How to engage your stakeholders
1. Consider what communication method is best for each stakeholder.
Some people prefer visual rather than written communications, so in order to ensure you are effectively engaging with them find the method that works for them. This can be as easy as asking a simple question of what they may like, or maybe a matter of trial and error. This may require extra work for you to present the same information in different ways, but your stakeholders will make or break your project and this time is not ill spent.
2. Make the communications snappy and to the point.
Your stakeholders are busy. Keep your comms to the point and provide only the information they need to maintain their interest. Providing them with endless updates on the minutiae of the project will lose them quickly and you won’t get them back.
3. Communicate honestly
Projects never run entirely smoothly. A Project Manager must know when to escalate issues and should never hide these from the top stakeholders. Whilst many issues can be smoothed over before they need to go to your Project Board, to maintain an effective working relationship you need to be honest.
4. Do not over promise
We all get carried away by possibilities when starting a project, but the easiest way for a project to fail is to promise more than can be achieved in the time available. Start with the minimum viable product and add more if time and money are available.
5. Provide your top stakeholders with talking points about the project.
Your top stakeholders are one of the most effective ways of spreading your key messages. Keep them primed with a few simple talking points, such as what the project is trying to achieve and how well it is going, and these will spread out across your organisation.
6. Do not pretend to have all the answers, but get back to people with responses to questions they have asked when you have figured it out.
No-one knows everything. You will have questions fired at you that you simply cannot answer. It is better to say that you don’t know than to pretend that you do, in order to maintain trust. Always, always get back to people with the answers when you have chased them down otherwise those stakeholders will feel they are not being listened to and will disengage with the project.
7. It is often a good idea to have the people who are most opposed to the change in the inner circle of the project
Many people do not agree with this one, but we feel that by having the people most opposed within the project it enables you to be aware of issues stakeholders may have before they arise. Also a stakeholder whose position has been changed from negative to positive is a powerful communication tool.