Building Blocks Towards Productive Project Meetings

Meetings. Nobody likes sitting through them, but in an age where people seem to prefer to hide behind their PCs and send what are often ineffectively communicated emails, good meetings are more important than ever in ensuring a project runs smooth.

Getting people together takes time, and we all know time is money. Figuring the value (or billing rate) of many professionals is $200 / hour each, a small meeting of 3 people can cost $600 per hour, or $10 per minute.

But what is arguably more important than the time and money we spend on meetings is how effective our meetings are. If you’ve ever sat through a meeting that seemed to run out of order, be full of interruptions, and even get a bit heated – chances are the project being discussed is equally dysfunctional.

How do we make sure our project meetings are run smoothly so we can execute the performance of our project teams as a result?

1) Don’t waste time coordinating your calendars. Try services such as Doodle or Meeting Wizard, or sync up your Outlook calendars to avoid endless email exchanges about who is free and when.

2) Make it clear who is attending. Ideally before the meeting, everyone should be briefed on the attendees, what their role is, and why they are attending. At the start of the meeting, make sure everyone gets a proper introduction if there are new faces at the table.

3) Make sure everyone shows up. This may be a no-brainer, but many meetings don’t happen because of confusion about logistics, of which the organizer of the meeting is responsible to clearly provide (the date, time, meeting location or call-in number).

4) Have an agenda and stick to it. This also sounds intuitive, but too often do I see people just running meetings from the top of their heads, in no particular order. If a meeting style is too causal, it is likely that something important will get forgotten about. Be sure to share the agenda to the attendees before the meeting.

5) Organize your meeting based on who is contributing. With the notion that the smallest group possible is best, if some of the attendees have nothing to do with part of the meeting, first discuss topics everyone needs to hear, then topics for people who don’t need to stay for the entire meeting so they can be excused early.

6) Don’t meet just because your calendar tells you to. You may have scheduled your regular meeting for every Tuesday, but based on the circumstances of what is happening on your project, you may be able to take this week off and communicate by other means or with a smaller group.

7) Know when to make it a conference call. Conference calls are good for quick exchanges or when people can’t physically attend, but use judgment to avoid always defaulting to a virtual meeting. If you truly want someone’s attention and the ability to communicate a point clearly, nothing can replace a face-to-face interaction.

8) Get rid of distractions. Make it clear that you’d like everyone to put their phones away so everyone can focus. You could also ask everyone to put their phones in the center of the table during the meeting. People will realize they can live.

9) Distribute actionable meeting minutes. Meeting minutes should not just document what needs to happen, but who will take the lead on each task and the agreed upon deadlines. The meeting minutes are then a starting point for next week’s meeting to check everyone’s progress.

With this in mind, teams should work better together, which translates into more successful projects.