Plan well. First off, great project meetings have a specific purpose and they accomplish that purpose. And it all starts with proper planning. Plan out an agenda and identify key project status updates that make sense to go along with it. Why not get things done, decisions made AND keep everyone up to date on current project status and what's hot all at the same time? And plan for an hour or less whenever possible. Your attendance will always be highest if people know you aren't planning to take up their whole mornings or afternoons.
Facilitate a timely and well orchestrated meeting. Start on time, end on time and stay on topic. If you gain the reputation as the meeting facilitator who always accomplishes those three things at every meeting then your attendance and participation will be high and your meetings will always be productive.
Followup. What is our goal every day on our projects? To have everyone on the same page with the same understanding of focus and direction. You can help ensure that after each meeting by following up with meeting notes and requesting feedback and updates within 24 hours. Then, resend any revisions to all participants to ensure everyone stays on the same page.
Summary / final tips / call for input
Communication is always Job One for the project manager and it remains the cornerstone to overall project success. And project meetings are a huge part of that communication on every project engagement. Training and certification help, but these other steps are necessary as well in order to be a great leader and meeting manager.
A few more tips to make your project meetings the best they can be...
- Aim for morning meeting times. People get sleepy and less productive after lunch and some don't come back from lunch.
- Don't be the guy who brings doughnuts. Food is not the reason for the meeting. And they make people sleepy.
- Never cancel standing meetings. If you don't have much to cover just go around the room looking for updates. You never know when you'll catch something that could have otherwise fallen through the cracks. Also, if you start to cancel to many standing meetings, people will stop coming.
- Consider banning laptops and tablets. Many people appear to be taking notes but may be doing their own “other” work or just surfing. It happens... I do it during long boring meetings.