Our final part in this short series of articles about meetings is concerned with how the Project Manager should run a successful meeting. Strange as it may seem there is actually a formula to running successful meetings – which begins with making sure that you don’t begin the meeting in such a way as to guarantee its failure. To begin with, according to the formula, your reasons for calling a meeting should either be to obtain approval for a plan that you have or to seek opinions before formulating a plan to be submitted for approval. Those things could just as easily be labeled as seeking a solution to a problem or discussing problems – but it’s much more proactive to address a meeting in terms of plans rather than problems, as discussing problems will inevitably descend into an opportunity for the delegates to score points over one another.
A good start will lead to a good end.
Getting the meeting off to a good start is an essential part of the formula. Arrive at the meeting venue early enough to greet the delegates, putting them at their ease before the formal work begins. Start the meeting on time and stick to the agenda, don’t allow yourself to be drawn away from the objectives you’ve set yourself for the meeting. You can help yourself here by quickly reminding the delegates the purpose for which the meeting was called, highlighting agenda items as necessary. Once under way – make sure that all the delegates have ample opportunity to voice their concerns/opinions, not letting any one person (including yourself) to dominate the meeting. Then, when all of the agenda items have been discussed, summarize the opinions expressed and decisions/action plans decided on. This last point is important as it will serve to underline the minutes you subsequently send out, reinforcing the approval and agreement of the delegates attending the meeting.
The last part of the successful meetings formula is generating meaningful minutes. A verbatim transcript of everything said, or even the majority of what was said, is really of no use as the minutes for a meeting. The purpose of meeting’s minutes for the Project Manager is to express three things. Firstly, the decisions that were made in the meeting – who made them and what the decision were. Secondly, any resultant actions that need to be taken. Following on from a meeting there is inevitably more work to be done, so the minutes need to clearly show what’s to be done and who’s responsible for it. Lastly, the minutes will need to include supporting notes that help to explain the reasons for decisions or actions being reached. Don’t forget too, on a procedural basis, to include in the minutes things like the start and end time of the meeting, who was there, agreement on the minutes for the previous meeting, matters arising from the previous meeting and matters to carry forward to the next one. These procedural points might seem tiresome – but if ever you’re ever challenged on a decision in future a meeting, they could be invaluable!