Meetings provoke strong emotions for many professionals.
When used with skill, meetings are an excellent way to get work done and build relationships simultaneously. When they’re run poorly, they burn up precious time and create frustration. Given how many meetings project managers attend, there’s a great ROI to understanding the importance of project meetings and thinking ahead to plan your meetings.
Successful project managers have extraordinary meeting skills. To enhance your meeting skills, learn how to navigate these five different types of project meetings. Once you master these fundamentals, you can move on to more complex meeting types.
1. Project Kickoff Meeting
If you begin a project on the right foot, all the subsequent steps will be easier to manage. Use the following tips to organize an effective project kickoff meeting.Be timely. Aim to hold the project meeting as soon as possible within 48 hours of being assigned to the project, if possible.Make time for team introductions. Take the time to go around “the table” for introductions. This step is important even if most people know each other. Sharing your name, title, and experience with the organization is all you need.
(e.g., “I’m Jane Smith, project manager at ACME. I joined Acme in 2015 in the application development department.)Share key project details. Share the key facts that you know about the project, such as due date, budget (if appropriate), estimated team size, and some of the challenges you anticipate facing. By raising problems early, your project team will have the opportunity to start thinking about them. This is also your opportunity to inspire the team with your vision and understanding of the project’s value.Emphasize the project’s purpose. Explain the big picture reason for the project that connects to the organization’s goals. For example, this technology upgrade project will prevent system crashes in the customer service project. Therefore, this project will make a key contribution to the company’s goal of offering the best customer service in the industry.Provide next steps. Provide a high-level outline of the next steps on the project, such as the next steps in the planning process and what the team can expect to hear more details.
2. Project Status Meeting
The purpose of status review meetings in project management is to keep a project moving toward success. Most project managers recommend using a relatively fixed agenda and time with this meeting. To keep the team engaged, systematically follow the agenda and keep the meeting held on a tight schedule. If you are using a project management software tool like Microsoft Project, consider sending a project status report in advance of the meeting to get everyone on the same page. Use these expert tips during your next status meeting:Project Schedule Status: Review the project schedule so the team can understand the impact of delays or opportunities presented by completing work ahead of schedule.Project Scope Status: Explain how much work is completed, emphasizing significant project milestones (e.g., the project is 85% complete, and our next focus is on quality assurance.)Project Budget Status: Inform the team on the project budget’s status: how much has been spent compared to the plan?Issues and Risks: Risks need to be continually assessed and discussed. During this part of the meeting, invite the team to raise problems, questions, and concerns to be managed.Team Member Updates: This agenda item gives everyone on the project team to share other thoughts and comments about the project that have not been covered elsewhere.
3. Stakeholder Meetings
Winning and sustaining the support of your stakeholders is an essential contributor to your project’s success. If you have many stakeholders to manage, focus this meeting on your project’s most influential stakeholders.Identify appropriate stakeholders for “high touch” communication. For example, you may focus on senior managers’ meetings from each group you need to engage. Other stakeholders can be informed using other means, such as email newsletters.Present a tailored project update. Start the meeting with a short overall project status update of five to ten minutes. These VIP updates should also speak to the individual’s examples. For instance, focus on project financials if you are meeting with a finance manager.Seek and listen to feedback. Some stakeholders will make their opinions heard without prompting, while some prefer to be quietly engaged. The stakeholder meeting is your opportunity to engage with stakeholders fully.
4. Change Control Meetings
Despite the best planning in the world, you will encounter surprises on your projects. A risk event may occur like a system failure, vendor delay, or something else. These changes need to be managed in a disciplined, systematic way. While you may have the power to approve small change requests as the project manager, most change requests will need to be reviewed through a governance process and meetings.Provide an agenda. Provide a plan in advance so that attendees know which changes will be discussed. The best practice is to circulate the agenda at least one business day in advance of the meeting date (along with supporting documents like copies of the change requests).Discuss change assessment. For each proposed change request, present your professional opinion on the change’s impact on the project.Make a change recommendation. Request the project sponsor approve, deny or comment on the change request.Plan next steps. Explain how the change request decision will be communicated and outline how you will describe the project’s impact.
5. End Project Meetings
The end of the project (or the project phase) is an excellent opportunity to review how the work unfolded. For the best results, schedule this meeting with the project team members within a few days of the project’s completion.Set ground rules. At the end of a project, the team may be worn out from working long hours on the project. Before the meeting starts, explain your expectations and the purpose of effective project meetings. For example, encourage project team members to avoid playing the blame game.Review lessons learned and what you should keep doing. Ask yourself, “What activities and methods on the project added value?” For example, it could be that the project team responded to all change requests within two business days.Review lessons learned and areas of improvement. What can you and the project team do differently on future projects? Encourage everyone to look for ideas that can be generalized and used by others in the organization.Don’t forget to celebrate. Take the time to celebrate the project’s success! If budget permits, take the project team out for lunch or send a virtual gift card.
4 Bonus Tips to Make the Most of Virtual Meetings
You might have most or all of these meetings in a virtual, remote format due to the global pandemic and large-scale shift to remote work. Use the following four tips to make the most of your calls regardless of the platform you use.
1. Get familiar with mute button etiquette. Learn how to use the mute button consistently in every meeting. It is one of the best ways to reduce the impact of background noise.
2. Use screen sharing thoughtfully. Screen sharing for collaboration and problem solving is a fantastic tool. Before you use it, consider tidying up your virtual space to keep meeting participants focused on the task at hand.
3. Check your lighting. Poor lighting on a video call makes it tough to see you. When possible, use natural light. Alternatively, consider buying a light. NY Mag has a series of suggestions to help you choose: The Best (Most Flattering) Lighting for Video Calls, According to Experts.
4. Avoid defaulting to video. Video conference calls are not always the right choice. There is Harvard Business Review research that explains one reason why video calls are tiring: “having to engage in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable — and tired..” Therefore, mix in audio-only calls and phone calls from time to time.
Now it’s time to take action. What is one way you could improve a meeting you run this week using this article?
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