Admit it, we’ve all attended a meeting and felt that it wasn’t a good use of our time. I’m not going to sit here and say that meetings are fun. They’re not, but you work in project management, this is a necessary part of your job. What I can do, is give you some guidance on how you can improve and have a successful project meeting.
1) Same day, same time
In order to keep up the momentum in a project, you need to run periodic meetings to discuss the progress of a project. Irregular meetings should be avoided as they can cause disruption to people’s work schedules.
Ideally, you should arrange for these on the same day and time each week, so everyone knows to set this time aside and be in attendance. Word of advice, don’t hold meetings on Mondays (people are still in holiday mode) or Fridays (people are winding down for the week). Studies have found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to hold a meeting.
2) Set objectives
As with most things in project management, defining clear goals for what you wish to achieve is essential and meetings are no different. If you want to hold a meeting for two hours and use some of your Team Members time, you need to make sure it’s worthwhile. Setting objectives is a way to clearly measure how well a meeting has gone by looking at what’s been achieved. Indicating whether the meeting was a success or a failure.
3) Don’t invite too many people
Have you ever heard of the expression ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’? Well, try ‘Too many delegates spoil the discussion’.When you try and invite too many people to a meeting, it can cause project bloat. It can end up being a waste of time for everyone, including yourself.
When holding a meeting, be sure to only invite those who are important to what’s being discussed. It can be hard to hold everyone’s attention, especially if you aren’t involving them in the conversation. Too many people can lead to an unfocused discussion. Inviting a small number of key decision-makers means you can accomplish a lot more in the time given.
4) Keep to the schedule
When you hold an hour-long meeting, there’s nothing more frustrating than people turning up fifteen minutes late and then running over by a further thirty minutes. Don’t punish those who turn up on time, it’s unfair and a waste of time for them.
Be firm and make it clear that you will be starting at the time you set and finishing promptly too. Often it will be the same people that turn up late, time and time again. Don’t start over for them, they will soon get the message. If you want to be really strict, why not lock the door on time, this will be a clear sign to the latecomers to turn up on time in future.
5) Prepare a written agenda
Make sure you create an agenda prior to the meeting. Outline all of the different topics you wish to discuss as well and the allocated time for this. Email it out to attendees 24 hours in advance so they are aware of what will be discussed and to allow them to prepare for it. This can be used as a checklist to make sure everything is covered.
Make sure that the agenda is in a visible place for everybody to see or give everyone a printout. This way everyone can refer to it if discussions start to go off subject. Team Members may want their own time slot to present something. Email everyone asking for them to send you their requests no later than 24 hours prior to the meeting.
6) Don’t cancel them
In some situations, cancellations can’t be avoided. Keeping some consistency in meetings is key to ensuring you get full attendance each time. If you cancel it, people won’t see them as a mandatory requirement. They will lose the importance of them in the first place, especially if you do it time and time again. People won’t take you seriously and you’ll be known as the person that always cancels project meetings.
After each discussion point has drawn to a close, be sure to conclude what decisions have been made and have everybody agree with them. This will outline each individual’s actions and time frames set for them to complete them in. For example, if somebody has to complete a task by the following Tuesday, they are more inclined to do it, as they have agreed to this front of their peers, nobody wants to be embarrassed at the next meeting.
Always end the meeting by summarising all the points that have been discussed. This will leave everything fresh in everybody’s minds and give them the chance to ask any questions they may have forgotten.
8) Keep a record
A meeting is ineffective if nobody can remember what was said or what the next steps are. Get someone to keep minutes from the meeting, or if you’re lucky get a scribe. Make them note down any decisions that have been made, questions that need to be answered and everyone’s actions. Then send out an email to all attendees within a day of the meeting, although the same day is advised. This will allow them to come back to you with any questions or corrections.