Project meetings don’t have to be painful experiences. If they are well managed and planned, they can be very effective forms of communication. They can assist project managers with an accurate view of the project team’s work and project status as well as providing the team with this information.
Factors for an effective meeting
Have objectives – Make sure the project team understand the schedule, major risks and issues, blockers, and dependencies. Project meetings need to include:
- Tasks that have been completed (since last meeting) and those that should have been but are not (and these are probably the most important)
- Tasks that are up and coming in the next period
- Risks and issues
Have an Agenda and stick to it.
Have meetings at a regular time (and as convenient as possible for all the team) so they all know this time is allocated for the project meetings. However morning meetings usually work better and preferably not Mondays!
Every meeting must have a leader. It does not always have to be you, but someone must be in charge and facilitate the meeting.
Meeting etiquette – Discourage the use of cell phones or texting during the meeting, and if members bring laptops in with them, make it known this is not the time to catch-up on emails!
How to conduct a successful meeting
Start and end meetings on time and as the host make sure you are never late! End when the Agenda is completed; it is fine for people to sit and chat if they choose to, but make it clear the meeting is over so those who need to leave can do so. And make it a goal, if possible, to end meetings early!
Whilst it may be necessary to have conference call/dial-in meetings, physical meetings can be preferable, if possible, to ensure members are engaged and concentrate on the meeting content. If using “cloud” facilities make sure all members in the meeting know who is online, and that these members are included in the relevant conversations.
Try to make sure that everyone who has something to say is given a chance to say it. It may not be necessary to take turns, but be alert to body language and participation. If someone seems overly quiet, ask them a question. Remember that silence is not always golden – everyone likes to contribute. Make sure each participant has the opportunity to bring up their concerns or ideas. If some people are quiet or you have a person monopolizing the discussion, try and include the reserved participants.
Don’t have lengthy meetings – the project team probably need to be working on the project! Agile Scrums have daily stand-ups and this is a good method for short, informal, effective meetings.
Have actions (allocated to a project team member) and due dates.
Dealing with conflict – Not all conflict is bad or unavoidable. Keep the talk relevant, not personal; focus on outcomes not playing the blame game. Remember, healthy tension is all right!
Don’t have lengthy discussions about an item – if it needs an in-depth discussion take if off-line and arrange a secondary meeting. Likewise if you do not have all the information/people for an item, assign an action to have a follow-up meeting.
Sometimes there will be differences of opinion. Accept what works best for the success of the project.
At the end and after the meeting
Ensure all team members know what actions items are allocated to each, when they are expected to be completed and circulate these actions to the team members promptly after the meeting (within 24 hours). A quick email may suffice for this purpose.