Meetings provoke strong emotions for many professionals.
When used with skill, meetings are a way to share information, solve problems, make decisions and build relationships. 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 thinking ahead to plan your meetings.
Successful project managers have extraordinary meeting skills. To enhance your meeting skills, learn how to navigate these five critical 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.
- Timely: Aim to hold the project meeting as soon as possible within 48 hours if possible.
- Team Introduction. Take the time to go around “the table” and have each person introduce themselves.
- In-Person: If your team is spread across multiple offices and locations, it may be difficult to bring the team together for a meeting. That expense is well worth it for the project kickoff meeting to help the team bond and work well together.
- Project At A Glance Data. 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 and issues 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.
- Next Steps. Provide a high-level outline of next steps on the project such as next steps in the planning process and what the team can expect to hear more details.
2. Project Status Meeting
The status meeting is the fundamental project tool that keeps 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.
- 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 with an emphasis on significant project milestones.
- Project Budget Status. Inform the team on the status of the project budget: 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 so they can 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 important contributor to your project’s success. If you have a large number of 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 the meeting on senior managers from each of the groups you need to engage. Other stakeholders can be informed using other means such as email newsletters.
- Present a project update. Start the meeting with a short overall project status update of five to ten minutes. Keep “project management” jargon to a minimum. It’s unreasonable for stakeholders to know earned value management measures: put these data points into terms that they can understand.
- 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 fully engage with stakeholders.
4. Change Control Meetings
Despite the best planning in the world, you will encounter surprises on your projects. A risk event may occur. Or you may have a new opportunity to move faster on a project. However, 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.
- Agenda. Provide an agenda 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 to the project.
- Make A Change Recommendation. Request the project sponsor approve, deny or comment on the change request.
- Plan Next Steps. Explain how you the change request decision will be communicated and outline how you will describe the impact of the project.
5. Project Review Meeting
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.
- 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 the meeting.
- Lessons Learned – Keep Doing. What activities and methods on the project added value? For example: the project team responded to all change requests within two business days.
- Lessons Learned – 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.
- Celebration. Take the time to celebrate the project’s success! If budget permits, take the project team out for lunch.Now It’s Your Turn:
It’s time to take action. What is one way you could improve a meeting you run this week using this article?