How To Win At Meetings: Get It Confirmed

Meeting attendance is crucial for project management. Stakeholders simply must be present participants and prepared. Fair weather guidance is not guidance, just as much as no-shows are… well, no-shows. Whether you manage or not, commitment is a very real concern in today’s work culture of overloaded execs and so-called “lean” business management.

(Often, where you hear “lean” you are supposed to hear LEAN, but you and I both know it’s a sorry lie; it means the company just hire too few people. I digress.)

The first meeting with the stakeholders is always all smiles and cheers because we are now going to be different. We are going to get something done.

Now that’s behind us, let’s move on. The stakeholders get back to their day jobs. Who can blame them? They have twice their bandwidth in email and noise, including meetings requiring their work to keep the wheels on their departments.


Early in the process, say the charter phase before the kick-off, I like meeting the responsible parties individually. This gives me a chance to get their input, gauge their experience, expectations. Also, I get the chance to talk rules of engagement. I ask for their help controlling meetings and other tasks. I underscore the value of preparedness and participation, but also I describe the need for their referent authority.

What’s that? Good question. It means I need them there to lend me authority in their name.

How I prevent the no-show

Confirm agenda points. Ask them directly what they think. Will they be there?

It is going to happen. Department lead X is going to miss Tuesday’s Risk and Issues meeting. I need him there so I ask him who is going to work his tasks? Who is going to report his status?

By this I mean assign tasks to stakeholders. Put their skin in the game. I don’t need them to be spokesmodels and neither do you.

How I deal with chronic no-shows

This is uglier. When my stakeholder turns absentee I go visit. It’s time to ask if he can be engaged. Something has probably happened that has pulled him away from the project, so I need a replacement.

He will either re-engage or not. And either way I might need to escalate to another level. That’s a tricky read. You don’t want to go to the C-level well too many times but it is clear you have to communicate the truth early and often–we all heard in our PMP training often enough.

If you communicate the needs and the situation appropriately, the leadership will most likely give you a new resource or check into the situation with the initial pick.

Agenda confirmations open all these doors, adding even more importance to the agenda.

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