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A stakeholder meeting is hosted for people with an interest in a specific company or project. It can look very different depending on its purpose and to which people are invited.
The attendees of a stakeholder meeting all have an interest in business decisions and how those will lead to success. Prepare to be grilled like corn on a barbecue! It’s not as scary as it sounds, though – hosting stakeholder meetings and dealing with investors is a trainable skill you can learn.
Regardless of how your business is doing, the main ingredient in a successful stakeholder meeting is you as the host.
You can do a lot to host effective stakeholder meetings that everyone looks forward to! And in this article, we’ll show you how.
A stakeholder meeting is an opportunity for everyone with interest in a business or project to come together. The goal is to stay focused on project/product progress while mitigating risk.
It can be hosted for many reasons:
Update stakeholders on the progress of a project or new ventures within a business
Discuss future possibilities
Share reports and data with shareholders
Educate specific people on a product/service
Clear disputes or disagreements
A stakeholder meeting can feel more serious and even nerve-wracking than your regular weekly team meetings or daily check-ins. This is since everyone is held accountable and needs to be able to explain their actions. It suddenly becomes clear how your daily actions translate into dollars.
If you do a good job hosting it, a stakeholder meeting is an efficient way of collaboratively moving forward with a project or task. Meetings sometimes get a bad rap but can increase productivity compared to back-and-forth email conversations that people skim through.
A stakeholder meeting ensures everyone is on the same page. It takes the pulse on a project and steers the direction forward. Skillfully executed, it also helps build trust and hopefully makes the investors willing to increase their investments.
Stakeholders can roughly be divided into two categories – internal, who affect the business/project, and external, who are affected by the business/project. An example of the first is an employee at the company, or an investor, while the latter can be a customer or shareholder.
For an introductory stakeholder meeting or kickoff, the purpose is to introduce stakeholders to each other and create hype around the product/project. It is crucial to be clear with who is responsible for what during a kickoff, even if you think everybody already knows.
The kickoff also determines the temperature for your future meetings when it comes to communication and atmosphere.
These stakeholder meetings involve people with a financial interest in the successful execution of the project – shareholders and investors. While preparation is key ahead of any meeting, it’s extra true for these meetings. The attendees expect you to know your numbers, forecast, and vision moving forward.
Be prepared to explain any shortcomings and assure everyone – through data – that things are on the right track. For example, maybe sales have slowed down week over week but seen a 50% increase compared to the same period last year.
This type of stakeholder meeting is a platform for communication between the client and the product teams. It is an opportunity for the client to verify that the briefs are correctly interpreted and that the website evolves as intended. It is standard in software projects using agile methods like Scrum.
Different industries have different interested parties invited to stakeholder meetings. Some examples:
Negotiation meetings involving labor unions and companies
Expanding a new construction site: community members, local businesses, and legislative represents are stakeholders since they are affected/affect the decision of whether to expand
Redesigning a website: content owners, top users, and the company would meet to discuss what changes should be implemented.
Define the objectives
As with all meetings, the first step of a stakeholder meeting agenda should be to define its objective.
When you know the purpose of the meeting, get clear on who will attend. For example, if you have clients attending, you’ll want to avoid sharing behind-the-scenes information and keep the meeting more formal. If you have invited shareholders and investors, you’ll need numbers and statistics.
Prepare the meeting and set the agenda
The next step is to prepare for the stakeholder meeting, which includes writing a meeting agenda comes in handy. An agenda ensures you don’t miss crucial points when planning or lose track during a meeting. You can use our agenda template in the later part of this article.
A good piece of advice is to email the meeting agenda to everyone involved well ahead of the meeting. This helps the attendees prepare questions and points for more meaningful discussions and know what to expect from your get-together.
Put yourself in your stakeholders’ shoes
When shareholders and investors are present, it can feel like you’re put on the spot. As the meeting facilitator, the success of a stakeholder meeting comes down a lot to how you present the data.
You also need to put yourself in their shoes and understand exactly what matters the most to them and why. For example, you may be proud of the new sleek design of your website, while investors only care about whether it converts better or not.
Visualize a successful outcome
A mindset hack used by athletes and politicians is visualization. Envision the perfect meeting where everything runs smoothly, and all parties are happy and get what they desire – or at least feel recognized.
Set the example
People don’t do what you say – they do what you do. When running a stakeholder meeting, remember that your behavior sets the tone. Standard meeting etiquette applies: stay present. Practice active listening. Turn off your phone. Your attendees copy your behavior, consciously or subconsciously.
Keep it rational
A good tip to keep in mind is to keep the discussion objective to make the decisions based on logic and reason instead of emotion.
Focus on business over tech
Focus on what’s interesting for the stakeholders. Remember, the stakeholders often lack technological expertise – so this is not the ideal setting for discussing technical details. The focus of a stakeholder meeting should be on the business side of things. So if the discussion goes off track, gently steer it back on topic.
Be proactive rather than reactive
Prove that you are proactive rather than reactive – that you can foresee what challenges lie ahead. The opposite, reactive leadership, is managing problems you could have accounted for and avoided. The more you can show that you have thought of all potential pitfalls, the higher the trust – and chance of getting more (financial) support for your product or project.
Leave the parole to the participants
Leave some space for brainstorming and Q&A at the end. Let everyone share during the brainstorm – not just the key players. One of the most important factors for employee satisfaction is that your employees feel recognized and valued – for many, this is even more important than getting well paid.
That said, you still need to be able to disagree and make decisions that may not be popular with everyone.
In short, a stakeholder meeting requires all the skills you usually need during a meeting – including an increased capacity to manage conflicting interests.
As mentioned, the exact outline of a stakeholder meeting varies depending on whether it’s a kickoff meeting or a check-in meeting and which people are invited. Here are some points as a reference:
The way you kick off a meeting can make or break it – even for stakeholder meetings. Starting with an ice-breaker or statement that puts everyone on the same page can be a great idea. Also, it’s your job as the meeting facilitator to set the expectations at this point of the meeting. Knowing what you will go through and the duration of the meeting help attendees stay focused.
Establish or check in with the project timeline (if you work in project form). What should be done, and by when? Is everyone on track?
How are you pacing with the significant upgrades/feature releases/other project milestones or product development? What action have been taken since your last meeting? What milestones can you celebrate already?
Issues & risks:
Identify potential risks with where you’re currently at. How will you navigate them? Can you do something to mitigate them?
What are the next steps?
While stakeholder meetings naturally are more interactive than other meeting types, for example, quarterly updates, it’s a good idea to leave time for questions and comments at the end.
This may not be a part of a stakeholder meeting agenda – but it plays a vital role in especially software projects. Stakeholder interviews help steer the project in the right direction and discover any areas you might have forgotten.
Some example questions:
What are the three main reasons people visit your website?
Do you intend to get more data about visitors with this new website? If so, what KPIs are relevant?
What is the customer journey we take a new client on? Is it obvious?
How do you currently update/edit your website? (To be asked at the project start)
What is your 5-year vision? Do you count on expanding and adding new products/services?
Stakeholder meetings can be some of the most nerve-wracking types of meetings. As always, coming well prepared helps a lot. Check out our stakeholder meeting agenda above and fill it in with relevant parts of your project. Also, focus on what the stakeholders care about and practice replying to any related questions.
Meeting live transcription and exportation of highlights make for more engaged meetings and help people memorize. And last but not least – your skills in reading the room and managing the energy. Something that also holds true during Zoom meetings!