Various types of meetings can be essential tools for managing projects and solving problems. They allow you to bring together the right people at the right time to share ideas, build consensus, and make decisions. But if you're not careful about how your meetings are designed, they can waste everyone's time.
You can’t just wing it when running effective project meetings. It’s vital that you understand the process of designing effective project meetings so that you can run them better. Here are four critical considerations for your meeting design.
Define the purpose and goals. When planning a project meeting, the first thing is to define its purpose and goals. What do you want to achieve? What will the meeting look like, and what won't it look like? How long will it be, and are there any other meetings scheduled before or after this one that might affect its design?
The answers to these questions will help determine whether your project team needs a formal or informal meeting. If there's not much time between now and the end of your project, then keep things simple by having everyone come together for an hour or so each week (or bi-weekly). If there's more time available for planning purposes, take advantage of this opportunity by holding larger meetings every few weeks with enough structure, so everyone knows what's expected from them.
Set the agenda. As the meeting organizer, you should set your schedule and times for agenda items in advance. The agenda serves as a guide for participants to prepare their thoughts and provides them with an overall idea of what they can expect from the meeting. As such, it's essential that you set up your agenda before inviting any guests so that everyone has time to review it beforehand.
Your agenda should be clear and concise, with each item having a specific, actionable goal or outcome (e.g., "Discuss project next steps"). If necessary, you may want to consider using different colors for each topic on the agenda so that participants can quickly identify what is being discussed at any given time during the session. Include key participants and roles for each item so everyone will know what to prepare.
Send an invite. Send an invitation four to seven days in advance. The invitation should clarify the purpose of the meeting, who will be attending it, and when and where it will be held. For longer sessions, including time for breaks – roughly 10-15 minutes per 3-4 hours – will help keep everyone fresh and alert.
Be sensitive to the fact that their technology requirements may differ if your participants are from different organizations or remote locations. Rather than send an Outlook or Google Calendar invitation which might not be processed correctly, consider sending a plain email with a link to Add to Calendar. This will allow them to generate a calendar entry for any system they prefer.
Also, best not to assume everyone has time zones set up correctly. The plain email will allow you to state the date and time in plain text for multiple time zones for clarity.
Follow up with every participant. Once the meeting is over, it's time to follow up:
- Send out a summary of what was discussed and agreed upon. This will help everyone stay on the same page and keep things moving forward in a way that makes sense.
- Follow up individually with participants who may have been absent and ask for their feedback on the meeting overall or any suggestions they might have for improving it in the future.
- Ask if any topics weren’t covered during the meeting but should be included in future ones (e.g., "Did anyone mention anything about our social media strategy?"). This will help ensure a complete picture of what works well—and what doesn't—in terms of project management meetings overall
To design effective project meetings, you must understand the process and the best practices. This means you must learn about the different parts of a meeting, from agenda setting and preparation to communication styles and listening skills.
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