As a project progresses through the lifecycle, the expert Project Manager will use different types of project meeting to ensure progress stays on track.
Meetings can be both a blessing and a curse. At their best, meetings can be great at forging collaborative partnerships, agreeing a pragmatic way forward and considering and aligning multiple points of view. At their worst, they can derail projects and programmes, wasting time, deferring decisions and degrading relationships in the process.
5 Main Types of Project Meeting
There are 5 main types of project meeting that you should be considering. Some are regular, recurring appointments, others are one off or ad hoc project meetings.
- Governance meeting
- Project team meeting
- Project status update meetings
- Stakeholder engagement meetings
- Project workshops
Knowing the difference between these project meeting types allows you to maximise productivity and ensure that you’re not wasting time. You’ll be driving the right outcome from the different meetings and will be empowered by staying within your circle of influence.
In turn, this will drive progress. It will drive decisions and proactive, positive actions. It will drive efficiency and support for your project – and you as a Project Manager too.
A governance meeting is when your project is discussed with senior leaders, including sponsor. The purpose of the meeting is often a decision or to be able to resolve a major issue.
Decisions that will need to go through governance project meeting could include launch ‘go’ or ‘no go’ decisions and investment sign offs.
Governance meetings could also be required for regular updates to senior leadership. They may be scheduled on a monthly or quarterly basis based on the size, speed and importance of the initiative.
The style of these meetings is generally more formal. It’s normal to issue pre-read to help get people’s in the right mindset ahead of this governance meeting. The meeting itself is more of a presentation style with questions. These questions should be asked both by the Project Manager and to the Project Manager.
Top tip for governance meetings
Be sure to pre-engage meeting attendees before the important decisions need to be made to avoid any surprises.
Project Team Meeting
These meetings are led and managed by the Project Manager. The purpose of this type of project meeting is to keep the project team up to date and to give an opportunity to share status. It also allows the team an opportunity to focus on solving problems together.
The project team attend this regular meeting, probably on a weekly basis. Depending on the speed of your project, you may decide a different cadence. Fast paced projects may want daily meetings to keep speed up. Projects in an agile environment may use daily scrums. Slower, less urgent projects may decide to have one project meeting every 2 weeks, or maybe every month. It’s up to the Project Manager to decide on the best course of action.
These meetings are also a good opportunity to engage and bring in the extended project team members for relevant agenda points or at certain points through the project lifecycle.
The style of this meeting should be more relaxed than a governance meeting. An agenda should be shared beforehand. I’ve found it best to have a number of standard topics that stay unchanged week to week with then the middle of the meeting for key focus topics. These could include team problem solving, deep dives into particular topics, guest visitors or other ideas. This middle section allows you to keep the meeting fresh and exciting. It allows you to change it up from week to week.
Top tip for project team meetings
Focus the agenda more around discussion topics and collaborative working… not just sharing information in a one way manner.
Project Status Update Meetings
The project status update meeting is a one on one meeting with the purpose of giving updates up and down the chain of command.
It may be an update meeting between the Project Manager and the Programme Manager or Project/Programme Director. You may also want to have one with the Project Sponsor to keep him or her up to speed.
It’s also wise to have them between the project team members and the Project Manager.
They should allow communication in both directions about the project progress, upcoming activities and milestones as well as the risks and issues. There should be the chance to dive into specific topics in more detail.
The project status update meeting should be a collaborative and open meeting. Both attendees should give advice to support ongoing progress.
They offer a good chance to escalate issues too. Escalations should be made very clearly, with a request for what help is needed. To ensure a successful escalation, make sure you agreeing clear actions and follow up afterwards.
Top tip for project status update meetings
Use standard project progress reports to ensure all areas of the project are covered. Use these progress reports to highlight the key discussion topics too.
Stakeholder engagement meetings
Stakeholder engagement is a classic approach for successful project management. The aim of these meetings is to get buy in and support. You’ll need to start by understanding a stakeholder’s challenges or problems. Then by responding and potentially adjusting to resolve those challenges.
You will probably find most success by doing these on a one to one basis. This allows the Project Manager to get into relevant detail with each stakeholder. You can then cover the topics that are most interest and concern to that particular person.
However, you may also have the opportunity to engage stakeholders in groups. This is particularly relevant for retail operations projects which may have some stakeholders that look after different geographic areas or territories. For example, Store Directors or Operations Managers that each look after a number of stores in an area.
The watch out with engaging people in groups is that whilst the roles are duplicate, the people are not. One person could be more interested in one part of a project whilst another is concerned with a completely different aspect. One way around this is to choose selected people as “champions” for your project have the authority to represent the wider group.
These stakeholder engagement meetings may be regular and recurring or just an ad hoc, one-off project meeting. The frequency will depend on why the stakeholder is involved in the project. Are they playing an advisory role (a “consult” in a RACI) or just someone to “inform” and keep in the loop? Does their involvement centre around just one activity on the project? Or do they need to stay involved on a longer term basis? You’ll need to decide on a case by case basis.
Top tip for stakeholder engagement meetings
If you are meeting an aggressive or negative stakeholder, be sure to ask plenty of questions to ensure that you really understand their point of view. This allows you to understand their point of view and empowers them to be part of the solution.
The final project meeting that you should include in your arsenal is the project workshop. The purpose of these meetings is to be able to bring together a team of different views, opinions and experiences. Using the different brains in the room, you can develop a well-rounded solution. The aim therefore is to reach an agreed solution and approach to a more complicated problem.
As different people have been part of designing and deciding the solution, you should have more cross functional buy in and support from the start. You should use the attendees as champions for the ideas and solutions that you develop.
Every member of the workshop should participate. Using a good cross section of views and experiences will mean that the output solution is stronger. It will mean the solution is not just good from one point of view, it will take into account other considerations too.
You need to be careful to make this meeting a success. As the audience tends to be bigger, it costs a lot to run. It needs more time to plan and prepare. Workshops tend to be longer meetings and you’ll have more people invested in the actual meeting. If you don’t maximise this opportunity, you’re wasting a lot of time and money.
In terms of what style a project workshop should use – well, the clue here is in the name. “Work” is the primary purpose. As such, the style should be highly collaborative, with lots of discussions and ideas. With this in mind, you’ll find that the communication should be many-to-many, not one-to-many.
Top tip for project workshops
Know what you want to get out of the workshop before you begin. If you don’t do this, the risk is that the group diverts or procrastinates, leading to no real outcome.
In summary, using meetings in the right way can help drive significant progress in your projects. You can use them to effectively engage people on your project. However, it is essential to really understand the purpose of each type of project meeting. As a result of doing this well, you’ll soon be setting yourself up for running successful meetings. In turn, you’ll be driving more progress on your projects.
Read more about my top project meeting tips. What are your top tips for the different types of project meeting? Comment below to share your tips.
About the Author
Oliver Banks is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. He’s led and managed many different types of retail projects and has worked with a variety of stakeholders. Oliver has led over 2,000 project meetings covering all of these different types many times over.