Why meetings are more important than ever

Projects, especially in the public and third sectors, are complex. They usually involve multiple teams, team members, stakeholders, issues and various scopes. There are a number of different goals that may need to be achieved and, especially now in today’s new working environment, there are likely geographic considerations that must be taken into account. If you’re a social good organisation, the outcome of your projects and programmes will impact communities of all kinds, including our most vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

The ability to host a good meeting could well be the difference between project success and failure. Why? Meetings are the platform through which significant project decisions are made, problems are discussed and resolved, important information is exchanged and relationships are formed. Furthermore, given many of us are working remotely and therefore asking questions may no longer be as easy as strolling across the office, good project meeting skills are more crucial than ever.

The core meetings

1. Project Kickoff Meeting

The project kickoff meeting, if managed well, should put everyone involved in the project on the same page. Goals will be set and team members will understand how they will work together to achieve the project outcomes. A good project kickoff meeting, held at the beginning of the project, will clarify objectives, plans and procedures and will organise all steps of the project. This is where relationship-building will also begin. To ensure the meeting is a success, it’s vital that PMs plan thoroughly before the meeting and devise strategies to motivate team members or, more or less, get everyone excited!

The agenda should include:

  • Team member introduction. Ice breaker activities can be helpful. Here are some good ice breaker activity suggestions: sessionlab.com/blog/icebreaker-games/
  • Discussion of the client & their goals, enabling the team to understand the scope of the project.
  • Project framework (objectives, time, budget, criteria for success, potential challenges etc.)
  • Governance structure including delegation of responsibilities
  • Planning: Clarify milestones and prioritise key activities.
  • Question time: Equip team members with the confidence they need to get started on their tasks by encouraging dialogue and questions.
2. Project status meeting

Throughout your project, at least one project status meeting should be held. More, if the time scope is longer. This is an opportunity to ensure key milestones are being hit, team members are completing their tasks on time and within budget, and everyone is remaining engaged and informed about the project.

3. Stakeholders’ Meeting

Unlike the aforementioned meeting where all team members take part, the stakeholders’ meeting is for the most influential stakeholders to ensure their ongoing support of the project. This meeting should be planned meticulously, using strategies to encourage discussion and include a thorough and engaging project status update. This meeting is all about engagement.

4. Contingency Meeting

No matter how well planned, all projects and programmes encounter contingencies. This meeting allows you to manage these issues in a disciplined way and rearrange the schedule and agenda to ensure project success.

5. Project Review Meeting

Although a stage that is often skipped by project teams, the project review meeting is perhaps the most important given it is a chance to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the project planning and execution and learn from mistakes. This meeting will inform your next projects’ runnings.

Similarly, accomplishments, particularly by particular high-achieving team members, should be celebrated.

The project review meeting may be used as a gateway to further learning and development opportunities.