Pro Tips: How to Engage Sponsors

A communication breakdown with the project sponsor can slow progress and make it difficult to maintain strategic alignment. So PMI asked project professionals around the world: How do you keep sponsors actively engaged?

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Customize communication 
At the beginning of the project, create a communication plan with your sponsor to understand their preferences. Do they prefer updates through a phone call, an email or a text? How frequently do they want status reports? Do they prefer scheduled or ad hoc meetings? What’s the best way to communicate in an emergency? And what’s the next course of action if you don’t hear back from them within one to three days? Establishing a plan upfront will keep the sponsor engaged and eliminate the risk of communication hurdles that may lead to project delays. 
Mohammed Saquib Ayubi, PMP, machine learning data associate, Amazon, Hyderabad, India


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Maintain strategic focus
Sponsors juggle a lot of demands. If they lose sight of the end goals of a project, they often also lose focus and prioritize other work. That’s why project managers need to keep sponsors aware of the ultimate project benefits and impact by highlighting key success metrics and milestones during status meetings. If these items are continually emphasized, the sponsor will remember why they initiated the project in the first place and will be more likely to help the team stay on task. 
Brian Dlamini, PMP, PMI-RMP, project manager, Anglo Platinum, Johannesburg


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Prioritize face time 
It can be difficult to communicate critical project information over email or status reports. So I prefer to set up candid, face-to-face conversations—whether in person or via videoconference—throughout the project. These meetings will help you explain why the sponsor’s involvement is key for project success. Beyond that, a weekly stakeholder project status meeting will give the sponsor the opportunity to answer questions, understand risks and roadblocks, and assist with current issues.
Veronica Thraen, PMP, owner and principal consultant, Maven Project Management, Phoenix, Arizona, USA


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Prepare to listen
When you meet with sponsors, bring along all important documents containing information you think they would like. Engage them in a discourse, all the while observing their body language, and figure out what they like or don’t like. At the end of the meeting, confirm their preferences for mode and frequency of communication. Ultimately, you need to let sponsors know that their feedback is of the utmost importance.
Rukome Egwerome, PMP, project engineer, Notore, Rivers, Nigeria


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Celebrate together
Invite the sponsor to celebrate progressive highlights or milestones during the project. At those events, you can share the success so far and point out obstacles you had to overcome to be where you are now.
Tony Dennis Morisause, general manager, engineering services, PNG DataCo Ltd., Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea