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News 5 Keys To Effective Project Meetings

Send out an advance agenda. Do yourself and your attendees a huge favor — send out an agenda in advance. It doesn’t have to be fully detailed. It doesn’t even have to be the final version. But it will serve two purposes — it will tell them that you are organized and ready and it will prepare them to be ready with information they need to be providing, if necessary.
Start promptly. Always be the type that starts their meetings on time. Don’t waste other people’s time by starting your meetings 10 minutes late — even if you’re waiting for others to arrive. The end result will be poor attendance, latecomers every week because they know you don’t start till about 10 minutes after the scheduled time anyway, and people will not take you seriously as a facilitator and reliable source of communication. Even if you’re waiting on a critical contributor, start on time. One more thing — don’t waste everyone’s valuable time by bringing each latecomer up to speed. If one or two critical pieces of information need to be relayed that they missed, give it a few minutes and then update the whole group, but do it professionally and do it once — not for each new latecomer.
Never cancel. This one is important. Never cancel. I realize that sometimes you only have five minutes of information you need to relay or perhaps nothing new is happening during a slow point in the project. Still have the meeting, and say “hi” and give a brief update or review. But if you start to cancel meetings on a regular basis, people will start to consider that your meetings are flexible or certainly not mandatory. Attendance will drop as will the relevance of your meeting. Don’t go down that path.
End on time. Just as important as starting on time – end on time as well. Everyone understands the occasional overrun on time. Just don’t be a regular offender. If you gain that reputation as a regular offender with meetings running long, you’ll lose attendees and people will end up being there in person only – while their minds are elsewhere (craving lunch, mentally preparing for a next meeting or other work, or just needing a nap).
Stay on topic. Staying on topic will help you keep your meeting durations down. I’ve attended far too many meetings that turned into a lot of sidebar conversations and even went into personal chitchat and “what are you doing this weekend?” type of discussion. Few things annoy me more – unless it’s just a 10-15 second polite exchange of words while filling in a gap. Be concise and you’ll have everyone informed and out of there ready to take on their next tasks without thinking your meeting was a complete waste of time.
Meeting best practices
These are all logical practices for carrying out good meetings. But many of us need to be reminded of best practices like these from time to time. And it’s not always us who are wasting others time with bad meeting practices. Many times we are just “allowing” these things to happen as our attendees are destroying our good meeting reputations with annoying meeting behaviors.
One more note – while it sounds nice to be the person who brings treats to meetings, don’t do it. It makes people sleepy and devalues you as a professional with good information to pass on. You don’t want to be the office “treat person.” Now head off to your next meeting…you don’t want to be late.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network.
Brad Egeland – Author