Running effective Meetings

In a typical day, being a PM, how many meetings you attend or organise? Well it may depend on the nature of your project and your managing style but meetings do take quite a significant part of PM’s time. And if you spend your valuable project hours, these hours better be well spent! Believe me, effective meetings would surely go a long way in helping your project be better organized and executed. Here are few useful tips to get most out of your daily meetings!

  1. Define meeting objective: Don’t set up that meeting only for the sake of meeting. Before scheduling that team meeting, define the objective of the meeting & how meeting would help in that. Ask if you need this meeting to communicate or update team about something important or routine developments. See if an email would do for the same & it might do if the meeting objective is to keep the team abreast of the latest project developments. If the meeting objective is to seek ideas or gather feedback or individual inputs quickly, you may need that meeting. Typically meetings face to face help in building team consensus & confidence. Once the need is clear, invite only those who really need to be there to participate and contribute. Let people skip the meetings if their inputs are not critical for the objective and they can spend their time better on assigned tasks. 
  2. Communicate meeting agenda: This is a basic rule still highly ignored one! I see several managers, supervisors and sr. executive skip the agenda when calling for the meeting. This not only confuses people about the objective. The meeting agenda should tie & take forward the meeting goal. It’s better to distribute the agenda prior to the meeting so participants are fully aware and prepared to share what is required of them. You may also indicate agenda owners & duration in your communication if they need to present this to the group. This is especially helpful in a meeting that has large number of participants. You should have someone to keep the time to ensure presenters don’t stretch the meeting duration longer than planned. Meeting organizer should appoint someone as notes taker. 
  3. Take charge: Better meetings are a result of a good leader & affect organization culture. Statistics show that, “Nonverbal Communication,” only 7 percent of communication is what we say — the rest is how we say it. Pitch, volume, and rhythm carry 38 percent of a message, while body language, facial expressions, and eye movement account for a whopping 55 percent” If you are the organizer of the meeting, it is your responsibility to take charge of the meeting goal and drive it effectively to accomplish the meeting goal. You can do that by being attentive; keep the discussion relevant & useful. Don’t hesitate to remind people why they are there in case discussion strays from the topic.  Secondly, ensure that all participants are prepared for the meeting, if some homework was expected. It may be better to call off the meeting or re-schedule if earlier action items are not worked on. Finally, to have an effective meeting, you should start & end on time. This would give a clear message to all and they won’t be late next time. Having said that, if there are people who are senior to you or of your rank, be diplomatic by reminding with them in advance about meeting time. 
  4. Ensure equal participation: only a few people dominating the discussion are very common during meetings. As a leader you should see that all participate and contribute in healthy discussion to have everyone’s view point and comments. This helps in boosting motivation of less active team members to open up & share with others their opinion. In addition, if you invited the right people for the meeting you must have their involvement! So don’t be circumspect to pitch in and give relevant direction if you find that only certain individuals are hijacking the discussion. 
  5. Close with action items: Summarize your meeting outcome and clarify if something is missed out. Spell out the action items to take forward the meeting goal. In fact, each meeting must end with action items clearly specified and distributed. The action items again should be time bound and owned by individual people e.g. what’s expected of them and when — by the end of the week, the end of the cycle, or the next meeting. If the ownership is on a certain group, you should name the group leader. There is a saying, if all are responsible, effectively no one is responsible! So make sure all understand what is expected of them as next step.
  6. Follow up: ideally send out meeting minutes to all participants and people owning the action to keep track of what was decided and what assignments everyone agreed to take on, so you can follow up and keep things moving. Set the reminder threshold e.g. weekly, 2 days before next meeting or a day before action due date. On critical issues, it may help to keep your supervisor or department heads in loop.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter:Shammy11

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