A conversation is an informal discussion between two or more people. A meeting is an assembly of people who are members of a society or a community. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same and have different implications. In academia we need more discussions and fewer meetings.
- A Meeting is typically a structured event with a set agenda, time, and place.
- A Discussion can occur in a formal setting but can also be informal without a preset agenda.
- A Meeting has a broader scope that may include presentations, updates, action items, and discussions.
- A Discussion generally focuses on delving into specific topics, exchanging ideas, and problem-solving.
- A Meeting usually involves a designated leader or facilitator.
- A Discussion may or may not have a facilitator; often, all participants contribute equally.
- A Meeting is more formalized, often involving procedures, minutes, and follow-up tasks.
- A Discussion can be formal but is often less structured.
Academia has far too many meetings and not enough discussions where the views of all are heard equally. A discussion is more consistent with the milieu of an academic setting prompting the open exchange of ideas, inclusivity, flexibility, critical thinking, and reduced hierarchies. The absence of a strict format or authoritative figures moderating the conversation may allow for a more egalitarian exchange of ideas, aligning well with the principles of academic freedom.
However, it’s important to note that discussions can also have limitations, such as the potential for veering off-topic or failing to reach actionable conclusions. Additionally, discussions are not immune to power dynamics that can stifle academic freedom, such as peer pressure or the influence of more dominant personalities in the group.