What Is an Ad-Hoc Meeting? (With Alternatives and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 24, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Executives typically schedule regular meetings to allow employees to prepare adequately for them. They might organize impromptu meetings when emergencies arise in the company. Understanding the benefits of these meetings can help you understand and implement them. In this article, we define what an ad-hoc meeting is, highlight its advantages, describe its disadvantages, and outline alternatives to this type of meeting.

What is an ad-hoc meeting?

An ad-hoc meeting typically describes a meeting that occurs outside of fixed meeting times. Executives may schedule them when it's essential for employees and other stakeholders to make urgent decisions regarding emergencies that strongly impact a company.

An impromptu meeting may not have an agenda or planned speakers and presentations. Executives use these meetings to discuss a specific point or topic that may affect a company's structure, operations, and planning. They may also discuss issues outside of regular meeting agendas or meet with external clients and customers. For example, if a company experiences a major public relations crisis, executives may request an impromptu meeting to discuss solutions.

Related: How to Run an Effective Meeting with Your Staff

Advantages of impromptu meetings

The following are the benefits of impromptu meetings in the workplace:

Save time

An impromptu meeting may take less time to schedule and plan than a regular workplace meeting. Executives organize them by requesting specific employees and managers to discuss important points at a specified location. Impromptu meetings usually last for a shorter amount of time than regular meetings because they may not have lengthy agendas.

Executives initiate these meetings to manage certain situations and make prompt decisions without diverting from selected topics. The meeting consists of a brief introduction and immediate discussions on the agenda. There may not be many speakers at this meeting, which ensures that it ends quickly. Executives ensure these meetings are short to allow employees to execute decisions rapidly.

Related: 12 Essential Steps to Run a Debrief Meeting Effectively

Help with urgent decisions

Companies can encounter situations that require urgent decisions. Due to external factors, clients, customers, or investors might request meetings unexpectedly. This ensures that employees can quickly discuss alternatives and develop solutions to crises. Executives can organize meetings to allow clients to discuss their concerns or enable company executives and managers to create plans to reduce the impact of negative situations on the company.

Related: How to Make a Meeting Agenda: Tips, Template, and Example

Include clear objectives

An impromptu meeting may have a singular objective. Executives can communicate this goal to managers and other employees during the meeting. They may organize these meetings to inform employees about situations that require their input. Executives may note suggestions that employees make during the meeting.

As impromptu meetings are short, its helpful to schedule subsequent meetings to outline other important points and elaborate on plans. The initial impromptu meeting allows employees to understand their roles or responsibilities in managing unexpected situations. It also helps them select the most beneficial alternative and plan the company's use of resources.

Related: How to Set a Meeting Purpose (With Definition and Examples)

Use flexible locations

Executives can choose various locations for ad-hoc meetings. These meetings may be smaller than regular meetings because they often involve a small group of people, making it easier for executives to choose spaces for the gathering. Executives also ensure that a meeting space contains the necessary tools and technological devices for digital communication. This allows them and other employees to use visual aids during their discussions.

Allow for small groups

When organizing impromptu meetings, executives ask a select group of employees to attend. This may include managers, departmental heads, and other key employees. Having a small group of employees simplifies the decision-making process. Unlike regular meetings where all employees may contribute, an impromptu meeting ensures that only employees with expert knowledge of the situation contribute. This also ensures that meeting attendees can explain the situation to their team members and distribute tasks accordingly.

Related: How to Build a Collaborative Team in an Organization

Disadvantages of impromptu meetings

The following are some disadvantages of scheduling impromptu meetings:

Disrupts work schedule

To organize an impromptu meeting, executives typically interrupt employees' regular schedules. This may disturb their workflow and productivity. It may also cause delays in the workplace, as managers may pause team activities to implement decisions made during the meeting. Employees may be working on tasks that require concentration and focus, and an impromptu meeting could negatively affect their work quality. For example, they might rush tasks to meet their deadlines, which can negatively affect their teams and departments. This may also reduce employees' willingness to concentrate on their tasks.

Related: How to Make Work Schedules (With Tips to Make Your Own)

Focuses on a single problem

An impromptu meeting focuses on solving a single problem or issue in the workplace. This means that executives and managers may have a narrow view of the company's challenges, resulting in them making decisions without considering all necessary factors. Employees are more likely to make mistakes or implement solutions that may not be viable for all stakeholders.

By allowing a small group to attend these impromptu meetings, executives may not consider the opinions and ideas of all employees. This may prevent them from considering all their available options and alternatives. By scheduling impromptu meetings, executives may neglect other important issues or challenges within the workplace, which could negatively affect a company.

Lacks preparation

Impromptu meetings lack structure and organization. Due to their quick procedures, executives, managers, and other employees may be unable to prepare appropriately for these meetings. Executives may not have time to organize their thoughts or prepare an agenda before scheduling them. The lack of preparation may affect the quality of ideas and solutions that employees propose at these meetings because they haven’t had time to analyze problems adequately. Due to the lack of an agenda, executives could omit vital information and divert from the main issue, which prolongs the meeting.

Affects work culture

Scheduling constant impromptu meetings may negatively affect a company's work culture, as they can distract employees from their work. It may also reduce employees' engagement, as they may feel undervalued by supervisors and executives. This may occur when executives and managers don’t consider their schedules when organizing these meetings.

Organizing frequent impromptu meetings may introduce a harmful work culture that prevents structure and preparation. This might cause conflicts, as meeting schedules may clash due to a lack of organization. Its helpful to schedule impromptu meetings only when necessary.

Alternatives to impromptu meetings

The following are alternatives to impromptu meetings you can consider:

Send informative e-mails

Instead of scheduling an impromptu meeting that may disrupt employees' schedules, consider sending e-mails instead. These e-mails may describe critical situations and emergencies that require solutions. They can help you organize your thoughts and give you time to review your message before you send it. To ensure prompt responses, notify employees that they may receive urgent e-mails that require their attention. Unlike impromptu meetings, using e-mails to send information ensures that you don't omit any necessary updates and allows you to highlight critical issues.

Related: Official Meeting Invitation E-mail Sample (With Tips)

Share descriptive videos

You could record a video of you explaining situations and send it to employees. Using videos allows employees to watch and listen to them at their own convenience. It also ensures that employees who may not be available can remain aware of information concerning the company. Different apps allow you to add comments and notes to these videos. Highlight essential issues and request feedback from your team members using this tool.

Use collaborative tools

Different digital tools allow employees to work together on tasks, update files in real time, and share resources. Instead of scheduling an impromptu meeting, you could inform your colleagues and team members about emergencies requiring their input using these tools. You can use these tools to receive ideas, contributions, and solutions from employees on urgent issues. To ensure clarity, assign tasks and responsibilities using these tools. This eliminates the need for employees to meet physically to discuss important issues.

Explore more articles