~ By Brad Egeland
From time to time, everyone will find themselves planning for and conducting some sort of meeting, right? Who hasn't led a meeting before? Raise your hand. Thought so. And for project managers, that can be something that occurs several times per week. For certain, we should be conducting formal weekly meetings with the project client. We should also be conducting weekly internal team meetings.
Since accurate project information is critical, these two meetings are usually our best ways to get and give accurate and timely project status updates. But we also want them to be worthwhile. And by worthwhile, I mean meaningful, accurate, timely, efficient, productive, etc. – all those ingredients that could go into what most of us would consider to be a good meeting.
For me, it's a process that doesn't just happen…rather, it involves a few key steps:
Invite only those you need. If you try to bring everyone into the picture – even those that could just get follow-up notes through email but aren't needed for decision-making or discussion – then you can get a reputation as a time waster. And don't worry about those that may have their feelings hurt by not being invited to your little soiree. That petty emotion does not need to be enabled.
You don't need to cover everything in each meeting – you need to stay on task. In fact, you should always try to keep meetings to one hour or less. If it needs to be longer, then it probably should be multiple meetings because you're likely covering more than one important (but understandably related) topic anyway.
This may be the most important part and the least followed-through upon. Once each meeting is over, for most it's over. But really, that's where the rubber meets the road to make sure everyone has the same post-meeting understanding. As the PM, it's your job to make sure that's happening. Send out your project meeting notes as soon as possible and ask for a 24-hour turnaround on any changes or additions from your key stakeholders. You may have missed something, too.
Meetings are necessary evils…like cars. Unless you collect them, you really only need cars because you have to get from point "A" to point "B". And they cost money and time. Meetings can be the same way. But you need the participation, and you need the information you can get out of them.
So plan, prepare and conduct. Make them effective, efficient and worthwhile. You want high attendance and participation because the last thing you want is to have another meeting to cover one that wasn't productive.
What about you – what are your secrets to effective and productive meetings? What steps do you take before, during and after to help ensure you get the most out of the meetings you conduct? Please share your own thoughts and experiences, and let's discuss.