For every manager, and particularly for product managers, meetings can often feel like a perpetual hurdle. It’s a somewhat ironic aspect of our role as PMs that we sometimes schedule meetings just to strategize ways to lessen our number of meetings! 😀
One thing I’ve learned over time is the critical role of meeting management. Feeling like you have too many meetings piled up in your calendar that you can’t get any work done is hard, but by following certain practices, you can manage your time and meeting load more effectively.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to implement meeting management tips with real-world examples. We will also see the impact on product management outcomes.
Meeting management is the ability to run meetings efficiently and effectively, keeping them focused, and ensuring they deliver the intended outcomes. This skill extends beyond organizing your schedule — it requires effective facilitation, time management, and decision-making to make sure you’re only having productive conversations.
Moreover, meeting management involves creating an innovative environment. Everyone needs to feel like their opinions are valued and heard. The objective of effective meeting management is to transform these necessary meetings from being mere time commitments that you can’t get out of into productive and value-adding discussions.
Regular meetings help fuel your organization’s communication and knowledge transfer. Employees convene to troubleshoot problems as they arise with the goal of enhancing team performance and productivity. Further, knowledge transfer enables the team to enhance their communication and build trust among each other. The sense of being on the same page with everyone else boosts team spirit and positivity. With this said, it’s important to avoid postponing regular meetings. If rescheduling is necessary, you might need to adjust the frequency of the meetings to meet new requirements — whether that’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
Without proper management, however, meetings can become time-consuming schedule fillers rather than time to make decisions and solve problems. Consistent days and weeks full of back-to-back meetings can really limit a product manager’s ability to fulfill their responsibilities, delegate tasks, or focus on strategic decisions!
Therefore, effective meeting management is not just about having meetings, but ensuring they contribute meaningfully to you and your team’s objectives. This helps to provide the mental reassurance all product people need, knowing they are balancing their time well.
As a manager, I honestly can say that half of my days are spent with meetings. It is likely the same for all managers as we schedule meetings with our very busy team members. Not all of these meetings can be shortened or removed from our calendars entirely, so we at least can manage them effectively to prevent wasting any time 😀
You can customize certain rules and tricks into your workflow to create meeting management. I’ll go over that more in the next section, but in general, here are five key steps I recommend to create good meeting management:
An effective meeting can be achieved with a well-prepared meeting leader. Every meeting that has more than two people in it (i.e., not a one-on-one) should have a leader appointed at least two days prior. The meeting leader can either be defaulted to the person who coordinated and scheduled the meeting in the first place or can be decided by the meeting members in advance. Sometimes, the meeting leader will be an obvious choice, and sometimes you will need to manually appoint them. It sounds funny, but it helps keep everyone on track and aligned.
Having a meeting goal ensures that you all know what you need to achieve by the end of the session. You and your colleagues should walk out of the meeting feeling like you did what you needed to do together, and the meeting goal should be decided upon when the meeting is created and shared alongside the calendar invite.
Remind the attendees one or two days before the meeting. This way, you can be certain that everyone attending the meeting is prepared and understands the subject. A simple meeting charter detailing the problem, meeting goal, and key members, can be added to the meeting document if you have one.
If it’s the first meeting on this topic or with this group, you may establish the action item list while discussing the goal. For subsequent meetings, the leader should review the topics before the meeting, marking off those that have been completed. The meeting leader should also check new items and take necessary actions before the meeting.
When presenting the topic, everyone should be mindful not to exceed the allotted time. Remember, effective meetings follow rules.
Before the meeting, presenters should specify the duration of their topics and the meeting leader reviews and updates the list. Based on the old and new topic lists, estimate the duration of the meeting. It’s essential to provide each stakeholder with the necessary time. Rushing through or skipping some departments’ topics will result in a lack of information and miscommunication. The leader can prioritize the topics based on importance and postpone some if time is tight.
The meeting leader should facilitate discussion on the topic but remind participants of the time if discussions run long. During the discussion, the leader should identify actions that need to be taken and assign them to the correct people. So, after the meeting, all attendees know what they are expected to do before the next meeting.
You should make sure to quickly review the items you discussed and assign each task, if not already done. Everyone should leave the meeting knowing what action they need to take. Remember, the goal of the meeting is to foster clear communication within the organization.
I have been working remotely since the beginning of Covid, so every meeting is a Zoom meeting for me. As a virtual meeting tool, we prefer to use Zoom over other options. The biggest virtual meeting pitfall in my organization is having cameras turned off 😣
As I mentioned, you can customize the rules and preferences for your meetings. One way I did that was when I realized that I needed to motivate my team members to keep their cameras on. The purpose of our meetings is to communicate and understand each other and believe me, seeing a person’s face (even via Zoom) affected the communication style and made a big difference.
In a virtual meeting, we were discussing a minor issue, but misunderstandings led to it escalating into a major problem. A simple joke was misinterpreted due to the lack of visual cues, and we wasted a couple of weeks resolving the misunderstanding between two managers. Seeing one’s facial impressions can solve those kinds of misunderstandings. A big aspect of meeting management for me became making sure that cameras are on.
Meeting management is not just about cutting down on the number of meetings you have in a day or week. In fact, regular meetings may seem like a waste of time when everyone is busy with project work, but their value becomes apparent when it’s too late — when problems arise that could have been prevented. Another way I customized my meeting management practices was by always staying updated with each team’s progress and making sure I had regular check-ins scheduled.
We tried weekly 15-minute technical management and business management meetings for a huge project. Attendees were really unhappy and asked if we could cancel the meeting before it started. This large project involved more than 35 teams and 100 team members, and although there was initial resistance from the attendees, I sent persistent reminders and agendas. This actually led to successful meetings, ultimately resulting in the project being delivered on time, without any miscommunication or integration issues.
In contrast, for a smaller project, managers decided to hold meetings only internally and when problems arose. As you can imagine, each team started developing their parts in isolation, resulting in solutions that didn’t meet others’ needs. We lost two weeks rectifying the communication issues and reworking ineffective developments. Sometimes a 15-minute meeting on your calendar can save hours of work if its benefits are properly understood and utilized.
Meeting management is a skill! It’s extremely important to product management to make sure your time is filled in the best way every day with information exchange, problem-solving, and productive conversations. Unchecked meetings can slow down a product manager, and this is why meeting management is essential.
In this article, I discussed five big steps to product management: appointing a leader, setting clear goals, creating an action item list, adhering to time limits, and defining next steps. If you start doing this regularly, you will find that your meetings add more value and you may even get some time back in your busy day 😃
Featured image source: IconScout
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