4 Ideas To Make Product Meetings More Useful

Mediocre meetings? No product manager wants that. | Photo by Jodi B Photography

July 7, 2023

4 Ideas To Make Product Meetings More Useful

by Claire George

Ask the team. They will tell you that I love feeling prepared for meetings. I have my updates, questions, and a trusty cup of tea ready to go. An even better feeling? When that preparation is met with a lively discussion — the team celebrating new features we have delivered and deliberating what comes next. It is not easy to achieve this every week. But the best product managers take care to make each meeting as engaging as they can be.

Meetings can be mediocre — or they can be an energizing hour on your schedule. The latter often takes an extra push from the leader.

You can tell based on how many people seem like they are working on something else. Most product teams hold weekly cross-functional meetings. This is when the group will discuss everything from product performance to the roadmap to upcoming releases. For example, I meet with our Aha! Notebooks team on Fridays — hosted by our product manager Sarah, and joined by folks from PM/UX, product marketing, customer success, and engineering (sometimes leadership, too). With all of that brainpower in one (virtual) room, it is a natural forum for driving our best ideas and alignment.

That is what we all strive towards. But even high-achieving product teams get the meeting "blahs." Your day is slammed so you multitask while listening on a call. Or time gets chewed up by confusion and tangents — folks lose sight of the decisions to be made. No one wants to end the hour thinking: "That did not go as well as it could have."

If you notice this becoming a pattern, it is worth looking at why. Meetings can turn mediocre for a number of reasons — a half-baked agenda, different communication styles, or signing off without agreeing on next steps. Usually, it is a blend of things. You will want to examine your approach from a few different angles.

Gently nudge meeting monotony as soon as you notice it — fresh thinking can go a long way.

I am not suggesting a major overhaul to your meeting (unless you really need it). There are lots of simple ways to get back on track — such as opening with an icebreaker, making use of a helpful template, or shaking up the meeting's order. These are some things that have helped our team enliven our time together:

Ace the agenda

Start meetings strong. Create a repeatable meeting agenda — with items like goal progress, recent product updates, and future plans. Make it a template that you can reuse each week. That way, folks will know what to expect and be able to prepare their contributions in advance.

Product tip: Start quickly with one of our agenda templates, then customize it to your liking. You can embed Aha! views right in the meeting note for easy access to popular customer ideas and progress reports.

Meeting agenda large

Share the floor

Swap the podium for a panel. Listening to one person lecture on (or being that person) gets boring. Rotate presenters so cross-functional teammates get a chance to talk about their area of the business in their own words. Alternate note-taking so everyone can practice active listening, too.

Product tip: Tag people in the agenda when it is their turn to share. This adds them as watchers in Aha! software so they can follow along.

Get visual

Color, shapes, and pictures — visual interest immediately draws people in. Dress up your meeting notes or use a whiteboard when the team wants to brainstorm together. (Recently, Sarah mapped out potential solutions to a customer problem — it was so much easier for the team to understand the challenge when we could absorb it visually.)

Product tip: Aha! software comes with 50+ templates to kickstart your collaboration.

Get visual — Aha! Notebooks pros and cons

Bookend with action

Average meetings can feel disjointed. Amazing meetings are energizing — like you are picking up a conversation right where it left off. Be sure to leave each meeting with an agreed-upon set of action items and start each meeting reviewing last week's important tasks. That feeling of momentum and incremental progress is how you deliver the most value.

Product tip: Add to-dos right to your meeting note with deadlines. That way, attendees are automatically reminded of assigned action items and follow-up is as easy as checking last week's note.

Bookend with action — Aha! Notebooks to-dos
When you have engaging discussions as a team, you will be more productive and strengthen the relationships you need to build something truly lovable together.

One more tip — when time allows, have fun. Joy can be just as effective for rustling up team energy. Creating an environment where people can be their authentic, happy selves is always foolproof for getting better results as a team.

Product development excellence is within reach. Start a free trial today

Claire George

Claire George

Claire is passionate about helping product development teams learn how to bring their strategy to life. She is the director of product marketing at Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software. Claire has 20 years of marketing and software experience. Previously, she led product marketing at an agile-based work management platform.

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