How to Conduct a Project Planning Meeting

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Neglecting to properly run your project planning meeting can lead to misunderstanding, inefficiency and frustrated participants. Use the right techniques and you will provide an effective forum for planning as well as a positive experience.

Things You'll Need

  • Written agenda
  • Clock or watch
  • Whiteboard and markers
  • Projector (optional)
  • Sticky notes and pens (optional)
  • Large paper pad (optional)

Be Prepared

Schedule the meeting when key stakeholders can attend. This includes the project sponsor or champion, the project manager and anyone whose input or approval is needed for decisions to be made at the meeting.

Create and distribute the agenda before the meeting. Your agenda should spell out the purpose of the meeting, expected outcomes and time allotted for each part of the meeting. Include what is already known about the project’s purpose, budget, time-line and roles. Use your first meeting to get clarity on the project's scope and roles as well.

Establish roles for the meeting and assign participants to those roles. The facilitator ensures the discussion remains on topic and that all participants have a voice. The timekeeper keeps the group on the timetable established by the agenda, and the note taker tracks the decisions made and the important discussion points.

Plan ahead to have all the tools you'll need readily available at the meeting location. You will probably want to use a whiteboard and dry-erase markers or a large white pad and regular markers. If you do brainstorming exercises, bring small sticky pads and pens for participants. A projector and laptop are necessary for showing PowerPoint presentations and similar displays.

Conduct Your Meeting

Start the meeting by reminding participants of the agenda and roles and establish rules of engagement. At a minimum, the group should agree to be respectful of others’ opinions and to minimize distractions such as cell phones and side conversations.

Follow the agenda and move on once a decision has been made. If additional information is needed before a decision can be made, assign the action item to the appropriate person and clarify when and how they are to report back.

Before ending the meeting, summarize key decisions and action items. Schedule the next meeting and, to the extent possible, agree on the objectives for the next meeting.

After the meeting, promptly distribute meeting notes to participants and other stakeholders and remind everyone of their action items and due dates.

Tips & Warnings

  • If possible, have the note taker take notes on a laptop with the screen projected for all to see. This way any disagreements about how decisions and other information are captured can be cleared up on the spot.

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