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Getting the heads of different teams together to get updates on project progress and the state of play for each team is an important and relatively straightforward element of project management that is often made easier by the fact that everyone is speaking the same “management” language of KPIs, milestones and deliverables.

Knowing how to host meaningful meetings with non-managers however can be a different ball game. There can be several issues that arise with those relatively uninitiated with meeting formats:

  • Spending too long explaining rather than focusing on main points
  • Losing sight of the agenda and getting side-tracked
  • Louder members thinking they are required to comment on every topic
  • Quieter members thinking that simply being present is enough
  • Participants not preparing for items on the agenda for which input would be expected from them

With so many potential pitfalls, it’s no wonder that PMs often look to mentors or others in the field to provide tips for hosting meetings. If you’re looking to up your own meeting game, try following these strategies to make the time spent more effective.

How to Host Meaningful Meetings

  1. Emphasize the importance of the agenda

The agenda that you send out prior to the meeting is more than just a reference document, it sets the whole tone for the meeting ahead. If you feel it is being ignored don’t be afraid to list action items that members will be expected to have input on. Make the agenda itself easily scannable, with key points bulleted and bolded. If done properly it will give you a functional roadmap to effective meetings.

  1. Invest time on deciding the attendees

While it can seem a lot easier to just pull a whole team in at the same time, one of the best tips for hosting meetings is to pare the attendee list down to those who really need to be there. Not only will it make the meeting easier to manage and focused on essential information, it can also save large amounts of productivity for the project in general.

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  1. Look out for those who are not participating

Similarly, to the point above, people attending the meeting but not participating are creating a productivity deficit, i.e. wasting time. Of course, it’s not always easy for everyone to speak up and that must be understood and empathized with, but by noting those who aren’t participating you can work with them on this in a more private setting or try to gently coax them by calling on them for their opinion on a relevant subject.

  1. Alter the meeting format if necessary

If you find that your meetings are not proceeding as you’d like or being effective, consider changing how they happen. There are many options out there, such as using Agile methodology, standing meetings or “goalfest meetings”, and breaking old habits can shake up the vibe of a meeting culture which has gone stale.

  1. Stick to time limits as a matter of principle

It can be very easy to overrun on meeting times on subjects that might seem important, but this is a bad habit that undermines both productivity and respect for the meeting process. If topics don’t get covered in the allotted time investigate why that is. Reflect on the meeting and see what could be done to make it better, such as having less items on the agenda or asking attendees to make their inputs more concise.