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Ad Hoc Meetings: What You Need to Know About This Meeting Format

Learn when to use ad hoc meeting format to get fast answers and solve urgent problems while still being efficient.

By Brier Cook  •   February 24, 2022  •   7 min read

If you’re striving for efficiency at work, you likely don’t want to be interrupted by your colleagues with spur-of-the-moment meetings. You also probably don’t want to burden your teammates with unproductive conversations that regularly disrupt your team’s workflow. In a busy environment, it can be hard to avoid impromptu meetings that lead to off-topic discussions and unproductive afternoons. Unplanned meetings can be great to bounce ideas off of your teammates and gain important insight on urgent matters, but they become frustrating when they’re held for no reason. 

Let’s explore the ad hoc meeting format and learn how to make impromptu conversations beneficial to you and your team. 

What are ad hoc meetings? 

Ad hoc directly translates to “for this” in Latin. In the business world, we’ve repurposed the language to refer to any impromptu meeting that is scheduled to address a specific need. Ad hoc meetings usually occur when something out of the ordinary happens in the workplace and requires an immediate solution. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic first occurred, it’s likely that remote offices held many ad hoc meetings to address unprecedented workplace challenges. In normal circumstances, ad hoc meetings may be called to discuss last-minute changes to a project, or to adjust workloads when a colleague has a last-minute emergency or moves to another team. 

Jot it down!

Even during ad hoc meetings, there are important things that need to be remembered. Use a tool like Fellow to jot down any notes and easily look back on them.

Who typically hosts ad hoc meetings?

Ad hoc meetings are most often held by managers of teams and projects. However, they can also be held by employees who are in need of immediate support in the workplace. A project manager may call an ad hoc meeting to touch base with the individuals who have been delegated tasks in the case of an updated timeline. An employee working on the same project could call a separate ad hoc meeting if they require immediate support for their piece of the project. Whether you’re a manager or not, you can save time by using the ad hoc meeting format to address your specific issue right away. 

8 tips on how to conduct a productive ad hoc meeting

1 Come in with a goal

It’s easy to schedule a last-minute meeting, but it can be tricky to come up with a last-minute meeting objective. Take a moment to think about what you’re hoping to achieve by calling an ad hoc meeting, and whether there are action-items that will need to be delegated. To make the meeting a success, focus on the main takeaways. When dealing with an urgent matter, the finer details can be discussed at a later date or written in a follow-up email. At the end of the meeting, every attendee should leave with a clear understanding of their next steps, and should know how they’ll contribute to the solution for the issue at hand.

2 Keep it short

Don’t let your ad hoc meeting turn into your monthly hour-long team meeting or a lengthy one-on-one. While you likely won’t have time to send an agenda, you can draft some quick points you want to discuss during the meeting on your phone or a sticky note. Keep your messaging concise, and try to leave room for questions at the end before communicating your objective one last time. Remember, the more concise you are, the more likely it is that your audience will remember what you said and what they need to do next. 

3 Be flexible

If you do have time to prepare an agenda before the meeting, great! If you don’t, try not to panic. Not every workplace interaction needs to be structured to be efficient. Sometimes being (professionally) candid in your ad hoc meeting can draw attention to the scale of the task at hand. In this circumstance, being flexible means not getting thrown off if something doesn’t go to plan. It also means remaining focused when the meeting has to take place in a less-than-ideal location or with fewer teammates than you had originally planned. A last-minute meeting will never be perfect, but you should always be proud of yourself and your team for being adaptable. 

4 Invite a small number of members

If there’s a serious workplace issue, it may seem smart to immediately schedule a call and include as many members of your team as possible. But, before you send that meeting request, think for a moment about what you’re trying to achieve and who needs to be included. The answer is likely fewer teammates than you originally thought. Here’s a rule of thumb: only include individuals who will be directly impacted by the information discussed at the meeting. If there’s an individual whose work may be impacted at a much later date or who has other work to prioritize, spare them the details and follow up later. Fewer employees at an ad hoc meeting means fewer opportunities for confusion. 

5 Use the right meeting tools 

Stay organized by using digital tools to keep you on task and focused. Start by assessing the tools you already have at your disposal. Track action items in meeting notes so you never lack clear steps or takeaways. You can use Fellow’s app for Zoom for your ad hoc meetings and turn chaotic moments into productive work sessions. This integration is perfect for impromptu meetings because Fellow will always pop up when your call begins, even if there isn’t an agenda. 

6 Assign action items 

Get more done by tracking your action items in one place. Use Fellow to get more done during and after every ad hoc meeting. Decide who will do what, by when, and assign clear deliverables to all those in attendance. We guarantee you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment as you check things off during the meeting. On Fellow’s action items page, you can reorganize your to-do lists, too. Any outstanding action items will automatically carry forward to your next meeting. 

7 Follow up accordingly

While it’s important to organize before getting together with your team, ad hoc meetings can sometimes feel disorganized due to their last-minute nature. This is why it’s important to follow up with the attendees. Send an email summary of what was discussed and include any new details about the situation to keep everyone up-to-date. You can also use the follow-up email to loop in and update any teammates who weren’t able to attend or weren’t required to be there. 

8 Be aware of time

For most meetings, you have days or hours to prepare. Ad hoc meetings are different in that you won’t have this leisure. These meetings also aren’t meant to become hour-long one-on-one conversations. However, they can easily become lengthy if you don’t set boundaries or a timeline in advance. Be realistic. If there’s going to be a huge shift in how work is distributed, it’s okay to schedule more time. If this isn’t the case or you don’t have time for a lengthier meeting, estimate how long each point you’ve written down should take to discuss to ensure you won’t run out of time. 

Main differences between a normal meeting and an ad hoc meeting:

  • Ad hoc meetings are focused. The ad hoc meeting format is not an excuse to call a non-urgent meeting to discuss an ongoing initiative that will later turn into a conversation surrounding your personal lives. The unplanned meeting exists to deal with current urgent issues. Avoid “social loafing” and get down to business to make the session a success. 
  • Ad hoc meetings are unplanned. You probably have a half dozen or so regular meetings that revolve around specific projects or initiatives. Ad hoc meetings are one-time, spontaneous gatherings to address a specific need. 
  • Normal meetings often follow an agenda. An ad hoc meeting may have an agenda, but most of the time, it will be more sporadic. These meetings require teams to get uncomfortable by using a potentially unfamiliar, less-structured format to collaborate. 

Urgent doesn’t have to mean chaotic

It’s a Friday morning and your long-standing client has a pressing issue that will require you and your team to drop everything to meet their new deadline. Or, perhaps a key colleague has left your team during the busiest time of the year, and as a manager, you need to delegate their workload to your team while you recruit someone new for the role. When a pressing matter arises, it can put a serious dent in your workflow. But do not fear, an ad hoc meeting is near! We all like to be organized, but we need to remember that urgent doesn’t have to mean chaotic. With a few moments of planning, a positive mindset, the right tools, and a few deep breaths, your ad hoc meeting will be a success. Most importantly, your team will be back on track and prepared to crush any upcoming goals!

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