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How to effectively participate in meetings

It’s true that meetings are often called to provide the perception that a project is progressing and the attendees leave the meeting feeling that nothing was resolved on or progressed. A project manager’s key role is to facilitate work, either your own on a small project, or that done by other people. To be a good project manager it is vital that you are able to facilitate effective meetings that deliver measurable outcomes, but also to effectively influence and participate in meetings.

Recommended reading on behaviours that will help in meetings is Stephen Covey’s book 7 habits of highly effective people.

Some items to consider when participating in meetings are:

Attend meetings that are worthwhile – While this may be governed by your manager or client as a general rule do not attend a meeting where there is no articulated aim or agenda. A meeting provides a forum for a number of people to discuss an issue or solution. As a general guide for projects it is generally effective to meet face to face: at the project kick off, to discuss interim results, and when the final report is due. Where there is no clear objective to a meeting declining the meeting and focusing on other tasks may make more sense.

If there is no agenda or purpose set out suggest one ‚Äì If you know it will be impossible or career limiting to avoid a meeting with no agenda, suggest one. Suggested wording could be, “in our meeting on Tuesday would you like to get X or Y out of the meeting? “. If your manager or a collegue asks to discuss an item with you that afternoon, “sure what would you like to cover? “. If you only do one thing to improve you meeting effectiveness make it that there is an articulated aim for all meetings you go to.

Be prepared ‚Äì If material is circulated before a meeting read through it and have some highlights summarised for the meeting. Questions that you have on the material is appropriate to bring to the meeting or raise with the meeting facilitator beforehand. To be a valuable contributor if you don’t agree with a point say so, BUT HAVE REASONING. A meeting is a forum that allows collaboration on an idea. In a respectful and polite manner suggesting additions and improvements to ideas is appropriate.

Understand what is expected of you from the meeting ‚Äì ideally at the end of the meeting the chair will recap on the key outcomes of the meeting and the actions. Make sure that you have a good understanding of any follow up actions required of you. Rather than say “so what should I be doing ” make a note of the actions that are required of you during the meeting. At the end of the meeting if it is not summarised you might say “so I understand you would like me to do X and Y by Z date. ”

Meetings can be a very effective business tool. Treat them as such and the effectiveness or your meeting participation will improve.

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