meeting and conference agenda templates that let you create a professional-looking agenda within minutes. For example, you can try the ClickUp All Hands Meeting Template for company-wide scheduled meetings or the ClickUp Scrum Meeting Template for impromptu sessions with smaller groups.
Step 2: Identify and notify the right participants
The right mix of participants leads to more productive meetings. An irrelevant team member may be less engaged because their time is practically wasted. On the other hand, not including key individuals might mean missing crucial insights or information. Here are some suggestions on who to include:
- Individuals who are directly involved with or have expertise in the matter at hand
- A team member who has the authority to make decisions if the meeting’s purpose is to decide on a course of action
- Participants who can offer diverse viewpoints to avoid echo chambers
- Ideally, those directly affected by the decisions made should be included. But this may not be possible all the time
Keep the group size manageable for optimal productivity, especially if it’s a virtual meeting. If you’re using ClickUp as your collaboration app, it can help you identify who is currently working on relevant tasks or projects. Explore the Team view in ClickUp 3.0 to see which members have the capacity to attend a meeting.
You can use the platform’s custom notification and Mention options to directly reach out to specific team members and invite them to the session.
Step 3: Encourage participation
Active participation differentiates a successful meeting from one that could’ve been an email. The main value of impromptu, one-off meetings lies in the interactive exchange of ideas and collaborative problem-solving.
Effective meeting facilitation involves encouraging key participants to speak up so that dominant voices don’t overshadow the session. Still, different people have different communication styles, and some may be more comfortable sharing their thoughts in writing. Online meeting tools with a chat feature can be very helpful in encouraging participation in remote or hybrid environments. That way, participants who might not feel comfortable speaking up can share their input via chat. ⌨️
Remote teams with overlapping work hours can find synchronous meetings difficult, though. In such cases, use team collaboration or daily standup software with asynchronous meetings support to facilitate every participant’s engagement. Ultimately, the goal is to create a meeting environment where everyone can contribute effectively regardless of their preferred communication style or location.
Bonus: Explore the ClickUp Daily Standup Meeting Template to see that the voice of each participant gets enough visibility.
Step 4: Manage time during the meeting
Ensuring an ad hoc meeting doesn’t overrun is crucial for maintaining efficiency and keeping participants engaged. Pay attention to these seven pointers on how to keep the session on track:
- Start on time
- Stick to the agenda
- Allocate specific time slots for each agenda item
- Consider using a timer to honor the preset slots
- Assign someone the role of timekeeper to provide gentle reminders of the time limit
- Encourage conciseness in speech to save time
- Reserve the last few minutes for a quick wrap-up
With native time tracking in ClickUp, you can time meetings across different platforms—desktop, mobile, or web browser with a free Chrome extension. The best part is that ClickUp integrates with top meeting apps, so you can comfortably time your sessions even during a Slack huddle or Zoom meeting.
Add notes to the recorded time entries referencing what was discussed or decided. This can aid in establishing accountability for post-meeting follow-ups.
Step 5: Document decisions and action items
Notes taken during efficient ad hoc meetings should be concise and strictly focused on critical aspects. Document all major decisions in your meeting minutes. This supports post-meeting action and serves as a recap for those who weren’t present.
Additionally, write down specific tasks to be assigned, including who is responsible for each task and the deadline.
ClickUp offers a comprehensive suite of features that turn note-taking into a walk in the park. Its free meeting notes templates ensure consistency across meetings, helping maintain a standardized format for capturing key information.
ClickUp’s Notepad lets you capture notes with headers, bullets, colors, and other visual elements, providing a clear structure. As decisions or action items are identified during the meeting, notes documenting that can be instantly converted into trackable tasks with due dates, assignees, and priorities.
Step 6: Assign and track follow-up tasks
As we’ve just seen, meeting minutes are closely connected to follow-up tasks. If you have tasks to assign at the end of the session, it means that the meeting wasn’t just a passive discussion forum but a catalyst for action and progress.
Use ClickUp Tasks to assign fresh action items to one or more people. Team members can add comments directly on tasks, facilitating transparent collaboration.
The platform’s customizable subtasks and checklists within tasks help break down complex follow-up actions into manageable steps. Leverage Custom Fields to include specific task information (like web links or design files). Tracking tasks is easy through:
- Custom statuses—like To Do, In Progress, Done
- Over 15 views (List view, Board view, etc.)
Sometimes, a task created after a meeting is contingent upon the completion of an existing one, or an existing task now depends on a newly assigned follow-up task. ClickUp Dependencies allows you to set dependencies between interconnected tasks, helping you weave follow-up tasks into the existing workflow.
Step 7: Review and reflect
The meeting is over, but was it a success? Reflecting on what worked and what didn’t is valuable for improving last-minute meetings in the future.
Collecting feedback from attendees could help you understand their perspectives and what to change next time. These are some of the questions you could ask:
- What was your overall experience of the meeting?
- What stood out to you the most?
- In your opinion, how well did the meeting achieve its objectives?
- Do you feel this meeting was necessary, or could the objectives have been achieved through other means?
- How comfortable did you feel participating in the meeting? What factors influenced your level of engagement?
- Was the meeting space comfortable?
- What could be improved to enable more effective meetings at short notice?
Looking to use the right tools for collecting feedback? You can customize ClickUp Forms to include specific questions relevant to your ad hoc meeting and then simply share them with participants via a link.
Responses to feedback forms can be automatically converted into tasks in ClickUp. This is particularly useful if the feedback suggests action items or areas for improvement.
3 Common Challenges with Ad Hoc Meetings [With Solutions]
How quickly your business adapts and responds to emerging situations could shape its future. Ad hoc meetings offer the agility to get the immediate response necessary for managing these situations. However, this very agility brings its own set of challenges. Let’s examine them—not just to understand their implications but to navigate them effectively.
1. Disruption to workflows
We’ve already mentioned that interruptions negatively impact productivity and reduce the ability to engage in deep work. However, they also take a toll on employee morale.
Too many meetings may create stress by forcing employees to shift their priorities unexpectedly. This can lead to anxiety about meeting deadlines or managing their workload effectively, especially if they are working on time-sensitive tasks. The sense of inefficiency can be demotivating and impact their overall job satisfaction.
Use time blocking in ClickUp to schedule designated periods of focused work or quiet hours for increased productivity. These blocks can be set in the calendar, during which no meetings can be scheduled, ensuring uninterrupted work time.
2. Lack of structure
The only thing worse than sitting in an ad hoc meeting while your work is piling up is sitting in an ad hoc meeting turned never-ending gabfest. Without a clear structure, participants may engage in discussions that are not directly relevant to the meeting’s intended purpose, leading to wasted time and reduced effectiveness. Poorly organized meetings may conclude without achieving the intended outcome.
Even in a hurry, take a moment to outline a basic structure for the meeting. It could be as simple as defining the primary goal of the meeting and a few key discussion points.
Set a strict time limit for the meeting and stick to it. Consider asking attendees to stand up during the meeting—it may be awkward in online meetings, but it can reinvigorate everyone’s respect for time constraints. 😏
3. Overuse and dependency
Ad hoc meetings offer immediate feedback and the allure of solving urgent problems instantly, which can be appealing. New or junior managers might feel that frequent meetings are expected of them to demonstrate their proactive leadership and involvement. They may believe that’s a way to stay connected and informed, especially if they are still building relationships with their team in remote or hybrid work environments.
Ad hoc meetings are not team building sessions. Establish clear guidelines on when to call an impromptu meeting versus when to use asynchronous communication. Your team can use project management tools like ClickUp to track progress and minor issues. For instance, if a question can be resolved through quick comments or project updates in a shared document, this eliminates the need for a meeting.
Making Ad Hoc Meetings More Efficient with ClickUp
There’s an inherent tension between the spontaneous nature of ad hoc meetings and our valiant efforts to schedule and manage them effectively. In this epic battle of order vs. chaos, ClickUp is one solution that can keep meetings balanced. 💯
Explore the features within ClickUp’s Meeting Suite to handle everything from scheduling to follow-ups.
For example, the Calendar view makes it easy to quickly find a suitable time slot for a meeting. You can check team members’ schedules to avoid conflicts and find a time that minimizes disruptions. Set up the meeting as a task in ClickUp and tag attendees to send them notifications.
It isn’t easy to replicate face-to-face, quick collaboration in remote teams, but with ClickUp Whiteboards, it gets incredibly close. Whiteboards allow meeting participants to visualize ideas, processes, or strategies—all on a virtual canvas. This is particularly useful for brainstorming sessions, where visual representation can stimulate creative thinking and help organize thoughts.
Participants can contribute simultaneously, making the Whiteboard a collaborative space where everyone can add, edit, and comment in real time. This fosters a sense of teamwork and ensures active engagement from all colleagues.
ClickUp also helps in managing the logistics and content of the meeting. You can create detailed meeting minutes and use the help of ClickUp AI to summarize them for future reference.
Besides helping you keep easily reviewable summaries of key meeting points, ClickUp lets you record online meetings with Clip, the platform’s free screen recorder. Revisit the recording to review important segments or share it with colleagues who weren’t in attendance. This is quite useful for long-term projects that require frequent recalling of past decisions and discussions.
Take Your Ad Hoc Meeting in the Right Direction with ClickUp
Ad hoc meetings are a double-edged sword—they offer agility and focus but can tank your team’s productivity if you’re not careful. Why not turn this challenge into an opportunity with ClickUp?
ClickUp enhances the effectiveness of time-sensitive meetings by providing tools for better organization, collaboration, and follow-through, ensuring that these spontaneous gatherings are as productive and impactful as possible.
Don’t let the potential of your ad hoc meetings go untapped. Sign up for ClickUp today! 🌟