by Mimi Almeida | March 01, 2012

While planning meetings certainly qualifies as a form of project management, the latter is a broader discipline with its own set of specific skills. When mastered, this approach can help boost your ability to plan, execute and budget your meetings and events, as well as elevate planning to a higher level of respect and understanding by upper management.

Determine Scope The principles of project management are based on a "triangle" of three factors: scope, time and cost.

The scope of project (in this case, the meeting) is the first area to be determined. Scope defines the extent of the work involved and spells out the actions and activities assigned to specific persons or teams; it also should outline a clear business objective for the meeting or project.

Start by asking all key stakeholders to explain how the success of the project will be determined. Put your findings in writing to ensure everyone's assumptions and interpretation of success about the project are in synch.

By actively managing and adhering to the scope, planners can effectively control staff, suppliers, time and money.

Be vigilant about keeping tabs on the scope of the event. Be sure all team members are familiar with the agreed-upon scope, and require them to keep you abreast of all potential changes and additions as they occur, so that you can make necessary adjustments and obtain appropriate approvals as needed.

Keep It On Time Identify all the steps and tasks necessary to deliver on the project by creating a timeline that includes due dates for all aspects of the meeting (e.g., contracts, website development, shipping of materials, and registration phases).

Refer to the timeline during meetings with team members and shareholders to keep the project moving and to obtain meaningful sign-offs and approvals from stakeholders. Build in as much flextime as possible to allow for changes and missed deadlines, and adjust the timeline accordingly.

Meeting your timeline schedule significantly increases the chances of meeting your program budget, a key success factor for any project.  

Be Cost-Conscious The budget should have a solid connection to the project objectives. If it doesn't match up with project goals, it is the job of the project manager to make the case for adjusting unrealistic constraints.

Communicate the risks and benefits of adjusting cost/time/scope constraints to decision makers, and explain how such changes might impact the quality of the delivered program. However, before sounding the alarm, make sure all possible avenues for success within the given constraints have been reviewed, and recommend a reasonable and workable strategy to rectify the situation.

If you're in charge of the project, you also are the one who brings vision, direction and unity to the working team, especially for larger, longer-term efforts. A collaborative approach toward team members, vendor partners and stakeholders throughout the life of the project will contribute to its ultimate success.