5 Ways to Have Killer Meetings

Besides time tracking there is another issue I find extremely important for SMEs (or SMBs if you will) like ours – information flow. How do you make sure that everyone knows what he or she needs to know? How do you gather good ideas or just give status report to everyone in the team? There are several possibilities, actually. You can create status reports and put them into company intranet or send a mass e-mail. You can make posters or memos. Or you could arrange a meeting to discuss matters personally.

Now, what I am trying to say next is from a project manager’s standpoint, but it can probably be applied to any other team member. Since we are a software company, it is essential for us to know how much of the project roadmap we have implemented, whether any problems are occurring, or if a client or partner should be contacted. To accomplish this we hold regular “scrum” meetings. The team will sit down, review what’s done and decide if the milestones are still valid. We also discuss any problems that have emerged to find solutions together. Seems like an ordinary day at the office? Of course it is – but it has some pitfalls I’d like to address.

  • It is overly stupid to hold a meeting because you had one scheduled. If you have nothing new to say or discuss, just check this and re-schedule the meeting. There is no excuse to gather people just to make them look at each other across the table. Let them be productive instead!
  • Do not extend your regular meeting to the point where everyone is talking just to keep the silence filled. Just review the agenda, discuss necessary matters and leave for other duties. It might be a good idea to set a time limit for a meeting – that way you can make sure you won’t be blabbering even two hours later. Of course there are situations that require lengthy meetings with heated discussion, but most meetings can be kept short.
  • Only one thing is more stupid than holding a pointless meeting – and that would be to not hold a meeting when there’s dire need for one. When need arises, call everyone together and discuss matters. And that is the most important rule for every team member, not just the project manager. Talk to people!
  • Another aspect of meetings is that you should document them – let’s call that meeting tracking. That way it is easy to find out what was discussed as well as the outcome of the meeting. Also, it is a good idea to write out the agenda beforehand so people can review it and make necessary preparations.
  • Documenting meetings is one thing, but you have to make sure everyone responsible has access to tracked meetings. That way your work will not go to waste and even people who were not present can get an overview of what was discussed.

How often should you hold your regular meetings? It depends on a project, actually. For example, some of our projects are long term and with a very clear roadmap – then we will hold a meeting only once a week. If we have a project which is on hold we could make the gap even longer. On the other hand, if we have a small project or some kind of a new platform we might hold meetings every two days or even daily. So it all depends on a project and the needs of project members. Just make them short because every minute spent on a regular meeting is unproductive (unless you are paid by the hour for holding meetings!)

And of course – find a tool for meeting tracking that suits you best. That way you can make sure meetings are fun to hold and that people can remain productive.

Bye for now and your comments are most welcome!

September 25, 2006