Meetings should be biased towards action.
But sometimes, project status updates are necessary. And if you can package yours with informative, clear points, they’re a useful tool for bringing others up to speed.
In this post, you’ll learn what a project status update is, what it should contain, and how to make sure your next one is effective as it can be.
What is a Project Status Update?
A project status update is when people share information about the project status across departments.
It can be a meeting by itself or it can be a short update in the middle of a meeting about a broader topic.
The project status update within a broader meeting is meant to inform others who may need background information to make a decision.
What a Project Status Update Should Contain
Whatever the context of your project status update, according to this paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2008 it should contain updates on:
- Relevant action items
- Current or anticipated issues
- Quality or scope issues
If you’re giving a project update during a broader meeting, you definitely don’t need to include updates on all these items. Your update should contain only enough information to ensure all meeting participants have the context they need to make a decision.
This is why context is so important when you’re giving a project status update. You may have lots of information, but not all of it is pertinent to making a decision or taking some action.
And the more information you provide that isn’t relevant to a decision or action, the less your audience will pay attention.
How to Give an Effective Project Status Update in a Meeting
If you want to give an effective status update, you need to think about it before the meeting itself. While you can’t anticipate everything, you can figure out
- Who will be at your meeting
- What they know
- What they need to know
Not everyone needs to know all the little details of what you are up to. More than anything, they need confidence about how a project is tracking, and they need to know if anything will impact their work.
And in the event you can’t guess how much detail someone might need from your update, either read the room when other people give updates, or just ask. "How deep would you like me to get into on this project update?" That way, you don’t launch into an unnecessary status update.
Put Bullet Points in the Agenda
Beyond choosing the appropriate time for an update, effectively delivering one depends on setting and following a structured agenda. If you have the ability to add your own bullet points summarizing your status update, all the better. And if you’re not in control of the overall meeting agenda, you can create a micro agenda for yourself.
That agenda should include the information you need to cover in your update (and potentially some blank space to write in action items.)
3-5 bullet points is usually sufficient for a quick update.
Once you’ve covered what you need to, wrap it up. One of the biggest problems with status updates is that they go on too long, so don’t drag your conclusions out. Say what you have to say, smile, and don't feel like you need to keep talking.
Grab this Status Update Meeting Template
Product Marketing Senior Team Lead at Trello, Jessica Web, uses a weekly team meeting template that doubles as a project status update. The template, pictured below, runs through a meeting in which different departments provide an update and questions are asked and answered.
If you look closely at Web’s template, you’ll notice she structures it in a way to encourage concise, relevant updates. Everything, from the helper text below each header to the time limit reminders, provide the structure of a solid project status update.
Make it Your Own
If you manage meetings for you team, you can download Jessica Web's weekly team meeting template here, but don’t feel like it’s set in stone. You can and should adjust the template to your needs as you see how it works.
Giving a good project status update depends on evaluating and reacting to the context in which you give it. And there’s no formula because context will always change.
But, as you saw in this post, there are principles and structures that set you up for a successful project update.