Don’t follow your Agenda and Have a Great Meeting!

By Lakecia Carter, PMP

Project Managers are often challenged with facilitating meetings with teams that are overloaded and stretched these days. Another meeting is the last thing on their teams’ minds. Our challenge is to maximize the value of every meeting we have. There are times when no matter how much we plan for a meeting, we always have to be prepared to shift gears at a moment’s notice. I recently had to ax my agenda to turn a meeting around for the better. Here’s how I did it:

I facilitated a small focus group lunch session with about 20 folks. I followed ALL of the rules from “Meeting Facilitation 101”. I planned the Objectives and Agenda the week before, which consisted of a roundtable review, lunch and issue discussion. The session started off well, but soon, I began to observe the dynamics in the room. There were awkward moments of silence, minimal eye contact and signs of utter boredom. Although we were meeting our objectives, it just didn’t feel as good as I wanted it to.

After we finished the roundtable and lunch, I decided to switch to a teambuilding activity. I broke them up into groups of 4 to come up with a catchy slogan and ideas to market our new product to our company! All of a sudden, the dynamics changed! I felt a new burst of energy; People were out of their seats, talking and laughing! Our Director even walked away with some new ideas for her Campaign! I decided to discuss the issue the next day.

When we finished, one of the participants said, “Wow, that was so much fun! I really enjoyed this!” I thanked her as I thought to myself, “This was one time that not following my Agenda turned out to be a HUGE HIT!”

What about you? How do you know if you need to flip your Agenda? Here are the “V” signs that every Project Manager should use to decide:

  1. Vibe – How you feel – This is the number one sign to pay attention to!  You are the life of the meeting! If you don’t feel good about what’s going on, no one else does!  Always keep a positive and energetic vibe flowing in your meeting.
  2. Visual – What you see – Look for the signals and always read body language. Yawns, Wrinkled Eyebrows, Nods, “Deer in the headlights” are all key indicators! Add some variety to your agenda to keep it active and engaging.
  3. Verbal – What you hear (or don’t hear) –  Meetings should be interactive, informative and results-oriented. Tune in closely to make sure that the right conversation is taking place.

For every meeting, there is a specific goal in mind. Make sure you reach your goal, but always check your “V” signs along the way. Always be prepared to think and act on your feet and make your meeting go from “good” or “not so good” to great! You CAN do it!

© 2009 PMVisionware, Inc. All rights reserved.

7 Responses to “Don’t follow your Agenda and Have a Great Meeting!”

  1. Tom Siple says:

    I, too, have experienced this very same thing. You need to have an agenda (plan) but you need to check the temperature of your audience from time to time to see if they are following along. A method I have used when presenting a lecture was to randomly ask questions of various audience members about something I had just covered. The first tow or three people generally got the question wrong, but when the rest of the folks realized that they may be next, they bagan to pay a bit more attention to what was being put said. Min you I did not ask them in a criticizing manner, nor did I make a big deal out of someone not paying attention. I even joked about it from time to time, but I did learn that pulling the audience in makes the session go much better and it was more effective.

  2. George says:

    All good, but presumes that this is a live meeting, not one of those phone calls where everyone is multitasking

  3. Lakecia says:

    Yes – good technique..I’ll have to use that one. Thanks for sharing Tom!

  4. sriranga says:

    this is one good technique.

    many a times i have also felt meetings are waste – cause are many. specially project update meetings involving project sponsor, functional managers,project team members.

    lemme try this technique even for update meeting

  5. Good technique. I think that if at all possible try to put this Q&A in the agenda or arrange this sort of thing before hand. The people I work with are tight on time and my improv has to be ready when I see one or more of the V’s happening. Humor works best for me but sometimes work sessions are the better. Thanks.

    Dushun Mosley CPM PM Trainer
    “Real Project Management for Real Project Managers”

  6. Lakecia says:

    Thanks Dushun! I agree – humor is a great way to engage folks and make meetings enjoyable..I keep telling people it’s ok to have fun at work (smile)

  7. Mara says:

    I agree with the author to shift the Agenda as need be. Also, only meet for as long as you have to. Give back time if possible. For the meetings that are not live, use what Tom does, engage the audience by asking questions. Test to see if you have the audiences attention. As Dushun mentioned, good humor always helps, and a smile and good attitude goes a long way.

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