Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Five Ways to Get The Information You Need Out of Client Meetings

Five Ways to Get The Information You Need Out of Client Meetings

Client meetings provide a treasure trove of information for you and your project teams. They are some of the most important tasks you will engage in throughout the project cycle. Nevertheless, it can be challenging to get everything you need from them.

Client meetings have to accomplish a lot. They have to be efficient while also allowing you to get a feel for the specifications and requirements your client wants in the project's deliverables.

Meetings that don't provide you with all the data you need can be a huge drag on your resources—especially revenue. Unproductive meetings waste $37 billion each year.

There is a way to make your client meetings work for you while also adding more efficiency to your projects. So, here are some tips to help you drive client meetings so you can get the best information from them.

Realize What's At Stake

Client meetings are a tool, and if you don't harness them, then it will not serve the purpose it is meant to. Your goal is to maximize your time and money by creating an environment for well-ran client meetings. For example, tactics like asking the right questions can ensure that you get to the heart of what your client needs.

The approach of getting more out of these meetings will lead to a decrease in mistakes and diminish the need to have more meetings—which takes time away from projects you are managing. The last thing you want is to walk away from these interactions with vague details that cause you to go back to the drawing board because you didn't get the right information. Therefore, make sure you realize what is at stake—good and bad— when it comes to managing and running client meetings.

Preparation is Everything

You and your client should take on some prep work before you even meet. This step is something that you should express well in advance of the meeting. A project request form is going to be critical to accomplishing this. This documentation lets your clients know what information you will need from them to get started on their project. These forms can include things like:

  • General business information (mission, vision, business goals, etc.)
  • Target audiences
  • Project needs
  • Specifications and requirements
  • Timelines
  • And other pertinent details you need for the project.

You want to show them this form before you meet so the client can prepare this information ahead of time. Additionally, you also want to give them information about your company that includes details about the type of work you do, typical pricing, and the standard way a project timeline unfolds when working with clients.

You want to start client meetings off in a way that enables you both to start from the best place—taking time to prepare will allow you both to get right to the issues and talk about the aspects that will propel the project forward.

Have a Meeting Agenda—And Share It Ahead of Time

Another way to ensure that you and your client discuss the most relevant information regarding the project is to have a meeting agenda. To do this, start to think about all the information you need to know that may not have been covered in the project request form.

From there, you should turn all these inquiries into meeting agendas. This step will give your clients insight into the additional information they need to bring to the meeting.

Again, you want to make the first meeting into one that starts you off with all of the information you need. A meeting agenda can be a crucial first step to accomplish this. Additionally, make sure you give your clients the agenda ahead of time—at least a week. This step will enable them to have time to prepare the information needed for the meeting and put together any critical questions they have.

Be Upfront About Expectations Regarding Project Change

One of the critical things that can derail a project is constant changes. Therefore, you need to make sure you drive home during project meetings the issues brought on by unplanned modifications. You need to be clear about the project scope, time to delivery, and budget changes that will occur if they seek out alterations.

For example, you may have a policy that says that "changes that modify the project's scope" will result in a renegotiation of price and timelines. You should also specify what will happen if a project change will cause you to restart the entire process and how you both will handle this.

Discussing this event during your meetings will set the expectation regarding project changes. It will also likely ensure that your clients will take them seriously, so they can determine what they want ahead of time to avoid changes.

According to PMI, avoiding scope creep or uncontrolled changes to a project's scope is one of the top drivers of a project's success. Therefore, use meetings to try to diminish this event as much as possible.

Always End Meetings with an Action List

So, what happens once the meeting is complete? This step is where you need to ensure further productivity by having an action list. For example, maybe there is some research that both of you need to do before the next meeting or before work can occur on the project.

You—or someone who is taking notes—should list out the information needed from you and the client. Additionally, it will also help if you both attach dates to these action items so that you can set deadlines. You always want to end on a note that allows everyone to know what they need to do to move the project forward.

Client Meetings Can Decrease Project Scope Creep and Improve Budgets

It can be argued that nothing is more important in project meetings than communication. Client meetings are an opportunity to ensure that you and the client are on the same page.

Both of you need to come with the information each other needs and be ready to ask and answer important questions about project needs. The more effective and productive the first meeting is, the higher the likelihood that later meetings will be successful.

Again, it's critical that both of you set expectations upfront so that you can be partners as you move forward through your projects. Much like team meetings, client meetings should propel you both to work collaboratively to meet a shared goal.


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