By Christian Bisson, PMP
Whether for workshops, stakeholder interviews, a requirements gathering session or some other activity, sometimes you have to plan a full day of meetings (or multiple days). These meetings might be with various people throughout the day or with the same stakeholders throughout. Regardless, it’s important to plan them appropriately to get the most out of everyone’s time.
Here are a few steps to ensure meeting attendees don’t head out of the office feeling like they wasted a day.
1) Have a detailed agenda
Although this applies to every meeting, it’s especially important when planning a whole day (or days). This means breaking the days into the different relevant sessions, specifying who will attend and when, and detailing the purpose of each session.
2) Plan enough time
Just like with a project schedule, if the duration only looks good on paper, you will regret it later. Make sure to have enough time for each session. Don’t think “we’ll have to make it fit”—it most likely will not. Then you’ll have to cut short a session at the last minute to accommodate.
3) Don’t skimp on breaks
If you don’t include time for any breaks, thinking this will allow more to get done, you‘ll be wrong. People will likely take breaks anyway because they are tired, thirsty or need to go to the bathroom. If they don’t take breaks, attendees will be severely tired or uncomfortable. As the day progresses, sessions will become less and less efficient. Plan either five minutes of break per hour or 10 minutes per two hours.
4) Plan a meet-and-greet or introduction
Always plan 15 minutes at the beginning of the day for various ad hoc elements, including: people presenting themselves, introducing the day’s agenda or a session starting a few minutes late. If everyone is on time, and everyone knows each other, you might need just five minutes.
5) Limit the number of attendees
The more attendees in a meeting, the more chance the agenda goes off track. Obviously it’s important to try to avoid this, but if 20 people are attending the meeting, that can be a seriously tall order. Short of being very strict (which you might not want to be with a client), the meeting will most run over its allotted time.
So scheduler beware: some, if not most, meetings with too many attendees will bring no added value and will be wasting people’s time (and money!). Ideally, a meeting should be limited to about six people.
Have any more tips to share?