Sunday, May 15, 2011

5 Tips for Improving Project Communications

Project managers have several responsibilities, one of which is the need to communicate effectively. As project managers meet with teams, communication skills become increasingly important. The following tips will help project managers communicate more effectively when meeting with project team members.

1. Clearly Define Meeting Objectives

The first step for improving a project manager's communication with teams is to define clear meeting objectives. Are you trying to solve a problem, make a decision, brainstorm a new idea, or provide a project update? The objective for the meeting should determine the setting and tone for the meeting (Nine ways to make your meeting more effective, 2003).

Include meeting objectives when inviting team members to participate. This enables potential attendees to decide if the meeting is appropriate for them (Dendinger, 2000). Provide enough information for the team to prepare adequately for the meeting. In doing so, the project manager will not need to spend as much time at the start of the meeting explaining the purpose for the meeting. Providing the meeting objectives in advance will also give the team members time to think about the objectives.

Providing team objectives with the meeting invitation creates structure for the meeting. Without structure, the group may wander from topic to topic, wasting valuable time for the participants. Objectives provide the framework needed to focus and stay on track.

2. Invite the Right People

Once the project manager determines the meeting objective, it is important to invite the right people to the meeting. If the project manager fails to invite the people needed to complete the objective for the meeting, an extra meeting might result. This is unproductive for the project manager and the participants.

When decision making in a group meeting, be sure to include representation from all major stakeholders. Involving the right people helps create buy-in to decisions. Involving the right people early in decision-making will more likely produce support for the decision instead of causing resistance at a point down the road. To identify major stakeholders, break the meeting objective into smaller sections, and identify the people needed to address each section.

Ask the meeting invites if they have recommendations for people who should also attend. If the right people are not able to attend the meeting, consider rescheduling, or look for alternative ways to communicate with them (Nine ways to make your meeting more effective, 2003).

3. Encourage Participation

Having the right people in the room is not enough. Once the project manager involves the right people, another key role for an effective project manager is to encourage participation. The project manager must facilitate the discussion in such a way that people are comfortable sharing ideas during the discussion. Everyone should have an opportunity to speak (McGlory, 2000).

Encourage open dialog between the participants, but watch to ensure the conversations stay on track. Watch for controlling individuals. Those with dominant personalities can quickly control conversations. The project manager should foster open communication between the participants.

Conducting a “round-robin” is one approach to encouraging participation. Go around the table and ask each person to express their view on the topic (Jacobs, 2000). This will provide less dominant people an opportunity to speak.

4. Manage Conflict

Whenever you gather a group of people together to work on a problem, the possibility of conflict between the participants exists. Conflict between members of a group can negatively affect the productivity of the group. It is important for a project manager to watch for and manage conflict between group members.

The project manager should listen for the underlying messages during the conversations. Personal agendas will create conflict if not carefully managed. The project manager should seek to understand where each person is coming from, and encourage participants to expand on their view so others can understand.

The project manager should encourage all to listen to the ideas of each person without passing judgment. Doing so will help each participant respect each other’s opinion (McGlory, 2000).

5. Assign Action Items

The purpose of meeting as a group is to make decisions and to assign resources to work on identified tasks. Make sure everyone is clear about what you expect individuals to do. The project manager should assign action items to specific people, not to groups of people. Doing so will increase the accountability for the assigned task. The task should be descriptive, and should include an agreed on due date.

Quickly summarize at the end of the meeting. Send meeting notes and assigned tasks to all meeting attendees within 24 hours.


By following these tips, the project manager will be able to help participants prepare, collaborate, and focus; each person will know the expectations. Communication will improve between the project manager and the participants.


Dendinger, M. J. (2000). Determining a meeting's objectives. Retrieved February 27, 2003, from

Jacobs, P. (2000). Follow these steps for productive meetings. Retrieved February 28, 2003, from

McGlory, K. (2000). Time well spent? Retrieved February 24, 2003, from

Nine ways to make your meeting more effective. (2003). Retrieved February 25, 2003, from


  1. Good post. You can also apply these suggestions to general business meeting, as well as project management.

  2. A good read. I particularly like point 2 – invite the right people. How often in meetings are delegates ‘sent’ rather than being invited. The benefit of project teams is that we can ‘usually’ decide who to invite, but not always!

  3. One of my clients is using POST to remind themselves how to structure a meeting.
    P= Purpose
    O= Expected outcome
    S= Structure
    T= Timing

    Almost summarises the post.

  4. Love the acronym. Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Great minds think alike! If you liked this post, you might also like to get hold of my report '12 1/2 ways to make your meetings work' available from

    Penny Pullan


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