Project Meetings – Planning for Success

Project meetings – they’re both vital and possibly one of the least popular things involving your project. Those attending the meeting don’t always want to be there (particularly if they’ve been left out at previous meetings) and planning a project meeting isn’t the simplest thing in the world either. With that being said, these are important meetings, and it’s equally important that you go about planning them the right way. Doing so will not only ensure that you’re able to cover the information necessary, but that your audience is engaged, that everyone has a chance to contribute, and that communication is enhanced.
What’s the Reason for the Meeting?
The first thing involved with planning your meeting is determining exactly what it’s about. You need a purpose, and you can’t afford to be too inclusive of other topics. The reason for the meeting will also determine at least to some extent who you invite. Have a clearly stated purpose and you’ll be able to follow through with all the other elements in project meeting planning.
Supporting Materials
Very rarely will your project meeting not require some type of supporting materials. These materials can vary considerably from one meeting to another, and might involve charts and graphs, digital projections, handouts and more. Make sure that you not only know what supporting materials you’ll need, but have enough time to produce those materials in sufficient quantities.
Who’s Necessary?
One of the areas where project managers get into trouble (particularly those new to the role) is in the number of people invited to project meetings. Make it a point to only invite those who are absolutely necessary. There are several reasons to limit the number of attendees.
First, the fewer people you have at the meeting, the fewer interruptions you’ll have. You’ll also find that it’s easier to get to everyone in the meeting, ensuring that no one is left out and your meeting doesn’t run over its allotted time.
Second, limiting the number of people attending reduces the amount of prep work that you have to do, and also ensures that those attending your meeting are responsible for disseminating the information to their teams, departments or others they supervise who have some interest in the project.
Length Considerations
Never assume that your meeting attendees don’t have something important to do before and after the meeting. Keep your meetings as short as possible, but long enough to cover everything that needs to be said and still provide ample time for attendees to participate. This also requires you to choose the appropriate time for your meeting. Find out from your attendees what time of day is usually best for them, and then set the meeting during the period that most find preferable. There’s no way to satisfy everyone here, but you do need to make it a concern.
As a final note, you might find that smaller, more frequent meetings (of a short duration) are preferable to long meetings with a large audience. A five-member audience in a 15-minute meeting might be a better fit for your needs.

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