Status update meetings are the worst! The next time you have to give an update, make it short, clear, and valuable by using these 11 tips for giving great stakeholder updates.
There are few things I dislike more than listening to each person in a team list tasks they completed that week. That’s not fun, and it’s not valuable either. Part of the problem is the vague way people ask for status updates. When someone asks ‘What’s the status of your work?’ they aren’t giving us any clues about the specific information they want to know. But even when people ask us vague questions, there are things we can do to give specific, and valuable status updates.
- Start with what they need to know
- If everything is OK, say that
- Make it about the end result
- Keep it short
- Focus on what they care about
- Make it clear if you need something
- Don’t try to give updates on everything
- Limit the update to three topics
- Let them choose the topics
- Don’t give too many details
- Talk about risks before they become issues
Tip 1: Start with what they need to know
When you start your update, don’t start with any topic that comes to mind. Start with the things that your stakeholders need to know. Know about. If you don’t do this, you might run out of time talking about other things and find you don’t have the time left to talk about the thing they really need to know.
Tip 2: If everything is OK, say that
Stakeholder updates don’t need to be long. If the work is going well and everything is on track. Say that. Not only does it give the audience the most important information up front (that things are OK), but it also makes the update very short. After making that statement, ask what more they want to know. That way you’ll spend the whole update talking about things the audience cares about. That’s a great way to have happy stakeholders.
Tip 3: Make it about the end result
Don’t spend the whole stakeholder update talking about the work you or your team did. Instead, talk about how that work relates to the end result. Stakeholders care about outcomes and results. They will be happier if you tell them about the progress that’s been made and not about the work you did to make the progress.
Tip 4: Keep it short
Your time is precious, so is other people’s. When you update stakeholder on the status of work, keep it short. The shorter the better. People can ask for more information if they want it. What they can’t do is get the time back you spent telling them things they didn’t need to know.
Tip 5: Focus on what they care about
Stakeholder updates are a great time to share what you and your team have done. The thing is, most people are not interested in that. They care about the results, they care about the cost or time being taken to get the results, and they care about things that are important to them. Stakeholder updates should focus on the topics the stakeholders care about and not just on what you think is important.
Tip 6: Make it clear if you need something
Stakeholder updates aren’t a one way flow of information. Yes, you need to give updates on the status of the work, but stakeholder updates are also a chance to ask for the things you need. Don’t forget to include requests for things you need in your update. And if you need something, make that obvious early in the update.
Tip 7: Don’t try to give updates on everything
There is no way a stakeholder update can, or should, include information about everything that’s happened since the last update. There simply isn’t time to go into every topic or development. Instead, you need to pick the few things that are most important. Start with the things the stakeholders need to know, and the things you need from them. Then, if you have spare time, you can move into less urgent topics.
Tip 8: Limit the update to three topics
The best stakeholder updates have a maximum of three topics. Any more than that and people start to forget what the first topics were. Limit the update to the three most important topics and then ask the stakeholders what else they would like to hear about. That keeps the update short and ensures you cover the topics that are important and that the stakeholders care about.
Tip 9: Let them choose the topics
A great way to give a stakeholder exactly what they want in an update is to ask them what topics they want to hear about. Let them tell you what is important to them and you will always have their attention. Start your update with a question, or name three options and ask which they want to hear about first. This way you’ll always be talking about things they want to know.
Tip 10: Don’t give too many details
Status updates should be headlines not essays. Avoid the trap of going into detail by delivering your update as a headline, then ask if they want more detail. If the stakeholders are interested they will ask for more information. If they aren’t interested, they’ll ask to move on. That saves you time and keeps the update focused on things that are important to the stakeholders.
Tip 11: Talk about risks before they become issues
No one likes surprises. You can avoid surprises in your stakeholder updates by talking about risks before they become issues. Talking about risks makes people aware that something could go wrong before it actually does go wrong. Making a point to talk about risks easy also gives everyone an opportunity to identify actions that help avoid the risk becoming an issue.
Learn more about each of these 11 tips for giving great stakeholder updates in the short video series on my YouTube channel.