As a project manager, you will be responsible for facilitating meetings with your team members and other stakeholders. Meetings can be essential glue that holds your team and your project together. They are a time when stakeholders can come together to discuss progress and solve project roadblocks. But it is the project manager’s duty to ensure these meetings are organized and efficient or you may find that people will not bother to attend them. Here are some suggestions to optimize your project meetings.
Schedule Meetings in Advance
Schedule your meeting an appropriate time in advance. If your team is working on a large-scale project with many moving components, perhaps meetings need to be scheduled as far as a week in advance. If your team is working on a rapid-fire project, perhaps only a day will be necessary to schedule the meeting. Whatever time schedule you and your team are operating on, be sure to schedule your meetings appropriately. Scheduling in advance gives your team members time to prepare any materials or information they will be expected to provide at the meeting.
Set Your Meeting Agenda in Advance
Prior to your meeting, send out the meeting agenda to the participants. The agenda should include both the meeting topics and the expected time to be allotted to each topic. Sending the agenda in advance enables participants to prepare to present their ideas and perspectives at the meeting and gives participants the opportunity to review the agenda and request adjustments to it, if necessary.
Formatting Your Agenda:
1 Welcome and Intro – Welcome the meeting participants and thank them for their time and efforts. Quickly review the agenda and state the desired meeting outcome. This will focus everyone and reassure them that you have not changed the meeting’s intent.
2 Updates – Briefly touch on any follow-up items or action items that required attention from the last meeting. Discuss updates as they relate to the current project stage. Each participant should be prepared to briefly report on any updates within their field of responsibility.
3 Body of the Meeting – Discuss agenda items in an organized and efficient manner. Stay within the time limits originally allotted in the agenda. If off-topic discussions arise, make note of the topics and table them for a later meeting. Keeping the meeting on task and on schedule will keep participants engaged and demonstrate that you respect and appreciate their time. As the meeting proceeds, note decisions, action items, and results that the group produces. After all, this is why you are meeting in the first place!
4 Action Items – Prior to concluding the meeting, review the project outcomes, including the decisions, action items, and outcomes that the group produced. Be specific. Ensure that each action item is assigned to a specific participant and is assigned a set a deadline. Establish a reporting procedure so that you remain in the loop on action item progress and completion.
5 Other Business – Open this section of the meeting only if time remains of the originally allotted meeting schedule. At this point, you may come back to those off-topic ideas that came up throughout the meeting, or you may open the discussion to any participants who may have other items or ideas they would like to discuss while the group is all together.
Note Taking During the Meeting
Insist that the parties included in your meetings take notes by hand rather than electronically. When people type their notes in real-time, what will often happen is they end up dictating the entire meeting, rather than placing emphasis on only the important details. You may opt to take a single set of notes throughout the meeting, to be shared out to the participants afterwards. If this is the case, try to rotate the responsibility of note-taking to whoever is least involved in the current agenda item. For instance, if Jerry’s area of expertise is Agenda Item Two, perhaps have him take notes during the discussion on Agenda Item One. And if Maria’s area of expertise is on Agenda Item One, have her take notes on Agenda Item Two. Keep your experts engaged in their respective fields as discussed throughout the meeting, and rotate the note taking responsibilities to ensure that the proper parties may remain engaged at the proper times throughout the meeting.
Be sure to distribute the meeting minutes to participants and other interested parties who may not have been in attendance at the meeting. You may also choose to post them in an accessible electronic location. Follow up with team members who were assigned action items and, as your schedule allows, make yourself available to individuals and small group problem solving sessions to assist them in overcoming obstacles or facilitating work that may require assistance.
Remember, as the project manager, you are responsible for team meetings. Meetings can be a source of strength for your team, or a source of contention. As long as you respect your team members’ time, keep your meetings organized and on task, and provide benefit that would otherwise be lacking, your meetings will be an invaluable resource to your project team.
Enroll in Cygnet Leadership Solutions’ workshop titled “Facilitating Effective Meetings for Productive Outcomes,” to gain practical experience in facilitation skills and proven meeting tools and techniques.