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How to Run Effective Planning Meetings [Planning Meeting Checklist]

A planning meeting refers to a gathering convened to discuss plans for a new project. The attendants discuss the scope, goals, budget, and timeline of the project, ensuring they understand the work involved and commit to completing it within the budget and time allocated.

The Hugo Team
The Hugo Team
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How to Run Effective Planning Meetings [Planning Meeting Checklist]

There are several types of meetings in an organization. Status update, problem-solving, collaboration, and planning meetings are just some of them. Each of them has different goals and structures and is conducted differently.

To run an effective meeting, you need to be aware of what type of meeting you want to run and how to run it. In this guide, learn and access everything you need to run effective planning meetings.

What is Covered:

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What Is a Planning Meeting?

A planning meeting refers to a gathering convened to discuss plans for a new project. The attendants discuss the scope, goals, budget, and timeline of the project, ensuring they understand the work involved and commit to completing it within the budget and time allocated.

Key Elements of a Planning Meeting [Checklist]

A planning meeting that doesn't fully meet its goals could be detrimental to the organization. In the best case, the organization won't implement the poorly planned project. In the best case, it could result in thousands or even millions of dollars in losses. That is why before calling the meeting, you need to plan for it.

Planning for a planning meeting involves more than just notifying the attendees and booking a venue. For it to be productive and efficient, you need to prepare and clearly understand the three key elements below.

Vision, Goals, and Objectives

What are you trying to achieve? What solutions are you meeting to discuss and what problems do they solve? By answering these and similar questions, you will establish your vision, goals, and objectives, which is important for a productive meeting.

A vision provides a direction for your goals while objectives define your goals. By clearly defining them, they will help you not only during the meeting but also during the implementation of the plan. They also ensure the project is in line with the overall objectives of the business and justify undertaking the project.

Critical Success Factors

A critical success factor is something important that the project must accomplish for it to achieve its goal. As a simple example, if it's a bridge development project, the critical success factors are high-quality building materials and an experienced contractor. If either of them goes wrong, the bridge will not be built well.

Critical success factors qualify the vision, goals, and objectives of the project. They allow the team to focus on what is most important towards the achievement of the set goals and prevent the project from going off track. That is why you need to identify them before setting the actual meaning.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Once you have identified the critical success factors, you need a way to measure them. You can measure them with KPIs. A KPI is a quantifiable measure of performance over time for a specific objective. They provide the team with targets to work towards and milestones to gauge progress.

That is why you need to determine the project's KPIs. Without specific, measurable targets that the team works towards, the planning meeting and the project are less likely to succeed.

By addressing the three key elements above, you will be able to plan an effective planning meeting. If the need arises, you can create a planning committee to help you.

What Are the Goals of a Planning Meeting?

The goals of a planning meeting need to be clearly defined to be able to gauge whether the meeting was successful or not. They also signal that the meeting has ended once they have been achieved.

Although different organizations have varying objectives for each planning meeting, the meeting cannot be completed if:

  1. You don't have a compelling business case that justifies undertaking the project.
  2. You haven't clearly defined the critical success factors and key performance indicators.
  3. You don't have at least a rough outline of the plan to follow to achieve the objectives of the project.
  4. Involved parties aren't clear on their involvement, duties, responsibilities, and how different teams will coordinate.
  5. It isn't clear what resources you have and there is no plan to acquire the ones you don't have.
  6. Though not necessary since not all issues can be tackled immediately, you don't have a list of questions that should be answered or researched/investigated first.
  7. The attendants don't fully understand the scope of the plan. You can check this by soliciting feedback after the meeting.

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Strategies for Leading a Planning Meeting

For the meeting to be effective, it needs to be led well. Here are a few strategies you can use to run effective planning meetings.

1. Get Everyone on the Same Page

Don't assume that everyone is updated on the progress. Even if they are involved with the project, they could be unaware of important details. As such, start by briefly going over the project and its progress and answer any questions about it.

As a manager or leader in your organization, you serve as the connection between various stakeholders and the higher-ups. So, if there has been any feedback or information you have received concerning the project, use this opportunity to pass it to the participants.

2. Assign Pre-work

Pre-work is any task, activity, or documentation that should be reviewed or completed before the planning meeting. Apart from the agenda, you should assign prework to encourage preparation and engage the employees. Think of the agenda as the travel itinerary and the prework as the preparation taken before leaving on the trip.

To make the meeting more productive, rich, and efficient, you can ask the participants to provide suggestions or key solutions to the project before the meeting.

3. Involve the Participants

You shouldn't be the only one talking the entire meeting. Instead, assign topics, roles, and updates that most or all the participants can research and share. Even before structuring the meeting, you can get them involved by reaching out and asking them if there is anything they would like to be discussed. Not only will they be more prepared for the meeting, but also you will experience a higher engagement and ward off potential issues before they arise.

By getting them involved, they feel more appreciated and are more likely to pay attention making the meeting more productive.

4. Make It Actionable

To get immediately into action as the meeting starts, you should send the agenda alongside the prework. It allows the participants to understand beforehand what the meeting is about so you can immediately focus on the actions to take and decisions to make. Also, ensure you stick to the agenda.

5. Invite Fewer People

Ensure the meeting is attended only by the necessary people. The meeting won't take longer than it is supposed to and you will save time for your staff. They will spend time more efficiently by focusing on more essential work.

With just the key stakeholders, you will also be able to run it more efficiently.

6. Start and End on Time

Most attendants usually set aside something else to come to the meeting. You should respect their time and adhere to the time you specified. If any issues don't need to be tackled immediately, you can shelve them and revisit them later in other meetings.

7. Make the Objective Clear

Not everyone clearly understands the objective of the meeting. So, when the meeting commences, make clear what you have convened to achieve in a single sentence. Something like "At the end of this meeting, we will have…".

By setting the objectives clearly, you increase the likelihood of achieving them.

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What Should You Do at a Planning Meeting?

To ensure the meeting is effective, there are several things you should be doing during the meeting. Some of them include:

1. Assign Tasks

There are lots of things that need to be accomplished for the project to be a success. As a good leader, you should know who can best handle each task. During the meeting, as you lay down the plan, assign these tasks to the appropriate people. Involve everyone in the delegation by letting them volunteer according to their skills. If some tasks are not volunteered for, everyone should work together to determine who can handle them the best way.

However, you should ensure they are available throughout the project duration by taking account of vacations, holidays, and other projects.

2. Ensure the Objective Has Been Met

You should end the meeting only as soon as the objective has been met. As above-mentioned, you should open the meeting by letting the participants know what they are there for. By doing that, they will be able to work towards it within the allocated time.

3. Address Key Issues and Give Updates or Feedback

Key issues are things that need to be addressed before the planning or the project takes off. These obstacles must be cleared during the meeting. If there are any updates or feedback from any related project or issue, present them to the participants.

4. Only Cover the Necessary

You should use the time of the meeting effectively by covering only what is necessary to create and polish the plan. Going out of the overarching topic will prevent the meeting from achieving its goals and objectives.

Fortunately, if you have a meeting structure or plan, you only need to stick to it and ensure everyone else does the same.

5. Take Minutes

Have someone officially record what takes place during the meeting. Writing minutes is important because they serve as a reference for people who weren't in the meeting. They can also be used to create the official plan among other uses such as keeping track of the members' contributions to the plan.

6. Reach a Group Consensus

After you have created the plan, ensure everyone is okay with all the details. Everyone should thoroughly review and confirm the plan. However, you should find the right balance because everyone has their own opinion.

7. Plan a Follow-up Meeting

As the meeting ends, you should set a date for the next meeting to address the questions and issues you can't at the moment. It can also be to check how well the implementation is going and whether to take corrective action.

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Planning Meeting Agenda

An agenda indicates what will be covered in the meeting. It ensures everyone knows what is happening and what will happen next so they can adequately prepare and keep the meeting on track. Holding a planning meeting without an agenda will result in a meeting that spirals out of control and takes too long to end, or fails to address all aspects of the plan. An effective agenda should:

Define the Meeting's Logistics

The agenda should provide information on the location and time of the meeting. If it is an online meeting, it should include the necessary information such as login details.

List the Attendees and their Roles

List down the people who will attend the meeting. If there are too many attendees, you can list only the most important ones and the roles they will be playing. If there is anything they are supposed to research or carry, highlight them.

Identify the Project or Information that the Meeting will focus on

List all the important details and aspects that need to be addressed during the meeting in order of importance. To ensure you adhere to the time, indicate how much time will be spent on each issue. You can allocate more time to some.

Send a Meeting Agenda before the Meeting

Send the agenda to the attendees an appropriate number of days before the meeting. If they need to complete some research, send it a couple of days or weeks to the meeting. If they don't, at least a full day before it.

Use the Prepared Agenda to Lead the Actual Meeting

What's the point of creating an agenda if you didn't plan on using it? During the meeting, use the agenda to lead and control. Ensure the time allocated to each aspect is adhered to and you don't stray too far away from the plan.

Conclusion

Planning meetings are vitally important. They give the group a clear direction on the scope of the project and the steps necessary to finish a project.

But running one is a huge responsibility. There are far too many details to consider, barriers to overcome, and objectives to accomplish. One mistake and the meeting will not achieve its objectives. But what if there was a simpler way?

Hugo allows you to be more organized, aligned and prepared for a more productive planning meeting. You can prepare for the meeting in just one click, capture, assign, send, and track tasks, and collaborate without communication breakdowns. It also allows you to connect your meetings to 20+ popular work apps and keep your notes and tasks tied to your calendar so you can find what you need quickly.

Are you having trouble planning or hosting effective planning meetings? Sign up for Hugo to improve your meetings.

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