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10 Tips For Better Project Meetings


10 Tips For Better Project Meetings


I once worked at a company where I had to block out time to eat my lunch each day. If I didn’t keep that slot free in my diary, someone would book me to attend a meeting. I had back-to-back meetings most days. When was I expected to do any actual work?

I’m sure you have days like that too. Meetings take up so much of our time as project managers. As a result, we should be experts at running them! Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple and meetings can become a huge burden. Here are 10 tips to stop your meetings ending up as stuffing in someone’s diary.

1. Give People Enough Notice

Everyone is busy (including you) so book your meeting with enough notice for people to reorganize their diary to attend. Put regular meetings on the project schedule and ensure they are in everyone’s diary well in advance.

2. Issue An Agenda

Even if you discuss the same things every week at a regular project team meeting, you should still have an agenda. Send it out in advance or make it available via a shared document library. Let people suggest agenda items to add as this makes it less likely that they will bring up issues under Any Other Business.

Make sure that your agenda helps you focus on what you want to get out of the meeting. For example, if it’s a status update session, you’ll want agenda items for each team member to report their progress. If it’s a decision-making meeting, you’ll probably want to structure it so that everyone gets the chance to present their view before collectively agreeing on the way forward.

3. Keep The Tech Simple

Using technology such as screen sharing or conferencing is great, but make sure that you know how it works. Practice in advance, and keep it as simple as you can. If you need other people to use the tools, make sure to spend a bit of time with them before the meeting so that they know what to do. If something needs to be installed on their PC, get that done before the meeting starts so that no one is sitting around waiting for the important discussion to begin while a colleague loads some software or sets up a user account.

4. Don’t Book It For An Hour

Many calendar and diary applications automatically book meetings for an hour. You can change the defaults, but most people don’t, so when they book meetings you’re summoned for the whole 60 minutes. And how long do these meetings last? 60 minutes. Don’t get sucked in to making your meetings as long as the default. If you can do it faster, book a shorter meeting. There’s nothing wrong with inviting people for 45 minutes or less.

5. Invite The Right People

Get the right people in the room. If they can’t all make it, consider rescheduling the meeting or allowing them to send deputies. Some senior managers are very difficult to get hold of, so make friends with their assistants! Talk to their assistant or secretary to find out when is the best time to schedule the meeting to give you the best chance of having everyone attend.

6. Brief Attendees In Advance

Many project meetings involve decisions, and if a decision is likely to be controversial it is a good idea to talk it over with the people coming to the meeting before the meeting actually happens. Brief them on the hot topics, the way you think the conversation will go and give them the opportunity to ask questions one-on-one about the decisions that need to be made. You can also offer recommendations to help them decide how to contribute to the decision-making discussion.

7. Sort Out The Room

Get a suitable venue. Choose somewhere that everyone can travel to in a reasonable time. Consider things like parking and catering facilities. Is there a hotel nearby and can you get a discount if you book all the rooms together? Organize a laptop, projector, screen and any other equipment that you might need like a flip chart. And make sure that you have the contact details of the room hire company just in case you need to contact them on the day to sort something out.

On the day, get to the venue early, even if it is just a meeting room on the floor upstairs. Make sure the phone and computer kit is plugged in and that you have everything that you need, including a coffee.

8. Watch The Time

Stick to the schedule! Go through your agenda before the meeting and mentally allocate some time to each of the items. Bear this in mind as the meeting progresses. If you start to spend too much time on one agenda item you can either let the discussion run and postpone the other items, or cut the conversation short and pick up that topic at another time. Have an idea about what route you want to take before the meeting starts.

9. Get The Minutes Out Quickly

Ideally, you should send out the meeting minutes within a couple of days. If you leave it any longer people will have forgotten what the meeting was about and they won’t be able to remember the discussion!

Give people the opportunity to challenge the meeting record and if you need to, you can issue a second version of the meeting. It’s not common for people to comment on the minutes, but sometimes they will feel strongly about including something or changing the way a discussion was represented. They may also have better recall than you so it can be a very good thing!

10. Cancel Them!

How many meetings do you attend and then wonder why the meeting was called at all? Regular project team meetings are essential for the success of projects, but if there is nothing to discuss, perhaps because you had an emergency team conference call or you had a lot of people on holiday, then cancel the meeting. There’s no point in having a meeting for the sake of it and your project team certainly won’t thank you for wasting their time.

We spend so much time in meetings that it is worthwhile spending some of that time getting the planning right. That means your attendees are more likely to find the meeting a useful experience and you are more likely to get the outcome you want from your meeting.