As mentioned earlier, you should meet no less than four times with your clients over the course of the semester. There are a variety of ways to schedule these, but there are also some typical and critical points in the project where you want to meet face-to-face. At a minimum, you should meet with your clients at the following times:
- Project initiation (discussed in the previous section)
- Initial design concept reviews
- Review and approve design and technical specifications
- Final client presentations
If you maintain regular channels of communication with your clients, these four meeting times may be sufficient. However, you’ll want to regularly evaluate this over the course of your project.
Let’s say, for example, that your client has already approved your design, but that part way into implementing that design you realize that it’s not feasible. Do not wait until your final client presentation to communicate that fact to your client. Instead you have a decision to make: if you think the issue is a relatively minor one—in the eyes of your client, not from your own perspective—you might chose to deal with it by phone or email. However, the more severe the issue, the more likely that you and your team should deliver the bad news face-to-face.
Likewise, if you’re struggling with keeping your client engaged in the project, you may decide that quick, weekly meetings will get things back on track.
Regardless of how many meetings you require, remember the guidelines from the previous section: make sure someone is always responsible for keeping meetings on track, that you have an agenda, and that someone takes note of key action items and next steps. There are a couple of points to keep in mind that will help to ensure that your meetings go well:
- Establish an agenda: Everyone attending meetings should always be aware of the purpose of the meeting, and what you need to accomplish. One approach that works well is to establish a list of the questions that the meeting needs to address;
- Think about participant expectations, agendas, and issues: As you get to know your team and your client, are there issues that tend to recur. For example, if you know that design is particularly contentious, you’ll want to spend additional time preparing for that portion of the meeting; don’t ignore issues, but find constructive places during meetings to address them;
- Invite only those that need to attend: Remember that everyone is busy; only those who need to be there, should be; additional participants can make meetings more unwieldy to manage, and have the potential to frustrate those who feel they don’t really need to be in the room;
- Send materials in advance: The best advice for running effective meetings is to avoid any un-necessary surprises; in addition to sending out agendas in advance, send any documents or design that needs to be reviewed; make sure that material has any supporting information necessary to help your team and clients understand them;
- Assume the first meeting won’t go well: Ease some of your team’s anxiety by expecting that the first couple of meetings are more about getting to know each other, than about accomplishing much; it will take the pressure off; remember that presenting documents and design is a difficult task, and it takes some practice.
Over the course of the semester, one of the most significant things that you’ll discover is that every team and every client has a slightly different personality when it comes to meetings. After a couple of meetings, you’ll discover yours.