How to Facilitate Project Meetings


I was managing a critical project a few years ago, and we needed a workshop to sort out the project requirements. It was really important that the workshop went well, especially as there were some executive managers in the room.

It was important to me personally, as well. I wanted to make a good impression with the people I hadn’t yet met (and maintain the good impression I had cultivated with the people I already knew).

Normally I can, ahem, wing it a bit when it comes to workshops, but for this one, I put into practice all the lessons I had learned on previous projects. I knew that to effectively lead the meeting, I had to become an effective meeting facilitator. In other words: I didn’t have to do it all myself.

I learned that using the right tools, proper planning (and prodding) and garnering the support of key people would help make my meeting a success. Hopefully, these tips I learned will help you, too!

1. Agendas. Gotta love ’em.

Every meeting needs an agenda. An agenda is a list of the things you will discuss in the meeting and it explains to the attendees why they are there. The agenda should also include the date, time and location on it – people will often forget to check these details until the very last minute so it helps if they are at the top of the agenda as a reminder. You can also include a list of people who have been invited (although you don’t know yet that they will all turn up on the day).

Use your project collaboration tools (or what that means in your organization. You might enjoy a deeper dive into the various nuances of collaboration by Stowe Boyd in CMSWire). No matter what kind of tool you use, you should share the agenda in advance. This will give people the chance to comment on the topics, come back to you with a request to add additional discussion items to the agenda and prepare any materials they need to bring with them.

More than that, though, circulating your agenda with social tools helps create buy-in and support early on for the meeting.

2. Have the Team Set Ground Rules

Ground rules are a set of criteria that all meeting participants agree to adhere to. Usually, these are established in longer workshops or as a matter of course for a team, but if you have never established any, it’s a good team-building exercise to help set the tone for all meetings.

Ground rules are things like:

  • We will come back promptly from breaks
  • We won’t use our smartphones in the meeting
  • We won’t talk over each other
  • We’ll be honest
  • Everyone is encouraged to participate
  • We’ll stay on topic.

These are just examples. Brainstorm meeting guidelines up on a whiteboard and get everyone to read and agree to them. When you have got the list, stick it to the wall and draw people’s attention to it when your workshop or meetings go a little off track.

3. Get The Right People In The Room

More is not better in the realm of meetings. I’m sure you have sat through meetings and wondered at the end, “Why was I there?” Make sure you invite the right people—and only the essential people—to the meeting.

Having the decision-makers there is a huge advantage and can really speed up your project, however. So follow up to make sure the people you need to be there understand the value of this particular meeting.

4. Use The Right Tools

Technology can help your meeting in several ways, not least because it allows you to capture the outcome of the meeting live. In the same spirit of the organization, get any materials or technologies that you need. Have all these prepared in advance and make sure they are in the room at the right time.

Since it’s impossible for you to facilitate the meeting and keep the conversation going and take notes at the same time, you can record the meeting. Alternatively, you can appoint someone who can take photos of the diagrams you draw and type up the notes as they happen. It’s better if they take notes directly into the project management tool’s online chat or discussion section to save time and confusion. You can also encourage participants to bring phones and tablets and use the online tools to capture questions during presentations.

5. Allow Anonymous Feedback

In workshops, you sometimes want to get lots of ideas discussed in a short period of time, and it’s easy for participants to feel they could be judged on their contributions. One way to avoid this is to let people comment anonymously. Use sticky notes or notecards – everyone writes their comment or question on a sticky note and you collect them and read them out. While you might recognize their handwriting, it’s often a more comfortable way for shy members of the team to fully contribute to the larger group. You do want to elicit feedback from your whole team, not just the outspoken members.

6. Share Minutes

When the workshop or meeting is over, send out the minutes. Minutes document what happened in the meeting and are the official record of what was discussed. They list who was there, what you talked about and any actions and decisions are taken.

If you or your helper recorded these directly into your online tool during the meeting then you’re already halfway done. Take the next step and make sure you share with anyone who couldn’t make the meeting, with remote team members and relevant leadership.

Make it your best practice to send out your minutes within one day of the meeting, while the information is still relevant.

7. Follow Up

Finally, you need to follow up on what was discussed. Remember, a workshop is great—but it won’t complete tasks for you.

Review the minutes and see what actions were agreed upon. Talk to the people who are responsible for these actions. Follow up with them to check the work is being done and will be completed by the agreed date. If you think it is necessary, email everyone who attended the meeting with an update when you have something to report, or once all assigned tasks have been entered to review the schedule impacts.

When you take the time to plan properly and put lots of effort into facilitating a good meeting, you are almost guaranteed to be successful.

We designed the dashboard features of ProjectManager to assist with reporting and visualization of your project at-a-glance and in real-time. You’ll save time prepping for meeting if you just bring a tablet or laptop and display the dashboard to the attendees. Plus, its built-in collaboration apps help capture notes and images for the whole team.