Although “stakeholder” may conjure up visions of board rooms and stock earnings calls, the term “stakeholder” covers a broader range of individuals, many of whom have their own reasons to be vested in your company’s success. For some projects, that can be a lot of people, and figuring out how to prepare for a meeting with them all might leave you overwhelmed. Sure, a stakeholder meeting is the best way to get all the right people aligned on a new project or initiative. But how do you cut through the noise and get everything on track? 

Well, that’s where knowledge, preparation, and an agenda do just the trick. Here’s everything you need to know for your next stakeholder meeting. 

What is a stakeholder meeting?

If “stakeholder” refers to those with a “stake” in the game, then a stakeholder meeting gathers all these people. For example, let’s say your app is launching a new feature. In that case, everyone building, funding, and promoting it needs to be in the loop. 

Let’s continue with this example and imagine the stakeholders. Who would be paying for it or working on it? Some answers might include your:

  • Chief executive officer
  • Financial officer
  • Creative director
  • Project manager
  • Software developer
  • Content writer
  • Marketing director
  • Data analyst 

Now, your web developer and data analyst might not cross paths with your CEO every day. But that doesn’t matter here. Anyone involved in the project should be a part of your stakeholder meeting. 

Write it down

Never forget what was discussed and agreed upon during a meeting. Fellow is a collaborative meeting agenda that documents action items, feedback, talking points, and more!

Types of stakeholder meetings

Each of your projects might involve different types of stakeholders. Meetings for all these stakeholders, though, are a bit easier to classify. Below are some common types of stakeholder meetings.

1 Kick-off meetings

A kick-off meeting sets your project’s purpose, goals, scope, timeline, and roles. Involving stakeholders in this meeting is a good opportunity to set expectations. How often will everyone meet? What boxes are you hoping to check when? Revisiting the app example from the above, a kick-off meeting about app design may involve your app developer, creative director, UX or UI writers, graphic designers, and a product marketing professional. You may decide to meet more regularly to check in on all things related to the project, or maybe you’ll regroup at the halfway point. Decide the frequency that’s best for your team during a kick-off meeting.

2 Stakeholder interviews

After a successful kickoff meeting come stakeholder interviews. These one-on-one interviews with stakeholders can help you understand the vision for the project. You can ask questions such as: What are your goals? What should everyone on the team know to keep us all aligned? Your interview meeting can bring valuable insights and solutions for all kinds of pain points. 

3 Additional stakeholder meetings

As a project moves along, a lot can happen. These changes can call for meetings. Any meetings between the interviews and the project’s completion fall into this loose “additional meetings” category. Some of these meetings will fare best with all stakeholders present, but for others, some folks can sit out. You can get a pretty good sense of who should be there based on the situation you’re facing.

How to prepare for a stakeholder meeting

Let’s talk prep work. If you’re leading a stakeholder meeting, you’ll need to have all your ducks in a row before calling everyone together. Here’s what you need to know.

1 Figure out who needs to attend

Too many people in a meeting can be just as big of a roadblock as too many meetings. Every organization has a lot of stakeholders, so you should really narrow down your invite list. Involving only the applicable people can make for more productive meetings.  

Charlie Gilkey, the author of Start Finishing, has additional insight here. “Limit the number of people at the meeting,” he says. “After about 5 people in the meeting, it switches from focused work, problem-solving, and planning to updates and discussion. For each person at the meeting, consider why they *don’t* need to be there.”

2 Understand what matters to stakeholders 

Not everyone agrees on everything, and that’s not the end of the world! When you step back to understand a stakeholder’s thinking and reasoning, then you can work toward meaningful progress. Addressing everyone’s concerns – understanding their needs, wants, hopes, and desires – can get you all on the same page. 

3 Determine the goals and objectives of the meeting

Clear goals and meeting objectives, guided by a robust and informative meeting agenda, keep your meetings organized. When calling any meeting, ask yourself: What exactly is the purpose of this meeting? Why is it necessary to meet instead of sending an email? A great reason for a meeting is an important decision that could change the course of the project. A less important reason might be better for an email or a quick phone call.

4 Give out an agenda ahead of time

You should send a meeting agenda to your stakeholders in advance. Everyone can then ask questions or raise concerns beforehand,  saving valuable time at the meeting. Your agenda can also show that you’re prepared and encourage everyone else to show up equally ready to go. 

5 Be prepared with answers to questions

Even the most thorough agenda can still leave stakeholders with questions. That’s why you should consider some potential questions and come up with answers. It’s always good to anticipate these things – sure, you can’t predict every question, but when you do have good answers, you’ll impress everyone. 

6 Assemble and prepare handouts for participants

Don’t overwhelm stakeholders with a big stack of paper. Instead, print a few meaningful handouts to give out during the meeting. Doing so can help direct everyone’s attention to key items like the project plan, timeline, scope, or project budget. 

What’s on a stakeholder meeting agenda?

The art of the meeting agenda is knowing the most important topics to cover for every occasion. Here are some helpful agenda items for the stakeholder meeting.

1 Project timeline

An overview of the project timeline is key for making sure all stakeholders hit their deadlines. You should communicate the project’s timeline as clearly as possible to keep your team on track. It’s just as important to break them down into phases, organize tasks, and assign tasks to the best team members for the job. Team collaboration tools can help you with all these things and keep all stakeholders in the loop. 

2 Milestones

Milestones are significant call-out points in a project’s timeline. They’re checkpoints to keep track of progress and hold everyone accountable. Highlighting them can break the timeline into pieces that help you get a high-level look at major accomplishments. Plus, you’ll return to milestones in later stakeholder meetings to show your progress. 

3 Action items

A meeting action item is a specific task you assign to a person or team at your stakeholder meeting. Although some tasks will inevitably be in place before the meeting, meeting action items usually stem from the meeting itself. Whoever is assigned the tasks should provide a brief update in the next meeting. 

4 Issues and risks

Though goals and wins are important, challenges matter too. In your stakeholder meeting, you should cover issues – which are problems you’ve already faced – and potential risks in the coming weeks. Leave some room for brainstorming, discussing solutions, or assigning team members certain next steps to tackle the issues. You can then report back on this all in your next meeting. 

5 Next steps

Before a meeting officially ends and everyone goes back to their day-to-day routine, they have to know what happens next. A meeting should lead to actions and results, so you should clarify your meeting next steps. Send out a meeting summary and meeting notes, then check in on action items. Most importantly, make sure everyone feels confident moving forward. 

Keep your stakeholders up to date

Preparing for a great stakeholder meeting might feel intimidating. There’s a lot to cover and organize, and the people in the room are a big deal. But with the above tips and plenty of prep work, your meetings should go great. Plus, Fellow offers a variety of highly customizable and free meeting agendas for stakeholder meetings and more. It also comes with tools for writing meeting agendas, running meetings, and following up on meeting action items. It’s a fast route to getting that new project completed on time and wowing all your stakeholders.