Effective meetings are enjoyable and productive. People learn new things, particularly what is relevant to their own research. Furthermore, informal interactions associated with these meetings can lead to breakthroughs, both minor and major.
What should be the format of the meeting? A balance between structure and informality seems to be key. Talks on the whiteboard are preferable to power point presentations. Here are a few ideas on meeting content:
- A group members talks about what they are currently working on. This provides feedback and accountability in a friendly environment. People learn more about what other group members are working on. Hopefully this leads to other conversations.
- A group member talks about an important paper by someone else. It can be an old "classic" paper or a recent one. Everyone gets educated. Students learn what might be important or not. Everything in Nature and Science is not important or reliable.
- Everyone in the group brings a paper they have recently read to the meeting. They then have limited time (e.g. 7 minutes) to convince everyone else they should read the paper. This encourages people to keep up with the literature and be reflective about what they are reading.
- A group member gives a practice of a seminar or conference talk they are due to give soon. The group provides constructive feedback. This can significantly enhance the quality of presentations group members give. [I remember when I was a postdoc, another postdoc told me he was more scared of giving the practice talk than the conference talk!]
- The dice meeting. [I have not done this but heard of it in German research groups]. A paper from the literature will be discussed. Everyone in the group reads it and prepares a talk on it. But, at the meeting a dice (or two) is rolled. Whoever's number shows up gives the talk.
- Questions should be encouraged. Sometimes a prize (e.g., a bottle of wine) can be awarded for the person who asks the most questions.
- Serving food (e.g. a cake) is a good thing.
I welcome other suggestions that readers have found particularly effective and useful.