How to handle your first project management meeting
Starting any new job can be daunting and it doesn’t matter how much training you have done and how many useful skills you have acquired, facing a new set of people for the first time in a new role can be tough.
Even more so when you are holding a project initiation meeting and you are the person in charge for the first time. Whether your career in project management started via a project management apprenticeship or was a natural progression from another job with the same organisation, there are some important things to remember that should help you to handle that all important first project management meeting.
It sounds so simple doesn't it, but all too often the person leading a project management meeting can be disorganised and unprepared, shuffling papers and forgetting what they wanted to say next. Take time to prepare fully for your meeting – and remember this may actually take longer than the time allocated for the meeting itself. Make notes of all the key facts you need and have them to hand. Cards or slides containing the main points that you can quickly scan through either physically or on a laptop are a great idea, then you don’t need to rifle through lots of papers or long documents.
A project manager who is well-organised and runs meetings efficiently will instill confidence in his or her team and in turn give them the confidence they need as they begin to tackle a new project.
Even if you don't feel particularly confident it is important to appear confident. This might be your first project where you are the project manager but you will have earnt that role through hard work so you deserve to be the one making the decisions. You will have acquired the experience and skills to take on the role of project manager even if you haven't yet had an opportunity to put all of these skills into practice on your own project. Remember your role as a project manager is the day-to-day management of the project. You should have the support of the sponsor and senior management to resolve any really tricky issues. Appearing confident, and by extension feeling confident, will reassure your team that you have the skills to help them achieve a successful outcome for this project.
Avoid too much detail
Your first meeting should be all about the big details of the project, providing your team with the information that they will need to get started. Why are we here? What is the purpose of this project? What are the benefits for the organisations involved and me as an individual? The smaller details about how certain tasks can be accomplished, for instance, are something that can, and should, be discussed at subsequent meetings, perhaps in smaller groups or sub-teams should this be appropriate.
The main goals of any project initiation meeting should be:
- presenting an overview of the project to all involved;
- creating a sense of purpose and enthusiasm for the project;
- building credibility in the team;
- opening up channels of communication, and
- actually getting the project started.
Set out the project plan
Make sure you briefly outline the following (again, there will be time for more details at a later stage):
- The aims of the project, the main benefits and requirements.
- The scope of the project, acceptance criteria, constraints and assumptions.
- Describe project roles and clearly define responsibilities, especially who is responsible for approval of various elements of the project such as documentation and expenditure.
- Project budget, cost tracking and procedures for reviewing expenditure.
- Project schedule, including key milestones and constraints.
- You may also want to touch upon other related plans for quality control, risk management, change control procedures and the communication plan.
Thank everyone for coming to the meeting and let them know how much you are looking forward to working on the project with them all.
With all of the above covered, your first project management meeting should set the right tone for a successful project.