Project meetings are a powerful way to communicate, solve problems, and develop skills in your team. Meetings can also be used as a tool to boost morale and create a sense of camaraderie on your team, which in turn increases productivity. However, in order for meetings to produce the desired results, they must be effective. The following are tips that will help you do just that: conduct effective project meetings.
1. Be Prepared, Know Your 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. Make good use of the tools that you use to ensure that you have all of the information that you need. Use your project portfolio management software to gather all of the data and create the reports that you will need to discuss in the meeting.
2. Have an Agenda and Follow it
Creating an agenda and limiting it to three main points allows for sufficient time to be spent on important topics and will avoid wasting time. Using a cloud based portfolio and resource management software, like Meisterplan, will help you determine which projects and thus which topics have the highest impact on your team and your company. It can also help you to ensure that you are focused only on the projects and topics that are aligned to your company’s goals and strategy. 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 their ideas. During the meeting, it is very important that you actually follow the agenda, which will help you stay on topic and make the best use of everyone’s time.
3. Include the Right People in the Meeting
It is likely that we have all been included in a meeting at one time or another where we wondered why we were there. Do your best to only include the key decision makers as well as team members that have important insight or information on the topics that will be discussed. Having the right people in the meeting increases efficiency and avoids wasting time.
4. Start and End on Time
Being prepared and familiar with your agenda will help you create a time schedule for the meeting. Try to be realistic when setting the time schedule. You want to have enough time to go through the agenda, but you don’t want the meeting to go over time, which could interrupt business and cause a loss of attention. It is extremely important to start the meeting on time so that you have enough time to discuss all of the important topics. Keeping to your time schedule will result in your participants having a more active role in the meeting instead of watching the clock. Plus, starting and ending the meeting on time sets a good example for your employees, and shows that you value them and their time.
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 you want to be sure that everyone clearly understands the main topics and the decisions being made in the meeting. You must think about your audience. For instance, you may speak in more technical terms to a project manager, whereas you may speak 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 listen to what others have to say on the topic at hand.
6. Keep Focused
Meetings can easily get off track or off subject. This can cause a multitude of problems, the time schedule may not be met, objectives and goals won’t be achieved and ultimately the meeting will be ineffective. Many of the tips mentioned above, especially being prepared and following an agenda, will help you stay focused. If you find the meeting veering off topic, quickly steer the conversation back to the topics that should be discussed. If there is a subject that is not on the agenda but is important to be addressed at a later time, create a topic “parking lot” and assign someone to be responsible for taking note of these topics to discuss later.
7. Set Goals and Action Items
Determine the goals and action items that you want to set. Create a schedule to review the status of the goals. Prior to closing the meeting, quickly summarize the meeting and especially the action items that have been outlined. After the meeting, send an email to the team on the points covered as well as action items and timeline when the action items should be completed. Also, add a reminder in your own calendar to follow up on the action items and goals. Following through with goals and action items is very important because it shows your team that you really care about improving and helping them to improve. If you have regularly scheduled meetings, you can take a few minutes to discuss the goals set in the previous meeting and the status of achieving those goals.
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 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.