Meetings have gotten a bad reputation these days. Many people think of meetings as boring presentations or useless discussions where nothing really gets done. This has caused many people to begin to dread when a new meeting pops up on their calendar. I understand why people might come to dislike meetings. Some of them are longer than necessary and might not be very productive. But they don’t have to be that way. Meetings can be a powerful way to communicate, solve problems, and develop skills in a team. Meetings can also be used as a tool to boost morale and create a sense of camaraderie on teams, which in turn increases productivity. So how exactly do you make project meetings so effective in sharing information, solving problems and creating camaraderie? These eight tips for effective project meetings will help you get there.
8 Tips for Effective Project Meetings
1. Be Prepared with an Objective
The better prepared you are for a meeting the better the results will be, so set aside some time in advance of the meeting to plan and prepare. Decide on a main objective. What do you want to accomplish? Determine who will be active participants and make sure they are aware of what is expected of them and have enough time to prepare themselves. Use your project portfolio management software to gather any relevant data and create reports that you will need to discuss in the meeting.
2. Create an Agenda and Stick to It
Creating an agenda and sticking to the items on it will help avoid discussions around other topics. It’s also important not to overload your agenda with too many items. Make sure there is enough time to address each item. Additionally, you may want to share the meeting agenda in advance so that participants are aware of what will be discussed and have time to formulate ideas and questions. During the meeting, you can use the agenda as a polite way to keep other people on track. If someone begins to diverge from the planned topics, you can remind them which topics are up for discussion and ask them to save additional topics for another time.
3. Include the Right People in the Meeting
Nearly all of us have all been included in meetings that we probably didn’t need to attend. All your meeting attendees should understand why they’re needed or why the information shared in the meeting is relevant to them. To do this, keep in mind the decision-makers, stakeholders and team members that are closest to your agenda topics.
4. Start and End on Time with a Schedule
Being prepared and familiar with your agenda will help you create a time schedule for the meeting. It is extremely important to start the meeting on time and stick to your time schedule so that you have enough time to discuss all the agenda topics without running over. Remember to be respectful of other people’s time. Going over could interrupt other meetings or business for people and starting late makes them feel like they’re wasting time. Additionally, starting and ending the meeting on time sets a good example for your employees, and shows that you value them and their time.
5. Practice Good Communication
You cannot have an effective meeting without effective communication. In a study from the Harvard Business Review, they found that communication “is the most important predictor of a team’s success…as significant as all the other factors—individual intelligence, personality, skill and the substance of the discussions—combined.” (source: Harvard Business Review) If you are leading the meeting, then it’s your job to make sure everyone clearly understands what’s being discussed and the decisions that get made. This may mean speaking in more technical terms to a project manager while speaking more strategically to an executive of the company. Good communication also means truly listening to others during the meeting. Make sure you are not focusing on the next point or the next topic that you want to discuss, but actually listening to what others have to say on the topic at hand.
6. Take Notes of Off-Topic Questions and Concerns
Meetings can easily get off track or off subject. This can cause a multitude of problems, but it doesn’t mean off-topic discussions should be entirely shut down. If there is a subject, question or concern that is not on the agenda but needs to be discussed, have it written down. When we take notes of these topics and assign someone to follow up with them, we ensure that important topics are still addressed, but that they don’t detract from other topics.
7. Set Goals and Action Items
Before each meeting, consider what goals you have or what outcome you want from the meeting. This may seem tedious, but when we approach meetings without goals, we risk having unproductive meetings. Setting a goal like resolving a resource conflict between two projects or reviewing the status of projects to identify which ones need attention will ensure you get a positive result from your project meetings. On the flip side of this coin, have a clear plan at the close of the meeting of next steps. Identify what action items are needed and assign someone to take care of them.
8. Keep the Meeting Positive and Encourage Feedback
Make every effort to keep the meeting positive. If your team sees that you are positive and motivated on the project or topic being discussed, this enthusiasm will rub off on them. In regularly scheduled meetings with your team, make an effort to recognize employees who are doing excellent work, which will keep the tone of the meeting positive and boost morale. After the meeting ask for honest feedback about the meeting. Did the meeting accomplish the objective? Was there any part of the meeting that was unclear? Ask for ways that future meetings could be improved. There are always opportunities to make meetings more effective and your team may have great ideas.
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Having effective project meetings is an excellent start to effectively managing and completing projects. If you want to create more effectiveness in your project portfolio management, download our free Project Management Office templates to start standardizing and simplifying processes today.