Put together a detailed agenda. It all starts with a good, detailed, meaningful agenda. Think about what you want to accomplish and shape the agenda around it. Keep it on topic – including several unrelated topics will only serve to confuse the attendees as to your meeting goals and lead to an unproductive meeting – and probably too many attendees since you'll need an eclectic group to cover all the unrelated topics. In cases like this it's far better to call 2-3 meetings to get and give the information you need on those topics – don't try to fit everything into one meetings.
Carefully consider attendees. Target the right individuals for the meeting. A meeting full of the wrong people to get the decisions made, the information shared and the statuses conveyed will leave you with a fairly unproductive and unsuccessful meeting. Do this more than once and you're going to have trouble on future meetings getting that 100% attendance you want at every meeting.
Timing is everything. By this I don't mean stay on time. Yes you need to do that, but that's the next step. Here I mean hold the meeting at a productive time of day. Stay away from Monday mornings, Monday afternoons, Monday's in general, Friday's in general, and mid to late afternoon timeframes for meetings. Shoot for Tuesday through Thursday and stick to mornings. Not 8:00am...be courteous to those who need to drive from the edges of the earth to get to the office and allow for everyone to sit down and check their email and plan their day. If you can schedule meetings between 9:00am and 11:00am everyday then you'll be set...though I know that's not always possible. And be sure to consider those in other timezones that need to call in. I am all for remote work and virtual teams, but it does make scheduling meetings a bit more challenging.
Stick to the schedule. If you planned a one hour meeting, then do your best to stick to one hour. If people come prepared to contribute for one hour and you allow it to stretch to 90 minutes or two hours, you're going to lose people. They may not physically live, but many will leave mentally. Everyone brings laptops and smartphones to meetings now...they will end up on Facebook at the 61 minute mark...and you won't get them back and they may not even show up next time. You planned out a detailed agenda and planned out a timeframe. Stick to it – everyone will be happy and productive.
Document. Take good notes. You distributed the agenda in advance, right? So everyone comes prepared. Don't allow that great discussion to happen without capturing what is said, shared, planned and decided. This is key information for your project and the entire purpose of your meeting.
Follow-up. Always follow-up. What good is a project meeting if people leave the meeting with different interpretations of what just took place. You documented everything, now follow-up with your detailed notes and ask the attendees to respond within 24 hours either concurring with your notes or identifying changes to them. Then do a final update and re-distribute. The key is to keep everyone on the project on the same page throughout the engagement – and this follow-up process will help you get there.
Summary / call for input
Even if you're not an experienced meeting facilitator now, if you follow these six steps now, you eventually will be. And your project meeting attendance will be high, remain high if you stick to these principles, and your project meetings will be the most effective, efficient, and productive ones in the organization. Your confidence will grow and grow. And your project customers – when they are included in the meetings – will notice the participation, attendee accountability and your growing command of these meetings and their confidence and satisfaction will also grow. Trust me.
What about our readers? What thoughts do you have on the best project meetings? What steps might you change or add on my list?