7 tips for running a successful first Project Meeting

7 tips for running a successful first Project Meeting

Launch your project using this guide to leading an effective initial project meeting.

Congratulations! Your contract is signed and you’re on board with your newest client. The budgets are approved and you’re ready to get to work. Starting your contract off with a great first project meeting is the best way to set the stage for outstanding project results and shows your client their decision to hire you was the right one.

Initial project meetings bring everyone together who will be involved in the project to confirm their shared understanding of project goals, processes and deliverables.

Follow these 7 steps to be sure your project starts on the right path to success.

 

  1. Fact finding before you begin

Think about the scope of your project and make sure it is mapped out in high level. Refer back to your client’s brief and the contract you have signed with them.

Consider the five stages of a project, where you are in that journey and how your initial project meeting can help you to move easily to stage two.

  1. Project Initiation (YOU ARE HERE!)
  2. Project Planning
  3. Project Execution
  4. Project Monitoring and Control
  5. 5Project

Gather all the relevant documentation you have now and see if there are any gaps in your information. At a minimum you should have a clear budget, time frame and project scope.

If you need more information, now is the time to speak to your client about their goals and expectations.

You now need to gather information about the issue at hand before you can strategize about the best way to assist your client.

 

  1. Speak to Key Stakeholders

Confirm your Key Client Contact and use their in-house knowledge to determine key stakeholders.

Project initiation should ensure that all your key project stakeholders are identified, engaged and aligned with the initial project goals as identified in Step 1.

Ask your Key Client Contact for help compiling a list of people who will be tasked with delivering or managing the results of the project outcomes. Don’t just limit these conversations to management. The more information you can gather at this stage from all relevant areas and the more representation you have from across the company, the easier your job will be.

If you have time, meeting individually allows for frank discussion and if time is tight, small group discussions are also helpful. These interviews can help break the ice, gain early buy-in, identify possible pain points and gain individual perspectives on the project.

Prepare your Key Stakeholder meeting agenda. This is a ‘getting-to-know you’ and data gathering exercise and should include:

 

  • a brief introduction to the project and your background and expertise;
  • assurances of confidentiality;
  • a request for Stakeholder introduction and their description of their company role and expertise;
  • a request for stakeholder recommendations for project success and any potential challenges;
  • a request for stakeholder insight into their company’s culture;
  • asking if there are other people you should speak to in order to understand your project or the organisation better; (this is a great way to expand your list of stakeholders, gaining broader insights, leading to better outcomes); and
  • asking how will the project impact individual stakeholders?

 

  1. Prepare an Initial Project Plan

Once you’ve gathered this background data, you can start to formulate an initial project plan.

The information you’ve received from the meetings in step 2 is critical during this step. Consider using an analysis framework to synthesise the information you now have. Structuring the data you’ve compiled into strategic frameworks such as SWOT or McKinsey 7S will help you with your strategic analysis.

Using your stakeholder data and mapping this to the initial client brief as discussed in Step 1 should lead you to your high-level project strategy.

Document your proposal succinctly. It should include a:

  • reiteration of the project scope and objectives;
  • proposed timeline and initial milestones;
  • proposed project responsibilities and deliverables;
  • proposed work processes;
  • communication plan with communication methods and timelines, and
  • possible challenges and resolution options.

Now it’s time to get your proposal agreed! Remember this is only a proposal and your client has to agree. Agreement and buy-in at step 4 below is crucial.

 

  1. Kick-off time. Prepare for your initial meeting.

Your initial research is now complete and you should now have first-pass project strategy in mind. It’s time to get your key stakeholders together and agree the way forward to project Phase 2 (project planning) and beyond.

Organization and clarity are important at this meeting so prepare and be as concise as possible. Remember you have met many of these stakeholders already so time management and on-task chairing of this meeting are crucial for your credibility.

Agree the participants with your Key Client Contact.

Formulate a meeting agenda. This should include:

  • an introduction of all participants;
  • a review of the project scope and objectives;
  • a review of the proposed timeline and initial milestones;
  • a review of proposed project responsibilities and deliverables;
  • confirmation of proposed work processes;
  • presentation of your communication plan, methods and timelines;
  • discussion of potential challenges and resolution possibilities;
  • confirming project phase 2: Planning and its timeline, and
  • noting and agreeing any decisions made during the meeting with allocated responsibilities (who, what, where, when and how)

Meeting preparation is vital. Before the meeting, run through your agenda and allot time parameters for each agenda item. Consider any possible time over-runs and how you might deal with those. Practicing your presentation beforehand will ensure you feel confident and prepared.

 

  1. Coordinate Details and Schedule the Meeting

Be sure you plan ample time for your busy agenda.

When scheduling the meeting, offer participants a few different options for dates and times. If you are conducting the meeting in-person, be sure to book a conference room, or if you are hosting a virtual meeting ensure everyone has a conference call number and meeting log-in information.

If this will be a long meeting, consider the provision of refreshments and plan breaks.

Consider the time of day you’ll hold the meeting. Avoid possible pain timings such as late or Friday afternoons.

Consider requesting to record the meeting to avoid any future misunderstandings or ambiguity and to allow you to concentrate on chairing the meeting.

Circulate the agenda in advance. Giving your participants enough advance warning allows them to prepare properly

 

GOOD LUCK!

 

  1. Moving to Project Planning Phase 2

You’ve run your first meeting – now review your meeting and its outcomes.

Wrap up the initial phase with a summary of the points agreed at your meeting.

Record all agreed project deliverables on an easy ‘who, what, where, when and how’ template.

Circulate this to all the participants. Request their review and amendments where necessary. This avoids misunderstandings later.

Schedule Phase 2 Project Planning meeting.

 

  1. Remember yourself!

As a Contractor, you should remember to consider yourself at the end of each project phase.

If necessary, have you recorded and accounted for your time?

Have you remembered to itemise and provide proof of any meeting expenses?

Your Contracting accountants will take care of your time sheet and any tax-deductible expenses you have incurred such as materials, conference call costs, refreshments, transport costs etc.

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