How do other people's labs handle group meetings?
We have two meetings a week. One is a research meeting in which one person presents his/her work in the last couple of months. The rest of us ask questions, make suggestions and have a dialog about what we are all doing. In theory people show their projects warts and all; not just what works. Some people have a hard time though showing the warts. My opinion is show it all. If you are having problems, someone else might be having similar ones and they can learn from what you did or did not do. Our meetings are friendly. People do challenge conclusions reached but do so in a non-confrontional manner. Heard in the past there were post-docs in the lab who were overly aggressive in group meetings & in lab in general which was not a productive research environment. They were asked to leave by the PI before I got there.
The other meeting is a journal club where someone presents a research article of interest which we then discuss. Usually this is less of a discussion than what is optimal because people don't read the papers ahead of time, most of the time due to the fact the person presenting doesn't pick an article until the night before or day of. Still it is nice to get a cross section of papers beyond my narrow subfield of a subfield.
In addition, once a month or so we have a concepts meeting. Someone prepares a presentation on some general topic and we discuss it. Many times it ends up being more of a lecture than anything else. Our PI brings in people from vary different backgrounds (microbiology, biochemistry, structural biology, computational biology, etc) so there is a lot of expertise to draw from which this format brings to the fore.
These meetings serve a secondary function of training us how to present. This can be tedious at times as our PI likes to discuss at times the details of what is wrong with a presentation. Some people never learn though and are constantly trying to write in yellow with a white background, not using spell-check, etc.
I know other labs do things differently. Not sure what way is the best. No matter the style the value in such meetings I find usually reflects on how the PI approaches the matter. Some are interested in actual learning & scientific discussions others are looking to see who will be their favorite. The latter leads to conflict and in my opinion unproductive meetings.