How to avoid unhappy project meeting attendees

Are your project meetings suffering due to these silly mistakes?

Have you ever had a situation where what you thought would be a simple project meeting ended up being painful and not effective?  Was there an attendee who was not happy at the start and the meeting never recovered?

While there may be some situations where this cannot be avoided.  Perhaps the attendee has a different agenda where it is to their advantage to derail the project.  Maybe the individual feels that you (or sponsor / project team) has crossed them and they are simply seeking revenge.  Even worse they are somebody who enjoys confrontation as part of their work day.

This is a very difficult situation to deal with.  However, a smart PMO / project manager should be aware of the environment and hopefully anticipate this.  Take a look at the posts on project stakeholder management as this is not the primary topic for this post.

Sometimes there is a simple reason for this behaviours other than the points listed above.  Each one of us wants to feel valued and to be treated with respect.  So, take a moment to think how you have felt where you have not been sent / mailed the materials for a meeting.  Perhaps not officially included on the invite.  You get to the room and see that everyone else has papers and you do not.

While many will take this as a simple oversight, if someone is under pressure they may react badly and they may become disruptive to the meeting.  I certainly have been chairing conference calls in the past where one person announces on the line they have not had the material and then a couple of others will add neither have they.

Again while this may not appear to be a big issue, sub consciously all attendees may think that you have not organised the logistics very well.  This can then sub consciously lead to them to think that if you can’t organise the logistics, can the material and recommendations be trusted.

This is a similar situation to if your presentations have mistakes in calculations, etc.  The credibility is quickly lost, you will not reach the decisions you need and will spend time reassuring people.

You may be reading this and thinking I am making a big deal about this.  I can assure you that over the 25 years I have spent executing change, it pays dividends focusing on the detail.  It is like Formula 1 where every small incremental improvement to the car counts….

So here are a couple of simple tips:

  • Double check the distribution list against the attendees listed in the material for the meeting. Do not simply cut and paste previous distribution email lists, they have a habit of being out of date.  Email programmes like Outlook and Lotus Notes do not always reflect all of the attendees added after the original invite was sent, especially if the invite went from somebody else’s diary.
  • Make sure you noted any delegations. Some people do not delegate using the original meeting request.  They may send a separate email.
  • Check the names listed in the meeting terms of reference against the minutes and meeting invite. Ensure that they align.
  • Make sure you remove people when they only attended as a delegate for a meeting. Many people forget to remove names after the meeting in question.
  • Make sure you capture people’s names correctly (and their role). This is important.  How would you feel if someone did not care enough to spell your name correctly?
  • Make sure your information in the material is correct.

Summary

While none of this is rocket science, it is all very practical.  Get in the habit of checking these points before you hit send and you will avoid some challenges in your meetings.