Effectively managing a project requires — among other things — the ability to be organized and make the most effective use of people’s time. It also requires the respect of your project team… which you can quickly lose if you cannot run an effective project team meeting.
If you have access to Project and Portfolio Management tools such as Microsoft Project, Project Server, and Project Online, then you can leverage these tools to make you look like a more organized and effective Project Manager when you conduct your team meetings. Before describing tool-related meeting tips, though, there are some very important meeting facilitation practices that you should follow… regardless of the tools being used.
An effective project team meeting requires that…
- The meeting has an objective: Without this, meetings can seem like a pointless waste of time, and there is no clear way to tell when the meeting should end.
- The meeting is as short as possible: Most people are busy with other work, therefore they have things that they would rather be doing than sitting in a meeting.
- The attendees leave the meeting feeling like they gained or accomplished something: If attendees feel like your meeting is a waste of their time, they will be less likely to attend and contribute.
In order to fulfill these requirements for a project team meeting, try the following:
Before the meeting:
- Make the meeting objective clear in the meeting name and in the meeting description.
- Invite the necessary people to achieve the meeting objective and confirm that they are available to attend.
- Do not schedule an hour of time if the objective can be accomplished in a half hour.
- Select a meeting location that is comfortable, appropriate, and has a screen with laptop connection (if possible).
- Create and distribute an agenda of topics to cover in order to achieve the objective.
- Distribute any relevant background materials that are necessary to achieve the meeting objective, and ask the attendees to review them prior to the meeting.
During the meeting:
- Arrive early to set up.
- Ensure that the necessary people are in attendance to achieve the meeting objective; if not, reschedule the meeting.
- Clearly state the meeting objective and do not allow discussions to stray too far from the objective because of tangential topics.
- Review the agenda and re-order or modify as necessary.
- Start on time and end on time (or early). If you run out of time at the end of the meeting, end the meeting on time and make other plans to cover the remaining topics. Does it require the entire team, or can they be handled individually?
- Keep all attendees on topic; do not allow side conversations.
- Keep track of action items, assign responsibilities and due dates, and review them before ending the meeting.
- Keep track of decisions made during the meeting and review them before ending the meeting.
- Keep track of important tangential topics and responsibilities for follow-up.
After the meeting:
- Distribute your notes from the meeting.
- Follow up with the people who have assigned action items.
- Follow up with people responsible for tangential topics.
If you use Microsoft Project, Project Server, or Project online, here are some additional project team meeting tips:
- Capture project status updates from team members individually, rather than doing it in a status meeting. If you use Project Server or Project Online, ask team members to submit their task updates and issues / risks via PWA, approve the updates, and update the project schedule prior to the meeting. Spend the meeting time quickly reviewing status, then discussing more important topics such as risks and issues and solving problems.
- If you use Microsoft Project, Project Server, or Project Online, connect a PC to a screen and review the current project schedule during the meeting.
- If you use Project Server or Project Online, review the project risks and issues by connecting a PC to a screen and navigating to the risks or issues list in the Project Site. If a risk or issue requires updating, open it and make the updates with everyone watching. When a team member mentions a new risk or issue, then immediately add it to the Project Site for all to see.
- Bring a laptop or other electronic note-taking device, connect it to a screen that the attendees can easily see. Use it to present the agenda, review relevant documents or materials, and take notes… on the screen for all to see. People appreciate participating in the note-taking process, and it is then easy to distribute the notes immediately afterward. If you use Project Server or Project Online, upload the notes to the Project Site and send attendees a link directly to the document.
- If you use Project Server or Project Online, create a ‘Decisions’ list in the Project Site to track important project decisions that are made. If any decisions are made during the meeting, then add them directly to the list for all to see.
- If you use Project Server or Project Online, create an ‘Action Items’ list in the Project Site to track important project action items that are created. If any new action items are created during the meeting, then add them directly to the list for all to see. If any action items can be updated based on new information learned during the meeting, then make the updates directly in the list for all to see.
- If you use Project Server or Project Online, store all relevant project-related documents in the Project Site ‘Documents’ library. If any of the documents are mentioned during the meeting, or if a discussion topic arises that references information in one of the documents, quickly open the document from the Project Site and show it to the attendees.