This could be an interesting meeting as it is the first time you have met and you want this to go well, setting a good direction for the project. It follows then that you need to start thinking about the preparation that is required for this meeting.
There is a wide range of preparation you could do which means it really needs to be focused on what you want to achieve. This should include building rapport with your sponsor alongside establishing some facts from your sponsor about the project.
What else should this preparation include?
- Start by thinking and researching their experience. Is your sponsor a first timer or someone who has a solid history? Are they someone completely new to the company or someone with a ‘reputation?’ You need to gather information that starts to focus your mind on the person in the position of project sponsor.
- Talk with other managers, other project sponsors, Ask about the successes and the challenges that the sponsor has faced, how the sponsor responded to any problems,
- Establish how they have supported other project managers and the impact on the project and project manager
- Also look for experience of leading and their management style – what comments have colleagues made?
- Now think about how to build that all important relationship with the sponsor as well as your own. Do you take them to the pub (this was suggested at a speaking engagement and went down well!) or should you meet in private over a cup of coffee? The where you meet may well be detected by your earlier researches
- Where you can, prepare an agenda which suits the 3 needs; the sponsors (ask?), yours as well as the project’s needs. Send it to the sponsor in advance of the meeting
- In the meeting try and capture the vision the sponsor has about the project. It may at this early point be poorly formed however it is your job to help put some form around that vision later on
- You need to be honest with your sponsor and to illustrate this let me take you to one of many possible areas; the end of project deadline. You need to establish why that deadline has been set and if the deadline looks very tight then be professional and feed this back to your sponsor. However this needs to be couched in project management terms; the link with project risks or the budget seems small for the tight timetable or the skills you need are not available
There is no magic bullet for your first meeting however it will help to do as much preparation as possible. Research and discussion with colleagues will soon give you a feel for what you need to know.
What is your experience of the first sponsor meeting and what tips would you give to others?
Strategies for Project Sponsorship by Vicki James, Ron Rosenhead and Peter Taylor published by Management Concepts