Some people like to hold project meetings just to hold meetings. They control people’s time for an hour or two and it somehow makes them feel more important. It must be a control thing. It’s not for me…I like productivity. Just today I got a call about a potential meeting next Tuesday from noon to 1pm. Whether or not the meeting can even happen depends upon someone who’s voice mail says they are out until next Tuesday (the day of the proposed meeting). Ok…. And the call today ended with…”we’ll touch base again on Monday.” Um…no we won’t. You won’t even know if the 3rd party that must be there will even be available from noon to 1pm next Tuesday let alone if they will even answer your phone calls or emails Tuesday morning about having such a meeting a couple of hours later after having been out of the office on vacation for the past week. I’m guessing that project meeting is really about a week out…at best. Stop wasting time!
So, back to project meetings. I think you can tell by now that I’m not into having my time wasted or into wasting anyone else’s time if I can help it. So needless phone calls to “maybe” set up a meeting? No. Meetings to discuss the idea of having another project meeting? No. These things actually happen. If you want your meetings to count, to actually be productive and mean something and have a decent turnout of contributing attendees, then you need to prepare for it properly, conduct it properly and follow up properly. How…? Here’s how…
Think about the necessary or desired outcome of your project meeting and prepare accordingly.
What do you want to accomplish? What decisions need to be made? What issues need to be discussed? Who needs the latest updates on the project? All these questions need to be answered in order for you to compile your list of necessary attendees and to put together a meaningful agenda. Having the right mix of people in the seats at your project meeting is critical to getting decisions made and information getting out to the right individuals…and that’s what project meetings are for. Plan well so you can be sure to get those people you need in attendance in those seats.
Stick to the agenda and time-frame.
If you want to have a productive project meeting and not put people to sleep or have them spend the last half of your meeting doing the work they need to do because you ran over by an hour, then stay on track with the agenda and stick to your planned time-frame. It will also help you gain the reputation of someone who runs well organised meetings and your future project meetings will be well attended because of that.
Always follow-up for understanding.
Finally, always follow up. What good is having a project meeting if some key attendees leave thinking you said something you didn’t or that ‘x’ decision was made when really ‘y’ decision was made? Follow up with notes about what went on during the meeting, what assignments were made and what decisions were made. Ask for attendees to respond with any changes to those notes within 24 hours and then revise and re-distribute those notes. This assures that everyone has the same info – or at least gives them no excuse not to have the same info.
Summary / call for input
That’s it. It’s not that hard. Just don’t wing it. A good project manager and project meeting facilitator walks it out from the beginning through the end in his mind. He plans for a productive meeting. He wants his attendees to come as prepared as possible to participate and share information. He wants everyone to be on the same page after the meeting so he follows up to ensure everyone left with the same understanding of decisions, assignments, status and issues after the meeting. It’s not rocket science, but it is critical to project success.
How about our readers? What did I miss? How do you make sure your project meetings matter? What mistakes do you see others making that drive you crazy and probably make you not want to attend their meetings?