When thinking about the top skills that a digital designer needs, the first few things that probably come to mind are:
- UI or UX tool expertise
- Wireframing capability
- User flow generation
- User research
- Understanding of digital heuristics
While all of these things are important, one of the top skills that a designer needs to harness and master is the power of communication. As designers, we communicate through a variety of mediums such as:
Research sessions…as we speak with potential users around their pain points on a particular topic.
Visual designs…as we guide new and existing users through an interface that aims to solve their problems.
Our team…as we develop concepts for a new feature or functionality.
One of the most important ways we communicate our ideas and thoughts is through meetings. Meetings, at their heart, are just opportunities for communication. They are a specified amount of time to come together and discuss a particular topic with product managers, developers, fellow designers, and users of our product, individually and cross-functionally. As designers, if we learn to leverage these meetings to enhance and elevate our conversations, we will be able to iterate a better solution more quickly and ultimately deliver a better product to our users.
So, how might designers begin to utilize meetings to become a better designer and bring more accuracy and transparency to their design process? Here are a few tips and agenda examples on how our design team does this at Docket.
Prepare Yourself and Your Guests
One of the quickest ways for designers to improve their meeting game is to start with proper preparation. Building an agenda for the meeting gives the group a framework to conduct the meeting to make sure you walk away with what you need to keep moving forward. Creating an agenda doesn’t have to take an extensive amount of time. Provide a simple structure for what needs to be reviewed, vetted, and decided to keep everyone on topic and help facilitate the discussion in the right direction.
Pro Tip: If you are crunched for time, using a meeting tool like Docket enables collaboration among all participants so that every stakeholder can contribute and prepare together before you even step into the meeting.
Guardrail for Greater Focus
Another way you can improve your meetings as a designer is to give time constraints to particular topics that might otherwise run the meeting off course and leave everyone feeling frustrated or risking incomplete solutioning.
Pro Tip: Docket’s agenda planner has built-in tools to make sure each topic gets an appropriate amount of time.
Once it comes time to conduct the meeting, it is critical to facilitate the meeting with clarity and consistency. As designers, we are often tackling tough user experience problems that can be difficult to express with traditional methods of communication. For example, When exploring a complex user flow, it can be hard for all the meeting participants to follow the flow of discussion without clear artifacts to help aid the conversation. Some designers prefer to hold back designs to “reveal” at a meeting but it doesn’t give the audience a chance to process the story. A design review will be more productive if the meeting guests are not seeing the design for the first time.
Pro Tip: Attach visual aids including process maps and design concepts directly to the agenda and share them with participants prior to the meeting so everyone can review and be ready to discuss the topic at hand. A tool like Docket enables you to attach files and links for resources directly to the meeting so they are not only available for sharing in the agenda but are also available to open during the meeting discussion saving time and distraction.
As the meeting comes to a close, we are left with one of the most important steps to increasing the quality of your meetings – capturing action items and next steps. As designers, it is critical that clear action items and next steps are defined and distributed to meeting attendees so that each person involved knows what needs to be done to move the work forward. Ideas, requirements, and other information shared during the meeting will help us:
- Turn process or requirements into low-fidelity prototypes
- Identify dependencies
- Know what needs to be done and when
Pro Tip: With a meeting tool like Docket, you can assign tasks to meeting participants so that everyone can leave the meeting with a clear set of action items. This creates autonomy among participants as well as accountability to help ensure the team knows what part they need to play in the process.
After the meeting has concluded and everyone’s thoughts and ideas have been captured, there is one more step to finalize the discussion. Make sure everyone has a clear copy of the notes, decisions and action items. This can provide the team with a final push to move forward on the decisions and actions discussed and can help assure you, the designer, that you will get anything you are waiting on to move forward.
Pro Tip: Docket allows you to quickly share the artifacts of the meeting by sharing the recap, giving participants notification that the notes are ready for consumption.
As digital designers, we must leverage a variety of skills to be successful. Many of these skills are forms of communication that we must be able to hone to perfect our craft. In your quest for better meetings, remember to start with solid preparation, providing focus, sharing visuals to aid the discussion, and collaborate on documenting decisions and actions. Give Docket a try and good luck making meetings one of your top design skills!