5 Tips for Successful Status Meetings
Meeting your project team or key stakeholders to discuss status is a critical part of managing a project. But everyone hates attending a meeting for the sake of it. Here are 5 tips for making your status meetings as good as possible, and completely painless.
1. Be Prepared
It should go without saying, but know the status of your project before you attend a meeting! Don’t be on the back foot, as nothing spells ‘unprepared’ more quickly than stakeholders or other team members in the room who know more about the latest project issues or progress than you. Talk to your team members in advance, and make sure that they know to update you beforehand. There should be no surprises.
Bring along copies of reports from your enterprise project management tool. If you are chairing the meeting, be sure to have spare copies of any documents, like reports or slides, as you can guarantee someone will have forgotten to bring along their copy. If you are an attendee, bring a copy of the meeting papers, or your laptop so that you can review them on screen.
2. Have An Agenda
Have an agenda and stick to it. It isn’t difficult to do, but in our experience many project managers still don’t do this. You can create a standing agenda to save time. This is a list of all the key things you want your status meetings to cover every time, such as updates from various team leaders or a financial report. The final item should always be Any Other Business. Circulate the agenda in advance so that people know what to prepare.
If you are inviting people along to only a section of the meeting make sure that they know when they are expected and then stick to that slot. Be respectful of their time and don’t keep them waiting outside for you to finish a side conversation.
3. Manage The Meeting Housekeeping
Make sure that everyone knows where the room is, and set the temperature of the meeting room to something bearable for everyone (which is easier said than done). If you plan to have coffee, remember to order it. If you are hosting a conference call, circulate the call number and pass code. Start on time. Finish on time.
Set ground rules about the use of gadgets in your status meetings. If you allow people to bring their own laptops to review the meeting papers or reports, make sure that they understand that checking their emails during the meeting is not allowed.
Make sure that your own technology works, especially if you are using a projector for the first time. Get to the meeting early so that you can set up your laptop and projector properly. If you are presenting, close all the other applications that are unnecessary. There’s nothing worse than trying to talk a group of important stakeholders through a project dashboard than an email alert popping up in the corner, letting everyone know what your lunch plans are with your best friend.
4. Get The Right People In The Room
Invite the smallest number of people possible to the status meeting, and make sure that one of them has the role of scribe. Sometimes people aren’t available to attend, so let them know if it is OK for them to delegate attendance to someone else. Deputies may be acceptable at some meetings but not at others.
You can also brief attendees before the meeting. This is particularly relevant if you plan to make decisions in the meeting. In fact, don’t make decisions in the meeting unless you really have to. A better approach is to decide before the meeting, and have the meeting attendees ratify the decision. Speaking to individual stakeholders prior to the meeting can be an excellent way of making sure that this process is as easy as possible.
5. Cancel The Meeting
Why have status meetings at all? Could you report status in a different way? Talk to your project stakeholders about reporting by exception instead – they may be grateful not to have to attend meetings where they are told that everything is progressing to plan.
Consider creative ways to communicate project status. You could provide senior stakeholders with access to the project dashboard of your enterprise project management tool. They won’t want to see all the detail, but could you set up a view just for them? If you need to brief a much larger group, could you do so through a pre-recorded telephone message that people dial up to listen to? Or a podcast? Even a few bullet points in an email every Friday afternoon provides a quick weekly report for key stakeholders and assures them that everything is on track.
However you manage your project status meetings, make sure that you know what information your stakeholders and project team expect, and find the best, most efficient ways possible to provide that.