You may have a stakeholder meeting scheduled for half an hour, but in reality you’ve only got about 60 seconds. After that, you’ve got to earn their attention, or they’ll start checking their email and watching the clock.
Everyone involved in project based work has to deal with sponsors and stakeholders. I stumbled across these 10 tips to keep stakeholders interested and engaged a couple of years ago, I think they still apply:
1. Pique their interest-An agenda is always a good idea, but a brief summary of what will be discussed gives them a take-away and allows them to come prepared with questions.
2. Don’t assume they know their job as stakeholder-They might understand the high-level view, but you might need to help with the details.
3. Keep it simple-Give them the situation in straightforward terms. Don’t overwhelm them with information. Cut to the chase.
4. Use numbers and pictures-PowerPoint is a great tool for presenting graphics and numbers to stakeholders. It’s how they present information to each other. You should use it too.
5. Sometimes you’ll have to use logic-Accept the fact that there might not always be data to support a particular situation. Not having numbers to back up your position will make your argument problematic, so you may have to turn to “if…then…” logic to shed light on a situation. However, don’t expect the same results or response from stakeholders-numbers rule with them.
6. Waiting is never a good option-Don’t wait until a problem is obvious-it’s often more difficult to solve the issue at that point.
7. Always offer a solution-If you are going to bring up a problem without offering a potential solution, you might as well tell all the stakeholders, “Fire me now.” That’s why you’re the project manager.
8. Specify the actions required of them-If stakeholders need to take any action, don’t assume it will be obvious to them. Restate-in list form-what actions need to be taken and by whom.
9. Always say “yes,” but make sure they understand the cost of “yes”-Sponsors and stakeholders don’t like to be told “no,” so don’t do it. Just make sure that they all understand what “yes” will cost. That way they can judge for themselves whether or not “yes” is worth it.
10. One last tip-Don’t stop reporting status just because stakeholders stop requiring it.
Regardless of your work management methodology, there are a lot of project management tools out there to help manage tasks and timelines-just make sure you also have access to the data stakeholders want to see to make decisions.