Ever received this kind of text message? “Help! Stuck in this mtg & they ran out of donuts!” If you’re a person who leads meetings yourself, just imagine that’s what your attendees are sending from their own devices — unless you do something about it.
What exactly makes a good meeting? What are the meeting management techniques that project managers should master? Meeting management is part of the PMP exam content outline, so it’s possible you’ll be asked about this in your exam.
In this article I cover what you need to know about this subject for the PMP test. However, if you’re not pursuing the PMP, you’ll also pick up some great tips for managing successful meetings every time — including the 10 essential meeting management techniques, which you won’t want to miss!
PMP Meeting Management Techniques Defined
Let’s begin by defining meeting management techniques. These are the activities you do in the meeting to manage the discussion and to get a clear outcome.
If you think that sounds similar to “meeting best practices,” then you’d be right! Meeting management techniques can also include the tasks you do on either side of the meeting, such as issuing the project management meeting agenda in advance and following up on actions afterwards.
Meeting management techniques are an important part of how project managers do their jobs, and if you think the skills are all common knowledge, then you’d be mistaken. I’m sure you can think of meetings you’ve attended where there has been no agenda, and you’ve left the room knowing that the actions won’t be documented or that no follow-up will transpire. Meeting management skills help you avoid those situations.
10 Essential Meeting Management Techniques
Let’s dive straight into the details. Here are 10 essential meeting management techniques for PMPs to master:
1. Develop a meeting objective. This is really important because you should be leaving the meeting knowing that something is different on your project, even if it’s just that you’ve updated everyone.
2. Develop the agenda. This is something a lot of project managers struggle with; so if it feels difficult to you, be assured, you’re not alone! The tip I have here is to standardize your project management meeting agenda as much as possible. Then you’ll only have to change a few items every time you have the meeting.
Ask your team and the others who are attending the meeting to contribute their topic suggestions for the agenda in advance. This gives you early warning of the subjects that people want to discuss and helps the discussion stay on track.
3. Send the agenda ahead of time. Remember to issue your agenda a few days beforehand. Any earlier and the attendees will forget them.
4. Tailor the meeting to your culture. Make sure the meeting is suited to the environment you’re in. An informal workshop won’t go as well in a formal office environment, for example.
5. Invite the right people. The right people for your meeting are determined by your meeting objectives. Think about who will help you achieve those objectives and work on getting everyone there. If the “right” person is unavailable, ask him or her to delegate attendance to someone else. The delegate should be able to cover the items on the agenda that relate to their area. Ask that the delegate be fully briefed and given responsibility to commit to decisions.
If, however, you think that it’s imperative that the “right” person and not a delegate participates, then you will have to change the meeting date or time to make it possible for them to attend.
6. Start and end the meeting on time. Just start at the time you think is right to start and let others join as they arrive. Maybe they’ll get the message for next time that you won’t hang around. It’s disrespectful of everyone’s schedule. Of course, that means you can’t arrive late either.
7. Introduce everyone. As you open the meeting, spend a few moments going round the table asking everyone to introduce themselves. This is especially important when you’re starting a project since team members might not know each other. This doesn’t need to take long: Name, department and role on the project are normally enough.
8. Manage conflict during the meeting. Conflicts will surface in meetings, and it’s often about opposing viewpoints on a topic. Discussion is healthy, so let it happen, but be aware of when it threatens to take over the meeting.
At that point you should say that the topic needs to be taken offline. Record the fact that the discussion isn’t finished, and be sure to pick it up again outside the current meeting; otherwise, you’ll find that it festers.
9. Assign someone to take notes. Unless it’s a meeting where there won’t be many actions or decisions, it’s important to make sure there are notes covering what was talked about. It can be hard to chair a meeting and take adequate notes; so get someone else to capture the notes for you.
10. Document the action items with responsible parties. This normally takes the form of meeting minutes. Minutes should be written up and sent out within a few days of the meeting. If the meetings are long and detailed, you’ll want to offer the team the opportunity to review them for errors before you issue a final version.
Then track those individuals with actions to make sure work is taking place and they’ll be able to report back on progress during the next meeting.
Project Management Meetings with Virtual Teams
The 10 essential meeting management techniques are perfect for in-person meetings, and they also work well for virtual meetings. However, when your team isn’t physically with you for the meeting, you should consider some additional techniques for managing your meetings.
For example, test your technology. Make sure that your webinar tool or screensharing app works and that you know how to use it. Check the connections from wherever you’re going to be joining from. Triple-check the time zone conversions so that you can expect everyone at the right time.
A final tip for virtual meetings is to create as level of a playing field as you can. For example, don’t have the whole team in one place with a single individual joining by conference call. That creates inequality in the experience of the meeting and is likely to lead to the person on the phone feeling as if he or she wasn’t part of the discussion (or becoming so disengaged that he or she starts focusing on other work instead of your meeting).
Meeting management techniques are something that you can learn and improve with time. The tips in this article will help you quickly boost your skills at managing meetings, but they are still only the start of your journey towards becoming a confident meeting chair.
A version of this article originally appeared on The PM PrepCast and is reprinted by permission of the author.