Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Running the meeting, part of Managing Project Communication.
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I once worked for an organization that spent hours in meetings. One day I was in a meeting where the presenter immediately started on their slides. Everyone took out their notebooks and started checking their e-mail. The presenter never asked for questions and just showed her charts. After about 15 minutes the organizer came into the room and apologized for being late. She asked the presenter what she was doing. She said she was going through the new marketing material. The organizer said the marketing meeting was down the hall. The presenter looked a little embarrassed, quietly left and closed her computer.
But the real embarrassment were the people who were listening to the meeting. No one noticed that she was presenting material for another meeting. This might sound strange but it's true that many times people are in meetings and they don't know why they're there. You job as a meeting organizer is to create a clear purpose for your meeting. Everyone should know why they're there. If you hold efficient meetings people will pay attention and know how to contribute. You can organize your meetings with sleek efficiency using the SHARKS approach.
The SHARKS approach is: S, state the agenda before you start your meeting. H, hijackers will be at your meeting, so watch out. A, adding relevant information is the key to a good meeting. R, repeat the agenda at the end of the meeting. K, keep the meeting small and short. S, scheduling should be outside the meeting. Let's start with S, state the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.
The agenda should be very clear. Something like, "This is an hour long meeting to discuss "the challenges with installing the new server." Imagine if the presenter in the wrong room had started her meeting by saying, "This is a meeting about the new marketing plan." The presenter probably would have been corrected before she started. Don't assume that everyone at the meeting will know why they're there. In fact, it's safer to assume that most people at the meeting don't know why they're there. Stating the agenda will also be a way to avoid distracting questions.
If someone asks a question that's outside the agenda, just tell them that you'd be happy to answer their question offline. That's when you're in danger of being hijacked. The H in our sharks approach is that hijackers will be at your meeting. Some people can't help themselves. They'll want to ask questions that are not part of the meeting. If they hear a question about buying servers they'll chime in and say, "You know, we should really be "talking about streamlining equipment purchasing." Then they'll start a new meeting within your meeting. The only way to keep your meeting from being hijacked is to say that the ideas are outside the agenda.
If you let your meeting get hijacked then you'll have a reputation as someone who doesn't have useful meetings. The A in the SHARKS approach is for adding relevant information. No one should talk at a meeting unless they're adding information. This is particularly challenging for project managers. There's something deep in project managers that forces us to communicate agreement. A project manager will nod their head and interrupt and say, "Yeah, I agree with that." You have to transition when you hear agreers spending too much time with their agreement.
You could say something like, "Bill agrees with this approach so let's talk "about how this will impact your timeline." The R in the SHARKS approach is to repeat the agenda at the end of the meeting, then compare the agenda to what actually happened. This is an important improvement step for your meetings. If your meeting is taken over by hijackers or agreers then you can still use the time to show how this impacted your meeting. The K in SHARKS is to keep your meeting small and short. Sometimes people go to meetings to find out about the meeting.
After they arrive they realize there's no reason for them to be there so they just open up their computer and answer e-mail. You should always go through the process of invitation grooming. Make sure that only the people who need to be there are there. Also if you accomplish your agenda then you should immediately end your meeting. There's no reason to keep people in the room if you have exhausted your agenda. The last S in the SHARKS approach is scheduling. Scheduling should never take place in the meeting. There's no reason to keep people at the meeting just to schedule the next meeting.
E-mail is a much better tool for scheduling. Listening to everybody else's schedule is not a good way to communicate that you value their time. If you use the SHARKS approach you'll get a solid reputation as someone who knows how to run their meetings. People will show up ready and you'll get a lot more accomplished.
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- Using formal and informal means to communicate
- Prioritizing stakeholder needs
- Listening actively
- Planning project communication
- Understanding leadership language
- Writing clear and concise project reports
- Learning how and when to say "no"<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.