7 Ways to Make Your Project Management Meetings More Productive
Effective and productive meetings are vital for the smooth running of any project, large or small, while ineffective sessions will damage productivity and hinder the project. Knowing how to plan, conduct, and follow up your project management discussions can be the difference between discourse that frustrates your team and wastes their time, and those keep your team on target.
These 7 tips will help ensure every meeting keeps your project moving forward:
1. Have a clear goal
Every meeting must have a clear goal or purpose to keep everyone focused. Make sure everyone attending understands what the group is there to achieve and why their attendance is required. It can be difficult for attendees to stay focused and attentive if it is not clear how decisions will impact their responsibilities, or why their skills are needed.
Besides leading to better communication, a clear goal allows you to measure the effectiveness of your discussions in order to make future improvements.
2. Stick to the agenda
A clear and strict agenda is one of the most important components of every meeting.
At least a day in advance of the meeting, everyone attending should be provided a detailed agenda of everything that will be discussed, including a schedule of how much time will be spent on each point. If necessary, contact attendees in advance to ask for discussion points they want to be added to the agenda rather than asking during the session itself. This allows you to schedule these topics, and it gives attendees time to consider the points they want to discuss instead of being put on the spot.
Keep all discussion focused on the agenda or you could be derailed by subjects that are not the purpose of the conversation. Similarly, try to keep the discussion focused on the individual point of the agenda you are currently tackling. If attendees keep leading the conversation towards topics that will be dealt with later in the meeting, this can lead to repetition as well as disrupting discussion of the current subject.
3. Stick to the schedule
According to the post on Newscientist.com, almost half of all meetings start late.
Besides sapping the productivity and enthusiasm of attendees, this can be costly in terms of time and money. If six people are attending a session that starts just 10 minutes late, your business has effectively lost an hour of work. In addition, due to the late start, each of those individuals will be late to return to their usual tasks, resulting in further loss of productivity.
Tackling this issue is partly just a matter of setting stricter expectations of punctuality and establishing that you will always start and finish on time. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure this happens:
- Allot time for each point on the agenda.
Be realistic about how much time will be needed for each subject. Planning a longer session is a better solution than simply allowing it to overrun in order to cover everything. Your attendees have other tasks after the session is finished, and unplanned extensions to a meeting can disrupt their schedules.
- Keep gatherings short and relevant.
Wasting time on subjects that are not the focus of the meeting doesn’t just make group discussions finish late, it also affects the motivation of attendees. People will be less motivated to show up on time if a precedent has been set for off-topic discussions and issues that don’t concern most of the people attending.
- Send SMS reminders.
Text alerts reminding employees and clients of the time and location of upcoming meetings greatly reduces the chances of lateness. Busy attendees who may be handling a large number of tasks and appointments and may not be able to get online to check their emails or calendar could benefit from a quick reminder. This is particularly useful for businesses with a lot of field staff.
4. Cut down the attendee list
In a productive meeting, everyone involved can make a meaningful contribution.
Taking your agenda into consideration, only invite people to a discussion whose expertise or decision-making authority is required. Inviting superfluous attendees wastes their time and creates a less productive atmosphere as some of the people in the group are simply waiting to return to their tasks.
If someone’s input is not required they can be informed of the results later; it is not necessary to invite attendees just for the purpose of sharing information.
On the other hand, if key attendees are unable to attend, be honest about whether there is still a point in gathering the rest of the group. If you will have to discuss everything again at a later date with the key decision-makers present, it makes more sense to just reschedule. Improving your technique for inviting clients and leads can make organizing your project meetings much simpler.
5. Don’t hold unnecessary discussions
While brief weekly talks to check in with your team can be useful to keep up productivity and nip minor issues in the bud, avoid holding unnecessary meetings. If the purpose is just to provide information, updates or project briefs, this can often be provided without interrupting anyone’s work.
Project management tools allow you to easily update the relevant people and enable collaboration via shared tasks and projects. Using these tools keeps your groups focused on issues that actually require discussion in a group environment.
6. Create a plan of action
In addition to beginning with a clear agenda, each session should end with a plan to put the outcomes and decisions into action.
This plan should outline who is responsible for each task, the steps involved, the goals of each task, and the expected timeframes. Besides aiding organization and ensuring each attendee understands each other’s role in the project’s current tasks, this will make it easier to review the success of each task’s outcome. In future meetings, you will be able to refer to this plan when assessing the team’s progress in achieving the goals of the previous session.
7. Follow up messages
To ensure your plan is put into action, follow up with a text or email confirming the key points and decisions, including the plan of action. This keeps attendees on the same page during collaboration and future sessions by providing notes everyone can refer to. These messages can also keep people who did not attend informed.
Additionally, sharing updates and progress on each task between sessions is an important part of the follow up as it enables you to keep the next meeting on track by tackling any problems beforehand.
Have clear goals for each meeting and a strict schedule to avoid off-topic discussions. Before scheduling a session, decide what must be discussed as a group and what can be handled elsewhere, and based on those answers, whose presence is actually needed. To ensure your decisions are consistently put into action, create and share a plan to do this, and follow up by communicating progress and updates towards the meeting’s goals.