Nothing gives me a worse headache than a bad meeting. We’ve all been there: maybe you have that one who always speaks up to derail the meeting, or no one knows why they are there or perhaps what a particular person is doing there. Even top CEOs complain in interviews about poor meetings where people never know why they are there, and leave without knowing what’s to be done next. So, here are four tips to help you, the project manager, run a meeting effectively and simply. Remember, simplicity goes a long way. For those of you who like methodologies, consider this the PCFW method of running your meeting: prepare, communicate, facilitate and by all means, wrap it up.
Tip 1: Prepare
Prepare for the purpose of the meeting. Why are you having this meeting? Who needs to be there and why? What do they need to prepare beforehand? What do you as the project manager need to prepare beforehand? Once there is a clear purpose, prepare people. Know who is supposed to be there, and what their role is. Are they decision makers? Are they there to provide input? Why do you need them there? Then, prepare props. How are you going to facilitate and run your meeting? Do you need a laptop? Do you need an LCD projector? Flip charts? Boards? Markers? Do you need pens and paper? What do you need for people to use, and for you to facilitate the meeting? We don’t like arriving to a site and not having the materials we thought were supposed to be there. You as the project manager can be prepared.
Tip 2: Communicate
Communicate to people beforehand. Invite them to the meeting in advance, share the agenda and let them know when they need to be there. Communicate why they are supposed to be there, and what they can prepare beforehand. Ask if they have any questions, or if they need to contact other members on the team. They may want to invite other key people; you need the opportunity to say, “That’s great, but we don’t really want them to be there in this meeting.” Make sure people have completed action items that were assigned previously, or at least can provide the status.
Tip 3: Facilitate
Facilitate the meeting so that it doesn’t get out of control. What is supposed to be a twenty or thirty minute status meeting or call shouldn’t turn into a two-hour brawl. Keep the meeting on time and on topic. Stick to the timeline; if you have different items on the agenda, know how long you are going to spend on each, and stay within those parameters so that people will stay engaged, you won’t lose credibility and people will know when to expect to leave the meeting. Then, stay on topic according to the agenda. Often people have other agendas and will try to hijack your meeting, maybe for their own purposes. Let it be known that if someone brings up a topic that’s not on your agenda, it may be important but it may not be within the purpose of that meeting. It’s important to put that on a parking lot, and at the end let people know what will be done with that item. I particularly love, “Hold that thought.” A lot of times people will raise their hand to voice a concern about something you are going to cover later in the meeting. Politely say, “I appreciate that, hold that thought. We’re going to talk about that later.” That type of response gives people confidence that the item is going to be handled later, allowing you to stay on time and on topic.
Tip 4: Wrap it Up
Last but not least, wrap it up. We’ve all been in meetings that have gone too long so everyone’s in a hurry to leave, and there is no time to talk through next steps. Everyone leaves without knowing exactly what to do. It’s important to wrap up with action items and next steps: items to be done, who will to do them, when they are to be completed, and then communicating next steps. Let people know when you will be meeting again or what decisions will have to be made.
If you found these tips from Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt) of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.
Looking for Project Management Training or PDUs for PMP Certification? Download 5 PMP PDUs for FREE and see how easy it is to do both at the same time!