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To overcome the obstacle of clients not responding on time, an idea our management (not PMs) team has proposed is to send multiple email meetings invites ahead of milestones that are outlined in the schedule.

Example: On Project A, the milestones are:

  • Approval of technical specifications - Meeting 1 Approval of Network
  • Systems Management Plan - Meeting 2
  • Completion of UAT - Meeting 3

In this example (a smaller project), each of these meetings can have a gap of about 3-4 weeks.

Is it wise to send email meeting invites in advance for each of these 3 meetings in a single email? Should we include this in our Communications Management plan?

The meetings, to add a bit more detail, are only done via conference calls to save time, not in-person.

The concern is what happens if one milestone isn't going to be completed on time. In that case, Meeting 1 is no longer possible and this means a rescheduling of all subsequent appointments.

  • We do that all the time. I'm not sure why it is controversial to invite people to meetings in advance? – Mark C. Wallace May 11 '14 at 11:40
  • Meetings in advance are required. What I mean is sending 20 (no exaggeration) meetings for milestones in a single email. – Ray May 12 '14 at 2:15
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Is it wise to send email meeting invites in advance for each of these 3 meetings?

Yes. It allows the attendees to plan their own diaries and helps to ensure they will be available at the time of the meetings, which is good for your projects

Should we include this in our Communications Management plan?

That depends on practise at your organisation. Some comms plans will go to this level of detail and some won't. If you are trying to get buy-in to the meetings then I suggest it would be a good idea to include in the comms plans that you will publish milestone meetings in advance in order to obtain guaranteed attendance.

  • Thanks, Marv. The scenario I've given is quite simple. In reality, there are about 20 such milestones and I feel that Management assumes these are set. It's far too time consuming to rebook subsequent meetings if even one isn't going to take place at the appointed time. How would you handle this? – Ray May 12 '14 at 1:37
  • Do you really have to set up all 20 meetings at the beginning? You have mentioned that there is a 3-4 weeks gap between two example meetings, so it look like a meetings plan for a very long time. Would it be better to set a few appointments (eg. for 4-8 weeks), and send further invitations later, depending on projects' status? In that case in communication strategy you can just explain what is a plan for reporting status/progress of the project so management will know how it is organised. – Paweł Pukocz May 12 '14 at 7:44
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    @Ray It's hard to say, it'll depend on the nature of the meetings and the culture at your organisation. If it is critical these meetings happen and are attended then you probably need some comms from higher up to make it happen. Certainly I have booked many multiple meetings in advance before if the project called for it. Turn it around- if you don't then how are your attendees able to plan their own diaries? I imagine it is more hassle to deal with DNAs (Did Not Attend) than to rebook at the last moment to suit diaries? – Marv Mills May 12 '14 at 11:35
  • @Marv, I'm used to booking a few in advance, but not for all milestones. Your perspective is helpful and I've never evaluated the cost of DNAs vs. rebooking at the last minute (and subsequent meetings). – Ray May 12 '14 at 13:08
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What I would do is send one email up front, explaining how the meeting schedule will be handled. Explain that each is tied to a milestone, and outline the general flow and objectives you hope to achieve from a typical meeting. In short, set expectations early.

Then I would send each meeting invite separately, even if that means sending the person 20 invites. Doing it this way allows flexibility to move an individual meeting date without having to resend one extra-large invite that contains all meetings.

It depends on your organization's best practices as to how detailed you need to be in your Communications Plan. For my organization, we would probably enter something basic such as, "Milestone meetings are planned in advance and sent via MS Outlook to all stakeholders listed in Section 123 of the Project Plan".

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I would suggest that due to the PM meetings not having to be done in a personal and face to face settings, I would have a mass email to all the participants in this particular project, and I would have a phone number on the email asking if we can get in touch with you at this number in case of any of conflicts with the scheduling and I would have one day before each meeting a auto dialer. I would have it ask if they are able to make sure to check their schedule and press a button to confirm your attendance. This will help you remind them of their respective part's of the project, and for you to know that if the person doesn't show up that you can find out if the person answered their phone and confirmed so that you already know that when you get a chance to see what happened or reason for the attendance and know that the excuses for the missed meeting is going to be a lie and there's not much of emergencies that can be used for the excuse for not having shown up. This is a great way to weed out some of the people who are not as reliable and if you are looking at it becoming a important project, you will have the option to have a stand by in case you need to get a good replacement without having to go over the past information and save money and time to get the best of the project to be a good success. Hopefully this can be a good time saving process and good luck with your project.

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