An IT Project Manager now and again is required to schedule and facilitate meetings with stakeholders for various reasons- be it onsite or remotely. Such meetings could be with the legal team for legal guidance; procurement team; operations or perhaps team meetings and so on. While scheduling and facilitating meetings sound like an undemanding task, it however takes some skills of sort to ensure that each meeting achieves the purpose for which it was scheduled. When I started out facilitating meetings, there were many times the allotted meeting time was up and I had hardly scratched the surface of what I wanted to achieve. It took me a while to craft out the format I now use and which has been quite a success.
So here are some tips.
- Before the Meeting, determine key attendees- Make sure you have key persons/decision-makers invited the call. Do whatever research you need to find out who can speak authoritatively on the matters that will arise during the meeting. You might want to confirm from each of these people individually to ensure they can make the meeting. Depending on your familiarity with these persons you could send an instant message with a brief description of what you want to achieve. If you are not very familiar with the person, you might want to take a step further and place a call across or send a detailed message introducing yourself and explaining why you need them on the call. Sometimes you might be lucky while trying to get attendance confirmation for these key persons, they could suggest you invite a more appropriate person for your meeting. I can’t count how many times I have invited some person to a meeting and they go ‘ oh! make sure to add this other person, they are more knowledgeable than I am on this subject’ or ‘Make sure to add this other person because he has more authority than I in the area’.
- Send a meeting invite: Finally when sending out the email, make sure to include in the invite, a detailed description of the meeting purpose, and the meeting agenda. By doing this, all your invitees know what to expect and what’s more, they are better prepared to make your meeting a great success.
- During the meeting, take charge: True story, if you do not take charge during ‘your’ meetings, some folks might casually get you talking about ‘the weather’ for a good 20 minutes when you only have 30 minutes to get to the business of the day.
- Don’t be late: You want to try as much as possible to be the first to arrive at your meeting. In the last 4 years career, most of my meetings have been virtual meetings. The same etiquette applies to in-person meetings as for online meetings.
- Acknowledge attendees: I usually start my meeting by acknowledging everyone as they join the call. I make it a point to write the names of attendees. Most teleconferencing applications like Webex and Zoom shows the names of the attendees if they are in your organization and are dialed in through their apps. You might also want to let people joining know who else is on the call and if needed provide explanation to why the meeting hasn’t started especially if it passed the meeting start time. For example “Hi John, thanks for joining the call. We have Paul and James from the procurement team on the call as well. Please give a few minutes to get some key participants to dial in and we could go ahead and start”. By doing this, people joining don’t think they have joined the wrong meeting room because they are expecting the meeting to have started. In a subsequent post, I will talk more about Webex calls etiquette. Once you have a quorum on your call, next is to announce the attendees on the call and their role and give a summary of the purpose of the call.
- Leading the meeting: I like to have a list of items I want to cover during my meetings to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. With my list, I introduce each topic, ask the right questions to guide the discussion. Once I get the outcome I want from one topic, I move on to the next until my list exhausted. Most importantly, I make sure to take notes of every key decision made at the meeting, action items, owners, and due dates committed to. A more suitable alternative is to ask someone from your team to take notes so you can focus on facilitating the meeting. Finally, I thank everyone for joining, remind them of some key decisions that were made on the call and the next steps if any. I also let everyone know I will send out the meeting notes.
- After the Meeting: I send an email out to all the invitees including the notes from the meeting (or a link to where the meeting notes are curated). I remind everyone again of key decision points and the next steps.