A group of project team members in a meeting sitting around a round table.The meetings you hold with team members and stakeholders are going to go a long way towards determining whether or not your project is as successful as you hope that it will be.

There are lots of different factors to take into account, but here are some of the most important ones to bear in mind.

Know What You Want to Achieve

If you go into these important meetings without knowing what you want to achieve then it is going to be a lot more difficult for you to get good results. The first step is therefore to make sure that you know what your preferred outcome is. Once this is clear in your head you can work towards it. In some cases you might only want to give up an update, but in many other meetings you will want to move the project forward by allocating tasks or resolving issues. These are the items you need to focus on, especially in those meetings in which other people start going off subject and losing their focus. The agenda is a good tool, as you can make sure that this focuses in on the issues which you need to cover. You should also make sure that this is distributed to the people you invite well before the meeting starts, so that they all know what you are going to discuss.

Know Who to Invite

Apart from knowing what you want to achieve you also need to figure out who is going to help you do so. This is just as vital an issue and you may need to spend some time investigating this before you issue the invites. I have been in a number of meetings where we couldn’t progress any further because the person who knew the required information or who could make the necessary decision wasn’t there. Sometimes this can be resolved with some frantic phone calls and a mad dash to a new meeting place, but it obviously far better to think about this point in advance and make sure that the people who turn up are those who can move the piece of work forward with you. Another related issue is when the people you want to see don’t turn up and send deputies in their place. This can be just as bad as not inviting them in the first place, so you really need to stress at the beginning of the project that any deputy who is sent along needs to know what is happening and needs to be authorized to make decisions.

Get Clarity Before Moving On

When you are involved in a long and complex meeting it can be easy to get mixed up and lose track of what has been agreed and of who is doing what. The end result can be that everyone walks away from there with different ideas about who is going to do what and by then. This is why it is extremely important that you take the time to go over the action items which have been allocated. You can round all of these up at the end of the meeting and make sure that they are added to the minutes. You don’t want to leave anyone in any doubt about what they need to do before the next meeting comes along.

Follow Up the Action Items

The last point was about taking clear action items, so it is only right that this one should concern following them up. There is absolutely no point in recording all of these details in your minutes and then forgetting about them. I always make sure that the first point on my agenda is the follow up on outstanding action items. This means that you are all clear at the outset about where you stand on these items. You might come across team members or stakeholders who drag their feet on carrying out their action items, but they are far more likely to do it quickly if you press them on the matter at every single meeting. Having action items which are left outstanding for a long time can be a big risk for the project and you might need to think about allocating them to someone else if the original person seems to be getting nowhere with them or doesn’t seem interested. Of course, you can’t forget to review your own list of action items before the meeting kicks off, as you will want to set a good example by having them up to date.