Meeting with clients and stakeholders is an essential part of building quality software products. These meetings can occur as often as needed depending on the project and the methodology being used. However, it can be difficult to get the most out of these meetings. A lack of communication, unclear goals, and disorganization can all contribute to participants feeling frustrated and that their time has not been used well. At FrogSlayer, we have several key principles that keep our meetings productive for both us and our clients. Though some of these may seem obvious, these are our surefire ways to rock client meetings.
1. Start On Time
Starting on time is key for any professional engagement, but being on time for a demo requires preparation in advance. When the meeting is scheduled, ensure that everyone who is needed is available before inviting them. This prevents key people from being absent or late. Then, ensure the meeting location is outfitted with the necessary seclusion and resources, such as a projector or video conferencing equipment. For most offices this will mean using a conference room. To avoid time conflicts with the room, utilize a shared calendar or more formal reservation system. Before the meeting, check that the required equipment is working smoothly, in particular projectors and internet connections.
2. Maintain Professionalism
Another key aspect of holding meetings with clients is maintaining professionalism. Dressing appropriately aids in conveying a professional approach. In less formal environments such as startups it won’t be necessary to wear a suit and tie, but dressing neatly and cleanly is still important. Don’t answer emails or texts during the meeting unless they’re critical, and leave the room if you absolutely have to take an important call. The main purpose of these types of meetings isn’t to show everything that’s been added to the software, but to get feedback from clients, so be sure that the presenter isn’t accidentally preventing the client from voicing their questions and comments.
3. Have a Purpose & Agenda
When preparing for the next milestone, the development and QA team should know what the purpose and agenda is for the demo so that they can concentrate on those features. In addition to development and testing it is extremely helpful to specifically test the features that will be shown to the client. It is important to not fall into the trap of creating “demoware” that is designed to look good, but incurs large amounts of technical debt. The software does not have to be bug free or completely polished to show to a client, but there should not be any issues that interfere with demonstrating crucial functionality.
4. Track & Review Action Items
In order to keep focus leading up to the meeting, the goals for the demo should be broken down into action items for the team to address by the time the meeting takes place. During the meeting these action items should be outlined at a feature level, and then can be used as an agenda. By the conclusion of the meeting, each item should have been addressed. This also makes for easier note taking, as questions and comments can be recorded under their relevant headings. Make sure that at least one person is taking notes about any key information, questions and answers, and action items that will need to be addressed later.
5. Follow-Up Afterwards
After a meeting is over, thank your client for their time, and have everyone who took notes share them with each other to ensure that no information was missed. From these notes, all of the action items for the client and the team should be compiled. These can include sending over logos, fixing a bug, or setting up the next meeting. One technique to avoid missing communicating these items is to send out a post-meeting email outlining what the next steps are for the team and what resources the client agree to provide, which often include items such as design decisions and sending over site copy.
Maximizing the use of clients’ and teams’ time is essential to creating great software products. Meetings will be much more valuable for all parties when the advice above is put into practice.. Furthermore, each of these items builds on each other, so by working on one you are improving another. For example, better preparation can include setting goals beforehand, and will lead to starting on time and being able to address the action items. By following these tips, you can gather far more useful information from client meetings while leaving your clients feeling more satisfied and involved in the development process.
Do you have any other tips that you’ve found help make meetings more productive? Let us know in the comments below.