Facilitate More Effective Meetings: 3 Things To Do In the First 5 Minutes

If people are confused about the scope of the project, the purpose of the meeting, or their role in the meeting, they will probably not participate effectively. As a business analyst starting a requirements session, you can do a few things to kick-off that meeting in such a way to maximize effectiveness.

1 – Summarize the Project Status

First of all, start off with a summary of where you are at in the project. This shouldn’t be a full status report, but just a snapshot of where the project stands. In a larger project, you might consider just giving a snapshot of where you are in the requirements process.

This brief recap will be to frame this meeting in the broader context of the project as a whole.

2 – Lay Out the Meeting Goal

What do you hope to accomplish? What are you sure you will accomplish? In some meetings I establish a primary goal (we’ve got to get this done to be successful) and an “if there’s time goal”. Having a secondary goal can make use of the valuable time stakeholders have allocated to the meeting and give you an “out” if it risks running over. Just cut the extra item and schedule a follow-up to handle it. [Note: this is not quite the same as a meeting agenda, which is also important. The agenda is the steps you’ll take as a group to achieve the goal you’ve laid out.]

3 – Identify the Roles of Each Meeting Attendee

If it isn’t apparent to the group (because you’ve had several similar meetings before) lay out the role of each person. Describe why you invited them, what expertise they bring to the table, and what contribution you are expecting them to make. This helps people prepare for the conversations ahead.

The benefit of setting this context in the beginning of the meeting is it gives all the participants a guidebook. It can help later on when you may need to interrupt someone to get the meeting back on track. In many cases, it can help avoid tangents altogether.

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