3 tips for running the perfect project meeting

Always on the lookout for great articles about project management we came across this one about running an efficient project meeting.

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By  Twitter: @begeland


“These three steps can help you ensure your meetings are well attended and you don’t gain a reputation as a bad meeting facilitator.

Ok, well, nobody is perfect. And we all know that most people try to avoid meetings like the plague. I often say that phone calls are helpful for one person and often an intrusion for the other because they aren’t planned…they are usually an interruption in one’s day…the receiver of the call.

The same can hold true for the meeting facilitator. That person wants to receive information, give information or make decisions. And they want the attention, participation and help from the attendees of the meeting. The meeting attendees would often rather not be there. In fact, many times they would rather be anywhere else – even at the dentist getting a root canal.

So the key for the facilitator of the meeting is to figure out how best to get and keep the right people in their seats so that they can facilitate a productive, effective meeting and get and give the information they need, and get the decisions made that need making. But how? Try these three concepts – some are fast, some take time.

  1. Put out a clear agenda in advance every time. Sure, it’s easy to call a meeting via email or a meeting invite with a short description and hope people show up just because you said they should. Guess what? If that’s all you do, then there is no real reason for them to show up. Some will say they didn’t get or see the invite buried in their calendar or in the “hundreds of emails they get everyday.” Trust me…they saw it, they just chose to ignore it.

Avoid this by putting out a detailed meeting agenda in advance (a day, not one hour) for every meeting you call. Period. Make it four to six bullet points long – not twenty. If you’re smart, you’ll include the latest up-to-date status report along with it so everyone can review project status prior to the meeting. At least they won’t have the opportunity to say they didn’t have the information. By showing them what is being discussed and what should be accomplished, they will better understand how the meeting affects them and they will likely see why they should be in attendance. For a little good measure, visibly include some higher-ups on the distribution list as non-attendee recipients so that these invitees will feel a little more compelled to attend rather than skip.

  1. Focus on a meaningful purpose. Want to accomplish something specific? Make sure that is clear to everyone and make sure everyone who you invite is important to that goal and that they care about that goal. Not all project team members and project stakeholders need to be at every meeting. In fact, if you avoid trying to force everyone to attend every meeting you’ll increase each meeting’s attendance level and you’ll accomplish more. The more people you bring to the meeting, the more likely things that were not originally intended to be discussed will be discussed.
  2. Don’t hold meetings just to hold meetings. I’m a proponent of not canceling those very important weekly placeholder meetings. People are used to attending and they understand the small group setting and weekly touch point with the project client. If there is nothing to say in one of these, still conduct it – just do it in 15 minutes or less with a quick check around the room for any changes or concerns from anyone and then adjourn. But don’t hold people there for an hour to discuss something way off topic because you can.

Likewise, don’t call meetings that don’t really have a purpose. You’ll lose all credibility you may have gained as a meeting facilitator if you start to do this. And, yes, attendance at ALL of your meetings will start to dip…much to your frustration. And getting that attendance and cooperation back is hard to do once you’ve gained a reputation as a bad meeting facilitator. It will stay with you long after you’ve resolved it.


There is no sure fire way to prepare for, call and conduct the perfect project meeting. But there are things you can do to avoid bad attendance, unprepared attendees and tossing your reputation as a meeting facilitator into the fire. What concepts beyond these come to mind when you think about calling, preparing for and conducting a meeting that will be meaningful for the attendees, will promote solid attendance, and not drive everyone running for the doors…or the dentist?”

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