Meetings represent a valuable tool that address a variety of situations – to better understand design requirements, to collaborate on possible solutions, or to align on a product direction, to name a few. With our UX design team stationed around the world, virtual meetings enable connection and collaboration across multiple time zones.
As Lead UX Designers, we’re tasked with overseeing a stream of product design work that is executed on by a pod of UX designers and UX content writers. We find ourselves in a lot of meetings, either as an attendee or facilitator. Our distributive workforce enables unrestricted collaboration, which means we need to carefully plan and organize meetings that help us achieve our goals.
This blog will provide you with tried-and-true techniques to build the foundation of your meeting and add value back to your team and organization. While they are particularly effective in today’s remote and distributed workforce, our strategies are applicable to in-person meetings as well.
What is the purpose of my meeting?
Set a goal for your meeting. Let the attendees know what the desired outcome of the meeting should be. By having a common goal to work toward conversations in a meeting are more focused on achieving the established outcome. Before you schedule your next meeting ask yourself “What do you need to accomplish?” Designers schedule meetings for lots of important reasons, including;
- I need design approval.
- I need to define a problem.
- I need team alignment.
Determining the goal of the meeting provides a solid reason that helps you answer the next few questions.
Why is it important to meet with my team?
Now that you’ve established the “what”, the next question that comes to mind is “why.” UX Designers are inquisitive people (it’s part of our job to use practices that unlock essential insights.) Your reasons for meeting can be:
- I need design approval…the project can’t move forward until we have team consensus.
- I need to define a problem…I can’t impact project and business outcomes without understanding what I’m solving for.
- I need team alignment…we need on what we’re creating, for who, by when, and to what end.
Taking time to understand why we need to meet provides further context for your attendees. For you, it may uncover additional questions that could alter the format of your meeting. If you’re seeking team alignment, a logical next question may be “which team members need to attend?” If you need design approval, it’ll be important to get the right stakeholders in the room.
How can I solve my problem efficiently?
The last thing we want is to join a meeting where there is no structure. Meetings without any structure or format typically become free-for-all conversations, with a slim to none chance of accomplishing your goal.
Not all meeting formats solve the same problem. From storyboarding to forced ranking, there are a variety of ways you can facilitate and work towards the desired outcome. And it’s okay to not know right away how to best to run the meeting. Leaning on team leads or managers is a great place to start.
As a facilitator, you are responsible for keeping the meeting on track and ensuring the established goal is met. Pro Tip: Next time you are running a meeting that has over 5 attendees make sure you have a copilot to assist you. Here are some tips to try during your next meeting.
- Schedule “Alone but together” time: While some people are comfortable speaking in front of the group, others could be more reserved. Create activities where everybody can contribute which can include, asking everyone to think of ideas separately before posting them on a Miro board or other collaborative software. To make decision, enable private voting to ensure everybody can have a say.
- Assign a co-pilot: For times when you experience unexpected technical difficulties, or the meeting group is quite large, a co-pilot can cover you while you recover and help facilitate conversations. Co-pilots are also helpful for ice breaker activities, checking on engagement from the group, or assisting with documentation so you as the meeting facilitator can focus on running the meeting.
- Be visual: Consider using visual examples to clearly emphasize the point you’re making. It does not need to be a perfect drawing, just something that appropriately expresses the idea to avoid misinterpretations.
Who should I plan on attending the meeting?
We have all felt the pain of a meeting that did not have the right stakeholders in it. When our team needs to determine who should be in attendance, we refer to a RACI Matrix. A RACI Matrix is a listing that defines all stakeholders on a project and their level involvement in each task, denoted with the letters R, A, C or I (Forbes, 2022.)
Project partners, and possible meeting attendees, are sorted into four different categories – by determining which person falls into which category, you will narrow down your options and get the people you need in the meeting.
- Is hands-on working on the project.
- Working in the project, completing tasks to get the project over the finish line.
- The ultimate decider.
- They answer to others about the project, so their job is to make sure it is what’s expected.
- Individuals who should be brought in and provide feedback or review.
- Hold some level of expertise but is not involved in the project.
- They need to be up to date on the project, but it’s not necessary for them to attend.
- Let them attend if they wish, but sending notes after the meeting is an option.
It’s important to know that these roles are not permanent. It’s dependent on what you need to accomplish in your meeting. For example, when you’re seeking design approval, a previous Informed team member may be on your invite list, but they weren’t part of the project process. It varies from team to team, organization to organization.
When does it work best for everyone to meet?
Now that we have our meeting attendees sorted, we start to do what some call the most difficult part of any meeting prep – finding a time that works for everyone. There are various tools, some included in different email applications, others available via downloaded, that help with the task.
COMBAT MEETING FATIGUE
Everyone understands how exhausting days of back-to-back meetings are. Polling suggests that 45% of employees feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings they attend. As a facilitator remember to keep a pulse check on your attendees. If you feel the focus on your meeting slipping, know that its ok to end the meeting early and schedule more time later. Your attendees will thank you.
We’re a remote-first organization with global team members around the world. Keeping calendars up to date and ensuring availability sharing is key to scheduling meetings easily. Our teams also schedule asynchronous meetings, which are helpful for scenarios of working over a period of time, rather than in a single, real-time session.
Am I missing anything for my meeting?
Now that your meeting is scheduled, there are two necessary inclusions that go forgotten. The meeting agenda is a key component that sets up your meeting attendees for success. Sharing the meeting agenda provides context for your attendees – the important “what” and “why” discuss earlier. It also serves as the vehicle to communicate additional information or context to provide your attendees with the information they need to participate.
Even more forgotten are the actionable next steps. This might be the last thing on your mind, or possibly forgotten after a killer meeting, but make sure attendees know what should be expected after your session concludes. Assign follow-up tasks to participants as needed, send meeting notes or a quick recap to the group post-meeting, or even send out the meeting recording if needed. Our work doesn’t end after a meeting, we must keep the momentum going after time is up.
Putting it together
Now it’s your turn. It takes time and practice to develop the right skills to be a fantastic facilitator. The next time you need to schedule a meeting consider using these questions as a framework to help guide you.