We all know that meetings are an essential piece to any project execution. But what’s not always know is the quick and major impact meetings can have on a project budget if not properly planned or governed. This post will focus on three tips to help keep meetings from negatively impacting your budget.
Understand Your Meeting Budget and Set Expectations
Very often projects are estimated and budgeted with a set number of hours allocated to preparing for and attending meetings. It’s critical that at the planning phase of the project that you as a project manager understand exactly what your meeting budget will support and line that up against the client and project expectations. If there are any discernible gaps during this assessment, a risk needs to be raised immediately to sponsorship to flag this as a concern and to work out a mitigation strategy (ex. less meetings, more budget) to offset the difference.
Plan Your Meeting Schedule
Once you have your meeting budget set and understood, it’s very important that you, your team and most importantly – the client stick to the plan. Set your meeting plan and communicate it to all stakeholders, with the expectation that any deviance from this plan will have negative budget impacts. This schedule needs to be adhered to and respected by all project stakeholders. Depending how your project progresses, you will likely need to augment your meeting schedule. If proper diligence was done during the budgeting, there should be a small contingency that you can draw upon for additional meeting time (or to the rarer occurrence where less meetings are needed – there’s some additional budget found for your project).
Push Back When Needed
Often clients will come to you with their own expectations of what they feel is needed from a meeting perspective, even after agreeing to the initial meeting plan and schedule. Depending on the situation your project is in (it’s probably not a good idea to turn down an emergency steering committee meeting), you as the project manager need to ensure that the client is aware of any additional, non-planned time that is spent in meetings and what those budget impacts are. No different than being asked to build out additional scope into your project, the decision needs to lie with sponsorship but they need to be educated on the impacts.
Meetings, when executed well, are a very powerful tool in a project manager’s arsenal however they can also be a giant budget vacuum if not wielded properly. They can be a challenge to forecast (so goes the project is how goes the number of meetings in that project) which tends to put upward pressure on your budget. Close monitoring and controlling need to be in place to watch the time spent on meetings, diligence given to the value yielded from those meetings and pushback needs to happen if there is not value being proven or if there is simply not the budget to support the current meeting structure of a project.