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A project meeting is an effective way to disseminate information and communicate with the project team and stakeholders. It is held at regular intervals during the project lifecycle to ensure that everyone with an interest in the project is appropriately involved in addressing issues, proposing ideas, and solving problems. The purpose of the project meeting is to arrive at decisions that result in completed projects that meet their requirements and goals, on time and on budget.
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A project meeting facilitates collaboration, leadership, and top-quality decision-making. A well-organized meeting at each critical stage of the project is the best way to keep projects on track. Successful project meetings are a hallmark of excellent project managers.
Understanding project meeting types is the key to developing agendas that will cover all the required topics for each meeting without getting off-track. In this article, we’ll discuss project meeting types, agendas, and important tips to consider for meetings throughout the project lifecycle.
Project Meeting Types
Besides the kickoff meeting, in which the project manager ensures that the project team has everything they need to start the project, there are many other types of project meetings, depending on the purpose of communicating.
Project meeting types include:
- Regular team meetings
- Stakeholder meetings
- Change control meetings
- Status review meetings
- Project review meetings
The project manager’s top responsibility is communication; part of being an effective communicator is knowing when to hold a meeting, and what type of meeting will be most effective. A project meeting is how:
- Business processes are clearly explained and understood
- Detailed assignments are properly defined and documented
- Task assignments are disseminated and reported on for ongoing progress
- Status updates are reported to the project customer and other key stakeholders
How the project manager plans for, executes, and follows up on each project meeting is key to their success, as well as the overall success of the project.
Let’s look at each project meeting type in more detail.
- Regular team meetings: This project meeting is the most common and frequent meeting type over the project lifecycle. Whether they are daily, weekly, or monthly, they are scheduled in the communication management plan.
- Stakeholder meetings: This is an important type of project meeting, as stakeholder support is significant to project success. Stakeholder meetings help maintain interest in and commitment to the project. These meetings are a good opportunity for the project manager to provide a project update and hear feedback from stakeholders.
- Change control meetings: Organized by a change control board, the purpose of this meeting type is to review change requests. The board approves or denies changes and communicates with stakeholders to exchange information and ensure follow-up. In this project meeting, the project manager should be prepared to present their professional opinion on the impact of the proposed change, make a recommendation, and discuss steps for communicating and implementing the change.
- Status review meetings: Typically, this project meeting follows a consistent agenda and frequency. It is held to discuss and analyze information on current project progress. The project manager provides performance reports to give the team and stakeholders an understanding of performance levels and task progress.
The agenda for this project meeting might include:
- Schedule status: Reviewing the project schedule helps attendees understand the effects of delays, as well as any opportunities that might be obtained by finishing tasks early.
- Scope status: Show how much work has been done, emphasizing important project milestones.
- Budget status: Compare planned vs actual expenses for the team and stakeholders.
- Issues / risks: This part of the project meeting is devoted to hearing questions and concerns so they can be addressed as the project continues.
Project Meeting Tips
There are many ways to prepare for, execute on, and follow up on meetings. Doing so correctly can mean the difference between a successful and informative project meeting that reaches its goals and ensures that everyone is on the same page or leaving attendees divided on understanding what is expected of them for next steps. What that means for the project is the potential for great success, catastrophic failure, or anything in between.
The project manager must maintain a reputation as an excellent project meeting facilitator who runs productive and focused meetings.
These project meeting tips will assist you in creating and running meetings that are organized, efficient, and effective in facilitating project progression.
1. Plan well and set objectives.
Many project managers consider planning project meetings unnecessary or do not invest enough effort into this step, but a well-planned meeting can ensure that the goals of the meeting are achieved.
What needs to be accomplished before the meeting is over? A clear understanding of objectives will avoid wasted time and frustrated attendees.
2. Create an agenda.
Even a brief list of topics will ensure that everything is covered and get the project meeting back on track if needed. Check with your team, and if appropriate, other participants, to ensure that all items will be included and addressed. Prepare the intended participants by distributing the agenda and any required notes in advance.
Halt side discussions before they take the meeting completely off-track, making a note to schedule a follow-up meeting if needed. Return to the agenda so the goals of the current project meeting can be accomplished. If a project meeting is stretched into something beyond what was originally intended, it could infringe on attendees’ schedules by running long, which will hurt future attendance and participation.
3. Include the right attendees.
This means inviting everyone who needs to attend, as well as leaving out those who don’t. Aim for the smallest number of participants that will still accomplish project meeting goals. Team members, stakeholders, and / or leadership may be appropriate attendees, depending on the meeting type, but including unnecessary participants could distract others and slow the process down.
4. Start and finish on time.
Beginning the project meeting on time shows leadership and respect for people who have taken time from their busy schedules to attend. Late arrivals are responsible for catching up.
If you start meetings late or spend time repeating missed information, latecomers will not be motivated to arrive on time at the next project meeting, and participants who did arrive on time will be annoyed. Although this rule may occasionally be relaxed for organizational leaders or key stakeholders, it’s important to adhere to it when possible.
Ending on time allows attendees to get to their next meeting on time or otherwise move on with their day. A firm end time also helps participants move through the agenda efficiently; any new issues can be noted and addressed after the meeting.
Ensuring that participants’ time is not wasted is the best way to keep project meeting attendance and participation high.
5. Encourage participation.
Soliciting each attendee’s thoughts and opinions during the project meeting is crucial to the success of the meeting and the project. Participants are also more likely to focus on the discussion when they know they will be asked to contribute.
Some meeting organizers hesitate to ask meeting attendees for feedback for fear of derailing the discussion. Great project managers have confidence in their ability to diplomatically take notes on any digressions, assure the participants of follow-up, and return everyone’s attention to the agenda.
6. Take good notes.
It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that project meeting details will be recalled without notes, but interruptions may occur before you have a chance to act. As the project manager, you are responsible if no follow-up is done and issues fall through the cracks.
If you are unable to take notes, designate a team member to do so. Be sure to note:
- Anything in addition to or contrary to the agenda
- Assignments and decisions made
- Updates provided
7. Follow up.
The project meeting notes should be sent to all meeting attendees following the meeting, with an invitation to review the notes and provide any revisions or feedback within 24 hours. The revised notes should then be distributed to attendees to ensure that everyone is on the same page as the project moves forward.
8. Never cancel.
Even when regularly scheduled meetings seem unnecessary given the current state of the project or lack of recent activity, conduct the project meeting. If the project manager starts canceling regular meetings, attendees will begin considering attendance optional, and participation will dwindle.
At minimum, hold the regular project meeting and ask everyone for short updates, even if the meeting only lasts ten minutes. At any meeting, some critical piece of information might be shared that would otherwise fall through the cracks, causing costly rework and timeline issues.
Project Meeting Perfection
Project meeting perfection is impossible to achieve. However, every meeting the project manager conducts can be as effective and efficient as possible if these concepts are followed:
- Select the correct project meeting type
- Plan well and inform attendees in advance of meeting goals
- Execute effectively by staying on time and on topic
- Take good notes, request updates, and follow up
Project meeting communication is a key success factor that translates into a higher likelihood of success for the project, helping the project manager to keep everyone informed and avoid expensive and time-consuming mistakes, miscommunications, and misunderstandings.