Running Effective Project Meetings

DOs and DON’Ts for Running a Successful Meeting

30-efficient_meetings300Project managers have a responsibility to ensure their project meetings are efficient and effective. I think any meeting organizer should understand that their first job is to minimize the time away from the ‘work’ and maximize every second of each person’s time in the meeting room. Managing expectations is critical.

DOs:

  • Book the meeting time early to get it on calendars
  • Circulate an agenda prior to the meeting and establish an expectation that they be reviewed before the meeting.
  • Meet key members before the meeting to make sure that they have status/responses to their action items and/or gather agenda items.
  • Start and end your meetings on time.
  • Start your meetings by stating the purpose of the meeting.
  • Introduce any new members to the meeting – name, responsibilities, purpose of attending etc.
  • Start summarizing, validating, and capturing Action Items, Issues, and Decisions during your meetings as they surface.
  • Start engaging your team members with well-thought-out questions.
  • End a meeting by re-iterating the action items and confirming the person who is responsible. Actions, due dates and assignments force accountability.
  • Invite all the needed people and just the needed people. Let everyone know why they should attend the meeting and the desired input from him/her.
  • Distribute list of action items (and minutes) by email up to 24 hours after the meeting and establish an expectation that they be reviewed.
  • Consider ending every meeting by going around the room and ask each attendee if they have any questions or anything else to add. But, be careful it doesn’t cause the meeting to overrun!
  • If individuals are only required to be in attendance for a short period of time, move the agenda around to cover those topics first and cut them loose.
  • Set optimal time expectations for resolving issues or completing assigned tasks.
  • Be sure to communicate accountability and help your team prioritize and facilitate closure if necessary. The project-program leader is the key player to keeping the team on track and hitting the milestones.
  • Adjourn the meeting when the agenda is completed or time is up. If the meeting ends early, you could check the time and say, “X minutes back in your day.” People seem to like that.
  • Make sure the actions and agreements you capture are followed up on. A meeting not resulting in prompt action is meaningless. Let’s ensure implementation.
  • As a company, we should monitor the effectiveness of our meetings. Effective meetings can drive better results and positively impact the company’s bottom line.

DON’Ts

  • Don’t go off agenda.
  • Don’t let people ramble on and on off topic.
  • Stop having meetings with no agenda and stated purpose. Stop unnecessary meetings!
  • Don’t let meetings go over time.
  • Don’t allow individuals dominate your meetings.
  • Don’t allow people to check email and answer phones during your meetings.
  • Don’t over-schedule or under-schedule individual meetings. If you can accomplish the agenda in half an hour, schedule a half hour, if you need 3 days schedule 3 days etc..
  • Stop using the meeting as a social hour.
  • Don’t allow “technical difficulties” from preventing participation. If there are remote team members, start the conference bridge/video conferencing systems couple of minutes ahead.
  • Don’t waste valuable time for your team members.
  • Do not allow multiple simultaneous conversations – particularly in a large team meeting.  Keep the meeting focused.
  • Don’t go back over what was discussed in the first few minutes of the meeting to bring the latecomers up to date. If they can’t get there on time, why should others be subjected to hearing it all over again?

The truth is, it is usually not what is discussed in meetings and/or decided behind closed doors that makes a difference in the productivity and the success of the project. More often than not, it is about how we communicate those decisions and implement the plans after we open the door.

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