Much like the design process doesn’t start with a drawing, stakeholder and user engagement does not start at a kick-off meeting. At INVISION, we are fortunate to work with many repeat clients and friends, and are able to start early conversations on a project with a natural, high-level of client engagement. For our new clients and collaborators, a focus on stakeholder and user engagement proves to go a long way in building relationships.

Where to start? Here are some of my personal, favorite ways to build engagement with stakeholders and users right from the start.

  1. Get to know the team on a personal level.  
    Know where they have been, what they enjoy, and where they see this project taking them. Be an advocate for their goals and priorities from these initial conversations, throughout the project, and for years to come. A personal touch, a little research, and several informal conversations prior to a kick-off meeting will go a long way to building the kind of relationship required to ensure trust and engagement in a project team.
  2. Focus early on setting goals and drivers. 
    It is critical to work together early in the project to establish the key items that will make this project a success-functionally, financially and on schedule. Opening our ears to listen to all stakeholder needs is essential. We are here to lead a team through the design process, but the most important voice on the team is that of our clients. Prove that their voice is heard and respected by revisiting their goals and drivers throughout the project and using them as a measure for success.
  3. Be an educator, always.
    For many of our clients, a renovation or construction project is something they don’t get to do often. Educating our clients on what to expect during the design and construction process is an essential reminder that we are here to be their advocate. We communicate next steps and proactively discuss adequate planning with staff and affected user groups. With goals and expectations in mind, we have much knowledge to share, and we are here to deliver.
  4. Finally, have fun!
    It is a lot of hard work to get through a construction or renovation project. We understand that design meetings take time away from our clients’ typical schedules and we want to make that time efficient, but also enjoyable. Our most successful projects are those that we walk away from with not only a great project delivered on time and on budget, but those that we can all say, “that was fun.”

Hard work can be enjoyable—especially when you take time to engage with others by sharing knowledge, thoughtfully planning, and taking time out to be personal.