“This meeting could have been an email.” It might sound like a tired complaint, but it’s a valid one that you can avoid with a strong meeting purpose statement. 

Why state your meeting’s purpose in advance, you ask? Your meetings will go better if you communicate their importance to attendees. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. employees are disengaged in their work, meaning they feel unproductive and that their time is wasted. Engaging employees means helping them feel a sense of purpose, like their time and contributions matter. A meeting purpose statement achieves that goal and helps your team show up ready to do great.

What is a meeting purpose statement?

A meeting purpose statement clearly explains the reason you’re calling your meeting. It’s the why behind your meeting, not the what.

The “what” is the type of meeting you want to hold (check-in meeting or team training, for example). The “why” is your meeting’s purpose. For example, you might hold a one-on-one meeting (what) to help an employee better understand their role in a new project (why).

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to clearly state the meeting purpose and have a collaborative agenda all in one place.

Why do you need a meeting purpose statement?

Having a clear meeting purpose statement helps you and your team focus on your goal and little else – nobody likes a meeting that drags on. A meeting purpose statement can also help you plan for your meeting ahead of time.

If anything, creating a purpose statement is all but mandatory as you plan your meeting. It helps ensure that your meeting materials, like your meeting agenda, presentation, and team-building activities, all work to serve your meeting goals. After you move past planning and actually convene your team, your purpose statement will remind everyone what you all need to do during the meeting.

Meeting purpose vs. meeting objectives: Three key differences

A purpose and an objective may sound closely related, but there’s a difference between these terms in the meeting world. While your meeting’s purpose is the “why” of your meeting, your meeting objectives are what you’ll work toward. While they have different meanings, your meeting’s purpose and agenda truly go hand in hand. We’ll break down the differences in three main ways:

1 General vs. specific

A meeting purpose statement encompasses the overall goal of your meeting. Maybe that’s discussing funding options for an annual company gala – sounds fun! A meeting objective, on the other hand, is what your team works to achieve. For this gala example, an objective can be to create a list of potential sponsors and assign each attendee a sponsor or two to contact.

2 Cause vs. action

Your meeting’s purpose brings your team members together under a shared cause. Meeting objectives advance that cause through action items. 

Let’s use the gala example again here. Your objectives will acknowledge that you need funding (that’s your purpose) and give your team tasks that fall under that purpose. Outlining a budget, designing the invitation, and finding a venue and caterer are all possible objectives that support the meeting purpose.

3 Intangible vs. Physical

The purpose of your next meeting might be having a discussion, making a decision, or inspiring and motivating your team. The reasons are endless. They’re also abstract and intangible — you can’t take a specific or measurable action based on a meeting purpose statement alone.

Meeting objectives, on the other hand, are items on a checklist that produce tangible results and allow you to track your team’s progress. In the fundraising example above, your team’s discussion (intangible) produces a budget and sheet of paper (physical) detailing prospective gala sponsors.

How do you write a purpose statement for a meeting?

Writing a meeting purpose statement might seem like a lot of work, especially for something that’s literally just one sentence. But clearly communicating your meeting’s purpose is essential to having a productive meeting. Consider the following do’s and don’ts to craft an effective meeting purpose statement.

Meeting purpose statement do’s

  1. Define the purpose. Ask yourself, “Why am I calling this meeting?” This question can help you pinpoint the overarching reason for your meeting. It’ll also help you determine if a meeting is really necessary. Maybe you can summarize it in an email instead.
  1. Use SMART goals. Make sure your meeting purpose can produce results by breaking your purpose statement into several SMART goals. This way, your meeting objectives will wind up being achievable and realistic to work toward.
  1. Identify your true needs. If your team is struggling with a new concept, you might hold a meeting to help. But maybe your team members aren’t struggling to understand the concept. Maybe your team isn’t effectively communicating or using the proper resources for a project. Identifying this true need means you’ll hold a way more effective meeting – one with a clear purpose.

Meeting purpose statement don’ts

  1. Don’t make your statement vague. The purpose of your meeting shouldn’t be just to have a discussion or talk about a budget. A discussion is merely an avenue to fulfilling your meeting’s purpose. Instead, tell your attendees why you need to have that discussion. In other words, state an objective too.
  1. Don’t be too specific. Your meeting purpose statement shouldn’t give away too much information about your meeting. Save the plans and minute details for the actual meeting. You don’t want to overwhelm or confuse your attendees by giving them specific information about a topic you haven’t yet explained.
  1. Don’t overthink it! If you go to write your meeting purpose statement but can’t think of what to write, you might need to reconsider calling a meeting. Briefly think to yourself, “Why is this important? What do I want to accomplish?” Writing your meeting purpose statement should be as easy as telling an employee why their work matters to the team.

Examples of meeting purpose statements and how they work

Below are four examples of meeting purpose statements that incorporate the above advice. Alongside each purpose statement is a list of objectives that set actionable steps for attendees. As you write your meeting purpose statement, consider how these examples clearly communicate the purpose and expectations for their respective meetings. Certainly, you can do the same!

1A finance meeting

Meeting purpose statement: The purpose of this meeting is to analyze financial reports and identify overspending in the budget.

Meeting objectives: Make a list of at least three areas in which each department can reduce spending. Create a spreadsheet for team members to update daily to accurately keep track of spending.

This purpose statement is specific and communicates the need for the meeting. It places the meeting’s focus on addressing a problem that’s affecting the company: overspending. Given this purpose, your accountant will know to bring spending reports from each department to properly present this issue.

The objectives for this meeting communicate the expectation for the team to contribute during this meeting. Attendees will need to present their departments’ financial reports and be ready to answer any questions regarding their spending decisions.

2 A recruitment meeting

Meeting purpose statement: The purpose of this meeting is to narrow down the pool of applicants to our open sales positions.

Meeting objectives: Review the resumes together. Vote on the top 10 suitable candidates from the pool of applicants. Assign each team member a candidate or candidates to contact for an interview.

This meeting purpose statement gives the hiring team a clear idea of the meeting’s goal. The objectives for this meeting present actionable steps that will help them select qualified individuals.

3 A marketing collateral meeting

Meeting purpose statement: In this meeting, we will decide on the brochure design to use in our updated marketing collateral.

Meeting objectives: Create a list of criteria for choosing the right design. Vote on three designs. Bring the decision on the preferred design to the marketing department.

Meeting purpose statements don’t have to be complex. This statement simply presents a goal that requires multiple opinions and a vote. It also encourages invitees to attend since their participation will contribute to the team’s decision. 

This meeting’s objectives give invitees an idea of how the meeting will progress. The objectives also convey the need for discussion and explain how the team will make its decision.

4Project kickoff meeting

Meeting purpose statement: Today’s meeting will explain the tasks and timeline for our newest project.

Meeting objectives: Assign weekly responsibilities to team members. Set deadlines for individual tasks and for greater project completion. Create a list of project manager contact information for team members to use if they encounter challenges. Set a schedule for weekly project check-in meetings.

As this team starts a new project, getting everyone on the same page about deadlines, responsibilities, and expectations helps the team properly complete all tasks on time. This meeting purpose statement tells team members to show up ready to hear important information on how they must contribute to this project. It’s truly a case of “you had to be there.”

This meeting’s objectives give team members clear directions on how to proceed with the project and address any issues they face. The team will receive specific deadlines to help them manage their schedules and deliver their work on time. 

Meeting with purpose

Meetings shouldn’t be the bane of your (or your employees’) existence – purposeful meetings always benefit your team and they’re entirely possible to have. Clearly identifying your meeting’s purpose is a great way to achieve that goal and emphasize why your meeting matters. Once you’ve done that, Fellow can help with everything else, including making an agenda, prioritizing tasks, requesting feedback from your team, and so much more.