Production meetings are an important part of the run up to any student production, and not one to be taken lightly. As I’ve been observing at Fuel, they will continue to be a vital part of your work as a producer, so they’re a skill to hone as soon as possible.
I’ve found that, in a 4/5 week preparation time frame, it is reasonable and realistic to expect to have two full team production meetings – one near the beginning, to get the ball rolling and one a week or so before get in weekend to problem solve/fix any issues. (Obviously, between these, you should be in touch with each individual team member separately. This can be in person or via email, depending on yours and the team member’s personalities/availabilities/reliability with regards to email correspondence etc.)
I think there are five steps to run as smooth production meetings with a student production team as possible.
1. Schedule them as early as possible.
In the context of a five week preparation time, where you’re aiming for meetings in weeks 1 and 5 (meeting one as early as possible, having left enough time for people to get things thought about, and meeting two a day or two before the get in weekend), I would aim to have the date set for the first meeting two weeks in advance, and a mention of the second at the first meeting, with the date finalised again two weeks in advance.
For me, this has involved sending out a doodle poll (or equivalent, but doodle polls are good!) asking everyone to let you know which hour-long slots they are available in the week or so when you want to have your meeting. I do this about a week before I want the meeting date to be set.
Realistically, depending slightly on the size of your production team and their level of business (which tends to function, for students, on a scale from “fairly busy” to “rarely, if ever, free”) it’s quite probable that you won’t have a single slot where you can get everyone together. You are aiming for “as many as possible” (don’t tell people this until after they’ve given you their availability). If people can only make, say an hour of a two hour meeting (if you have a big team, or a lot going on production wise) or half an hour of an hour meeting (for a smaller team/production) I push them to be there.
Once you’ve set a date/time, book a meeting room immediately. (This will save you a lot of stress later, I promise.) Then send out an email to let everyone know date, time and location, and respond to everyone who tells you “oh, I can only make x% of the meeting, [implied so therefore can I not be there]”, by telling them to come as much as they can.
2. Make a list of all the things you want to cover
For the first meeting this might include design ideas, so that everyone has an idea of what everyone else is doing, budget clarifications… For the second it will be any problems which need fixing.
3. Decide how much time each thing on your list warrants for discussion (based on importance and the time available)
This is self explanatory, mostly, but I would try to leave 5 minutes unnaccounted for .per half hour of meeting time for people to overrun and/or ask questions.
4. Decide what order you want to cover things in
This decision might be made for you by who can attend when within the meeting, but try and work through things in a sensible order (not covering things before any necessary information from another chunk of your plan has been given), starting with the most important things and things which absolutely must be covered in person, so if you do run later than your plan (and, believe me, all best planned meetings sometimes don’t run to schedule!) you can cover less important things by email.
5. Keep your meeting under your control, and everyone happy.
The former of those two things is hard. Try to keep polite and kind, while preventing conflict and keeping everyone on schedule. If you feel like you’re being rude telling people that they need to get to the point, remember that that is your job, and you aren’t being rude, you’re keeping the meeting focused, for everyone’s benefit. The latter of those two things is, in my experience, facilitated by spending a pound or two (as a student producer, this will be out of your pocket, sorry) on a packet of biscuits.
That’s it for today, I hope all your future meetings run smoothly and easily! Thanks as always for reading, and feel free to like this post if you enjoyed it, comment with any thoughts/questions and follow the blog if you haven’t already and want to hear more. I’ll be back on Friday with my next update about my internship, and again next Monday with more advice.