No matter how long you’ve been in business, how professional you are and how outwardly composed you seem, there’s no denying that the word “committee”, particularly a steering committee, strikes fear into even the bravest hearts.
The idea of a group of suited and booted executives examining project reporting in detail and providing feedback at will is quite a scary thing. Even when you’re prepared and the project is going well, you might run through nightmare scenarios before every meeting.
The good news is that even though it might seem like it’s all designed to stress you out, steering committees are actually supposed to help. They provide guidance and governance, help to identify, and mitigate problems before they happen, and can offer expert advice and fresh eyes.
Here’s how you can take the terror out of steering committee meetings and focus on all the benefits you can get from them.
Line Up Those Ducks!
The first thing you need to do to make sure that the meeting goes smoothly is to make sure your reporting and documentation is top notch. It should be comprehensive without waffling, not too long, and should always have a table of contents so it’s easy to find important information.
Include graphs and charts as often as you can, so the report is easy to scan, and make sure you print more copies than you think you’re going to need. There’s always a chance you will need them, and it’s better to have too many than not enough!
Be honest about progress, and if there are delays and problems, make sure you highlight what you’re already doing to address them.
Keep the Participant List Small
It can be tempting to invite everyone who has even the most tenuous connection to your project to a steering committee meeting. However, that’s usually counterproductive.
Not only do most people prefer not to attend meetings if they don’t have to, but in this case, it really is a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.
A smaller group of attendees with a definite interest in the project and knowledge of what it entails and where it is can get more done in a shorter time than a large group. If they need to take information back to others on their team, you can always schedule a follow up, but those people don’t necessarily need to be present.
So consider who you really need to put on the invite list, and keep it as small as you can, to save everyone time and really get through the action item list quickly.
Check Your Tech!
Too many people are left red faced and fumbling when their technology doesn’t work. Whether it’s a laptop that won’t boot up, a broken USB drive or a projector that won’t project, that’s the last thing you need to have.
Make sure you arrive at your venue early, get everything set up, and test every connection. Try to have at least one backup computer and various copies of presentations and similar on different devices, so if one fails, you can switch it out easily.
If you are presenting online, make sure you have your digital meeting space set up, close all other tabs, and run through it once or twice to check timing, sound, and other issues. Make sure you have a reliable power supply too! There’s nothing worse than a laptop that dies during your bit report!
Triple Check Your Data
Data is a critical part of any steering committee meeting, but it can shoot you in the foot too. If you discover a mistake in your data during the meeting, everyone in attendance will wonder if anything else is accurate. So it really is the worst-case scenario.
Always take the time to double and triple check your data, so you can get the presentation done without worrying about encountering any mistakes on the day.
Don’t present pages and pages of figures either. Use charts and graphics to make it easier to run through the most important information and provide the backup for reading later for those who want to.
Schedule Them Frequently
Ideally, on a large, long-term project, you should have two meetings every month. That gives you enough time to have progress to report on, but not so much that it’s hard to change course.
So while you shouldn’t take up everyone’s time with meetings that happen too often, you also don’t want to wait too long between meetings. Be sure to check your contract too – many projects have minimum meeting requirements built right in!
Remember, They’re on Your Side
Probably the most important thing you can do to stop worrying about steering committees is to remember that they are there to help you. Once the project is awarded and underway, everyone on the team of executives that make up the committee have a vested interest in the project being a success.
So be honest about where you are and what you are struggling with. Have a list of important questions ready and be ready to answer some of theirs too. Good governance ensures that you will deliver a better finished product, so embrace the process and make the most of it. You and the steering committee essentially want the same outcome!
Contact us, so we can help you create a straightforward, results-oriented framework that connects governance, delivery, and culture to help you thrive and organise.
If you’d like to engage Fatimah as a coach/advisor for your organisation to help you make sense of the chaos, then you can reach out to her by email at Fatimah.email@example.com