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Conducting Efficient Project Meetings

In my assignments as a PMC I observe similar issues again and again, and today we are looking at meetings during projects.  The reason? Well, especially in BIG projects, many pms find themselves working in meetings more than the in the projects they are meeting about!  Holding and conducting efficient project meetings is of the upmost importance for a PM.  The more efficient the meeting, the more time you have to get out there and complete your tasks and action items as well as support your team.  

The topic of this article is on ‘meeting management’ in EPC Projects, or any project really. Yes, project meetings are required and important, however, the meeting topics and the preparation are the key elements for successful results.

The project meeting structure and frequency may change over the project life cycle which means you have to give yourself the space to evolve with the meetings. The more work completed and the more people are involved, more coordination and organisation is required.  In the words of Bruce Lee, “Be like water” when it comes to evolving with your meeting. Additionally, keep a tight structure and agenda so that the flow of energy (or water) reaches important items so that you all discuss, agree upon and set into motion what needs to be set into motion for the success of your project!

You will usually split the meetings based on topic or location to shorten the meeting time and to stay in control. However, if you do this you will have more project meetings to attend. For all these meetings, the meeting topics and the meeting preparation is of essence. To keep a meeting ideally within 45 to 90 minutes, preparation is compulsory.  After all, you do have a project to run and can’t spend the majority of your time in meetings!

Preparation starts with the internal EPC Project meetings. In other words, before you go to a client meeting, perform an internal meeting first to clarify the project status, the key issues and what shall be discussed during the meetings with the client. And as always proper meeting records are compulsory. My advice?  Make taking proper meeting minutes a habit!  Practice it until you don’t even have to think about it! 

That being said, understand everyone’s role in the meeting:

The Facilitator – usually the project manager – has to clearly set out the meeting agenda, the topics under discussion and provide the minutes from the last meeting.

The Participants shall be prepared based on the last meeting minute’s actions, their own actions and planning, issues, and progress.

For the meeting itself, the meeting room (aka “WAR ROOM”) needs to be ready with materials, chairs, technology, whiteboard etc. You will have many project meetings during your project for the months and years to come, so ensure that the room is ready before each meeting so you are not scrambling to find the whiteboard marker in the middle of an important point. Therefore, a bit of time investment beforehand is worthwhile so you can save time later.

If all of the above is settled, it is now your job as a Program or Project Manager to ensure that you start your meetings on time. There is no excuse for people to come late or to not show in your meetings. The bigger the project, the more important it is for everyone to be present and on time. If you have 20 participants in your meeting and you have to wait because one or two people are tardy, you can calculate the waste of time and money.  In my trainings or assignments I usually say that if people cannot make it on time for a meeting, most likely they will not do the efforts to deliver the project on time.  How you do one thing is how you do most things!  Granted, emergencies can happen.  But if a team member is consistently late, it is up to you to either inform them or replace them.  It doesn’t make sense for you to explain yourself twice as the PM.

To manage project meetings effectively and efficiently, create a monthly meeting table to map out which meeting is important and which meeting might be cancelled or changed to a bi-weekly or monthly meeting only. The fact is that you need to have clear and frequent communication with the team, but it should be optimized for best value outcome.

Wishing you productive and effective meetings!

Cheers,
Peter Wyss