Don’t forget the fun part
First things first. A consortium meeting implies that you intend to work closely with these people. If your proposal is funded, you may well be ‘stuck’ with them for 5 more years… Make sure you’re off to a good start, especially when you don’t know (all of) your consortium members well yet. Include enough time for everyone to not only introduce their research, but also themselves, their hobbies, etc. And make sure you include an informal part of your meeting, for example over dinner, to get to know the people behind the expertise.
A good discussion on the content…
A main goal of the consortium meeting is to discuss and agree on the essential aspects of the proposal. As everyone in the room is likely passionate about their own work and expertise, it can be challenging to have a focused discussion. One way to handle this is to first discuss the framework of the proposal together, and then proceed with ‘work sessions’ in which there is more room for detailed discussions.
There are different ways to get to a joint proposal framework that everyone is enthusiastic about. One way is to start the discussion on the impact you intend for this project to have. If you agree on the intended impact, you can work your way back to the results needed in order to achieve this impact. After that, discuss the work to be done to come to the required results.
You can subsequently split up the consortium in parallel groups, for example per work package, with the assignment to draft the specific approach and intended deliverables for their work package. Do make sure that this information is brought back to and discussed by the complete group, to ensure coherence of the proposal as a whole.
… before discussing budget
Your consortium partners may have strong feelings about the budget they need and/or budget distribution in general. The general rule in my view is: budget follows tasks. For this reason, it is very important to first agree on the work to be done in the project, then decide who should be responsible for which tasks, and only after that start talking euro’s.
Since you as a coordinator need room to introduce your own expertise and participate in the discussions, it can definitely help to ask an external person to lead the meeting. In addition, ask someone to make meeting minutes, so you don’t need to listen, talk, and write down conclusions all at the same time.
By the time everyone receives the meeting minutes, they will probably be back at their own institution and immersed in other obligations. Therefore, reserve some time right at the end of the consortium meeting to discuss timelines and what you expect of your consortium partners. Ask them to check their agendas. Surely this will not prevent all of the chasing up later, but it can definitely help to send friendly reminders about the timelines you all agreed on while you were so enthusiastic about the project.
Finally: in my experience consortium meetings work best when everyone is physically present. Skype sessions or other online communication can be quite distracting, especially when trying to discuss the basic framework of your proposal in a ‘blended’ (part offline, part online) way. If there is really no way around it, try to dedicate specific time slots for those attending online in which you recap what you’ve done as a group so far and ask for specific input, rather than trying to brainstorm with a screen.
How we can help
If you consider to hire us for support for your grant proposal, one of the things we offer is leading your consortium meeting and preparing the meeting together with you. During the meeting, we will continuously evaluate whether your proposal framework is still aligned to the call text. Feel free to contact us if you want to know more!