As a product manager, I often need to sit down with the executive management team to get their feedback on the new designs. It can be a frustrating process and many times I found that I cannot get things down in the time I am allowed to have.
Nevertheless, not having the sign-off from management is terrible for the team, we face high risk of having to re-work (yes, we always need to re-work, but it feels better if it is an improvement), schedule get delayed etc.
Over my 200+ review meetings, i've came to understand the reasons and learnt skills on how to stir the meeting towards an efficient completion, and I want to share them with you.
There are 4 key reasons of an unsuccessful product review meeting:
1. Audience Lack the Background Knowledge: especially when introducing a new function, executives don’t know what they are looking at, or how the end users will be using such function, you may have sent the presentation before and again in the meeting invite, it doesn’t matter;
2. Time is Limited: if I am lucky enough I get 1 hour, usually after reschedule for twice and postpone for 1 hour; i sincerely hope you have better luck, but anyway, executives are busy people and you need to fight your way through;
3. Executives are Distrusted: alright, i hate people look at their phones, jump on a call, walk in and out of the room during a meeting, not for the fact that it is not polite, but it is bringing risk to the deliverables;
4. Business and Operational Needs are Not Aligned: for executives, every feature you do has to either make money directly, indirectly or in the future; the rest we can just follow conventions and it is actually better if we follow conventions and you don’t need to show them. While operational team cares about automation, marketing about tracking and conversion, and they all make sense especially when talking together in the room.
There are many more, I selected the 4 above just because they are applicable across the board. So what can we do knowing all these facts to ensure we get what we need:
1. Set The Scene First: in a few sentences, state what you are demonstrating and what you want to get out of this meeting, it is useful to get everybody aligned and set the target;
2. Prepare a List of Questions and Structure Your Meeting Around Them: you may as well print it out for everybody, cross them out when the discussion is complete and write down the decision and follow-ups; the questions need to be specific, actionable, for example, you can’t write “what do you think about the color?”, instead, you should write “Which option will you choose, 1,2, or 3?”, open questions is the No.1 enemy of an effective meeting; there are a lot of information you can pick up from these meetings, some of them even conflict with each other, my experience, always ask where it comes from, and paraphrase it back to them,
3. Focus on Clarification instead of Discussion: review meeting aims to get feedbacks, so when there is a comment, we first need to understand what it means, where it comes from and in what situation it is valid; then we see if it is aligned with the objective, if it is then point taken; if it is not then we need to discuss, ensure the argument is about which way better achieve the objective instead of who likes which one better;
4. Send a Recap Email: a recap email serves as a reminder to everyone to guide them on what has been decided and what is the next step; it is also a good way to open the forum to those who had a second thought, I encourage everybody that change their mind, of course, prefer before deadline, but actually, anytime as long as it is a reasonable change towards where the business wants to head to;
UX review meetings gives you a chance to verify if the product is aligned with business objective, does it support revenue making or improve internal process. Don't be frustrated if the agenda is not finished, focus on understanding people's way of thoughts, it is useful in the long run.