I have been a project manager for most of my career, a role I quite enjoy, and one of the critical responsibilities of a project manager is running effective and efficient meetings. Effective in that the goals of the meeting are achieved and efficient in that the meeting keeps to the time allotted. As someone who has run meetings locally, where everyone was in the same room; virtually, where everyone was on the phone, calling in from around the world; and a mix, I had to learn how to do this very quickly. I also had to learn because I was running meetings where most of the attendants where way above my pay grade. Some of the people where C-level when I was simply the Head of the Program Management Unit for the business. Nervousness was not an option. You just had to be good at your job.
The keys to running effective meetings are simple:
- The Right Stakeholders – Ensure you have the right stakeholders in the room: stakeholders who are responsible for getting things done and can give updates, and stakeholders that can make decisions. They are not necessarily the same but if they are all the better.
- Attendance – Always take attendance. This is a record of who was present and who wasn’t. Ideally, stakeholders should let you know before hand if they will be able to attend the meeting or not so you can plan accordingly.
- Meeting Purpose – Be clear to all stakeholders before hand what the purpose of the meeting is. It is important when sending out invitations and reminders you include the goals of the meeting and the agenda. This is so people know what to expect and they come prepared.
- Meeting Agenda & Time – Be clear about the agenda and how long the meeting and each agenda item should take. Meetings should never be open-ended. People are busy and need to plan their time to achieve their own goals so you will help them when you clearly let them know how much of their time you need.
- Time Keeping – One of your roles when running a meeting is that of time keeper. You need to keep to time and make participants keep to time as well. This means cutting off people who get long-winded, politely, as well as gently but deliberately pressing for answers and updates when necessary. This way, the meeting can start and end on time.
- Meeting Minutes – Always take meeting minutes. There is an old saying that if it is not written down it never happened. That is, if you do not record the meeting, then it never happened because people will forget. They may remember that the meeting took place, but they will definitely forget the details of the meeting and they will forget the tasks that are assigned to them. Also, if you don’t write it down, you will forget and will not be able follow up to ensure things get done.
- Follow-up – Using the meeting minutes, you have to follow up on tasks. People need to be reminded and held accountable for their commitments. It’s easier to hold people accountable when they have made commitments in front of a group of people than if they only made a commitment in front of one person.
Attached is a template for recording meeting minutes that you can use for your next meeting. I developed it and use it for my clients and I find it highly effective.
I hope this has been helpful. If you have questions, let me know.