Understanding the practicalities of managing and arranging project meetings is vital to your projects success. As the Project Manager, either you or a member of your project team will act as the main point of contact when it comes to project co-ordination, arranging meetings and monitoring and maintaining all project documentation.

This guide should give you a good over view of everything you need to think about when organising project meetings and documentation. The Strategic Projects Office, is available for support should you have any change@essex.ac.uk questions.

Establishing your project's governance structure

As part of the management of your project, you will need to establish your approach to project meetings including the frequency, membership, escalation routes, and terms of reference. The scale and complexity of these project meetings will depend on the size and impact of your project.

Room  Steering Group/Project Board Operational/User Groups
Typical committee name
  • [Project name] Steering Group
  • [Project name] Board
  • [Name] Task and Finish Group
  • [Name] Sub-Group
  • [Name] Working Group
  • [Name] Delivery Group
  • Receive project progress updates
  • Receive recommendations on project direction
  • Make decisions on any risks, issues, and changes
  • Provide advice on matters beyond the Project Manager’s authority
  • Report on progress of work packages
  • Exchange information
  • Keep momentum going
  • Highlight day-to-day challenges and identify solutions or the need to escalate
  • Discussion between subject matter experts undertaking the work
  • Project Sponsor as Chair
  • Project Manager
  • Senior management representatives from key stakeholder teams/organisations
  • Advisors – key people who are not direct stakeholders but can provide relevant advice to the project
  • Committee Secretary
  • Project Manager or Work Lead as Chair
  • Staff undertaking the work
  • Representation from relevant professional services sections /Departments
  • Committee Secretary/Note-taker
Typical meeting length 1-2 hours 45 minutes - 1 hour
Typical documentary
  • Formal agenda with papers
  • Formal minutes and action log
  • Terms of reference
  • Agenda
  • Minutes/action note and action log; or email summary of key discussion points and actions
Typical frequency
  • Monthly
  • Every 6 weeks
  • Bi-monthly
  • Meetings should be scheduled to take place in advance of relevant project committees i.e. Project Coordination Group (PCG), Capital Planning Group (CPG) etc
  • Weekly
  • Fortnightly
  • Every 3 weeks
  • Monthly
  • Meetings should be proportionate dependant on the stage and type of project i.e. increased frequency in the run-up to go-live;

The arrangements for your project’s governance should be kept under review regularly, to ensure that you have the correct representation and frequency as appropriate to the stage and progress of your project. For example, you may decide to disband a sub-group as that particular strand of work has been completed; or, due to developments within your project you may need to add some new members to provide expertise.

The formality of your governance documentation should be agreed at your group’s initial meeting.

Arranging a meeting

All meetings should be arranged via Microsoft Outlook.

If you need to arrange a meeting with a large number of senior attendees you will find that they have very busy diaries and you’ll need to liaise with their administrators for availability and to ask whether any existing appointments can be moved.

Another option especially if attendees are external or you need availability from Academics, is to create a Doodle containing your date options which the attendees then tick their availability against. All the responses are collated in the same place and give you a visual overview of the best date/time with the most available attendees.

Room booking

To book a room, email the Central Timetable Office, cto@essex.ac.uk with the date, start/end time, room capacity needed, and whether or not AV facilities are required. You can enquire after the availability of a specific room.

Where possible book the room 30 minutes either side of the meeting for room preparation such as moving furniture, and setting up/clearing down resources.

There are a number of rooms that are not on the central timetable:

Room Capacity  AV facilities  Contact for booking 
CER meeting room (5S.7.5)  10 
  • PC
  • Projector
  • Skype installed
  • Webcam
Send Outlook meeting request to CER meeting room (5S.7.5)
RAB Butler boardroom 12
  • PC
  • Projector
  • Skype installed
Send Outlook meeting request to RAB Butler Boardroom (5.606)
Estates meeting room (4N.6.9) 24
  • PC
  • Projector
Contact Anne-Marie Boot details for which can be found on the phonebook
IT Services meeting room (4SW.5.9) 10
  • PC
  • Projector
Send Outlook meeting request to IT Services meeting room (4SW.5.9)

Writing meeting minutes

Formal minutes

This format of minutes tends to be used when recording formal groups with titles such as Steering Group and Governance Board. The type of meetings notes, and the level of formality should be agreed at the first meeting. A guide to committee documentation for committee secretaries is available which includes advice and templates, particularly useful for more formal committee meetings.

Formal minutes have a separate action log that is updated after every meeting and is a recurring agenda item along with papers on the various topics for discussion. Papers will need formatting in the right top-hand corner and detail the group name, date of meeting, agenda item and paper number. An example is shown below;

Systems and Academic Projects Board
17 January 2017
Agenda item: 3

Action notes

This format tends to be used for more informal groups with titles such as sub-group, working groups, delivery team, and project team. These are a lot shorter and focus on succinctly summarising the decisions and actions, rather than gathering comments and discussions.

Key rules to remember

  • To write in the past tense (“The Group noted that work had begun on…”).
  • Include attendees and apologies.
  • Give actions an ID number and record either in a table at the beginning of the minutes or on a separate action log.
  • Numbers 1-10 should be written in full i.e. one to ten, numbers after ten can be recorded numerically.
  • Use your judgement to summarise a discussion to the main points.
  • Include the date of the meeting and the date of the next meeting where booked.
  • Seek approval of the minutes from the PM and Chair before circulating to members.
  • Convert the minutes to PDF before circulating.
  • If members are internal, you can send an email referencing that the minutes are available within the Project Library (see below), and include a hyperlink. You will need to ensure that all members have been given access to the project’s Library site.

Project documentation

Terms of reference (TOR)

This is a document that sets out the purpose and structure of a project Steering Group/Board, and is agreed/approved by all group/board members.

The document typically includes the following information:

  • committee name
  • purpose
  • membership (including name and job role, and delegated members for when members are unavailable)
  • frequency, timing and location
  • project deliverables
  • clarification of roles
  • reporting responsibilities
  • listing of sub groups

A TOR is used to document a common understanding of the committee’s role, responsibilities, and duties in relation to the project.

We have a terms of reference template (.docx) available with examples for you to use, add to, and reword as necessary.

Action log

An action log is a table that collates actions that have been agreed into an easy-to-read format and way of monitoring progress. An action log will need the following columns and information:

  • action ID
  • meeting date/name
  • action
  • who’s responsible for the action
  • timescale
  • update status – pending/in progress/at risk/completed/closed/on hold
Action ID Meeting date  Description  Due  Update  Owner  Status 

Risk and issues registers

These are completed to identify any potential risks or issues that can happen, their potential severity and impact on the project, and identifying some actions (mitigation) to deal with them if they arise.

Project plans

A project plan is used to break down work into phases, plan activities, determine timescales, identify dependencies, and assign work to resources. This project documents should be reviewed regularly and the project team meeting is a good place to do this. The project planning guide has good advice to get things started too.

There are several templates available in Smartsheet, and the Smartsheet guide explains how to get things set up.

Project library- SharePoint

A project library is basically the location where all of the project documentation is held. All the formal documents such as the mandate and business case, regular reports and the stakeholder and communication plan can be held there for reference. It can also be used to store meeting documents, such as the agenda, minutes and any papers that need to be circulated, to save emailing everything around to the whole team.

One option is to host the project library on a SharePoint site. SharePoint is web-based meaning that documents can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection and useful for when off-campus. SharePoint has a number of benefits, it’s easier to share with colleagues than a network drive, and keeps an audit trail of who has worked on a document, and maintains version control of the various documents too.

A SharePoint user guide is available which explains how to set up different libraries, groups and permissions. You can set SharePoint up so that certain people can only see certain libraries and documents which is useful to ensure confidentiality.

Tip* Structure and label your libraries and email folders the same as this will make it quicker and easier for you to find information.


Role mailboxes

If there isn’t one already, you may want to set-up a role mailbox with IT Services. A role mailbox gives you a specific project based mailbox and calendar that multiple users can have access to and manage, which ensures continuity of service by preventing emails getting stuck in people’s personal University inboxes when they’re absent.

Email contacts group

If you regularly email the same group of people it can be time consuming to manually select and remember each member. To save you time and to prevent members being missed off, you can create an email contacts group that will send your email to all members of that group. For example you could set up a contact group for the project steering group, or a group of stakeholders that require specific communications such as an e-newsletter. The easiest way to do this is to set up a contact group on Outlook within your role mailbox. This group will then be accessible to whoever has access to the role mailbox.

Alternatively you can request a delegated group which will then sit on the global address book in Outlook.

Internal communications

A vital part of a project is the communications. Communications are key to keeping people engaged in your project and notifying others to important information and also celebrating project successes. There are stakeholder communication resources available to help identify which people need which communications.

Your communications channels/options are:


Surveys are a great way to obtain feedback. There are a wide range of online survey tools; however the one preferred by the University is Qualtrics. It is simple and intuitive to set up and easy for responders to use. It collates the data and creates automatic reports, and allows for customisation of more detailed reporting. If you don’t already have an account, you will need to make a request to the IT Helpdesk to request a license.

SurveyMonkey is another online tool that is widely used. You can set up your own licence to use this if you don’t already have one.

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