Learn How to Make Meetings Work for Designers in 6 Easy Steps Today
How can we make sure meetings are not soul-sucking but bring valuable insight into the creative work?
Any designer that works in a more conventional corporate environment knows the feeling of having their day interrupted because they just got a notification to join a meeting. And every single time, it just feels like it’s only here to steal precious hours of creative work.
For designers, meetings can be the ultimate killer of not only creativity but also productivity. The constant start and stop throughout the workday can really be damaging to the creative flow and, for that matter, the product they are working on. Not to mention that if their days are consumed by meetings, no actual design work gets done.
Is there value in meetings for designers?
Even if it doesn’t feel like it, it’s essential to understand that meetings are supposed to be beneficial for everyone in the company. And employees should be able to use it to exchange vital information and drive outcomes. However, these initial goals tend to get lost or even become reductant over time. At some point, employees will find themselves having unnecessary and unproductive meetings that somehow creeping in into their daily schedule. And, as mentioned, this can be troublesome for most employees, but especially designers.
But I believe that having structure — meetings included — can be highly beneficial for designers and creatives alike in a company. Structure doesn’t limit creativity; it actually allows people to be creative without spending time figuring out the corporate process. But for that, meetings need to be implemented correctly.
Tips for creative-friendly meetings
Suppose you are going to have meetings as a designer or any other profession for that matter. In that case, you should make sure that those meetings can bring something valuable to your work that justifies spending on it. And having worked in several corporate environments myself, I’ve gained some experience working against the grain and making meetings work for me. Here are a couple of tips:
Tip 1 — Enforce Limits With Your Meetings
To help the team stay focused on the meeting topic, encourage having meetings in 15- to 30-minute time slots. Also, block out your schedule to force people to only book meetings with you on specific days or times of the day (like the start or the end of the day). Just make sure that the times you allow for meetings work for your creative flow. This means that you should only have meetings when you tend to feel less inspired or motivated. Pro Tip: Use the Focus Time feature on Google Calendar to block specific times to work; this will automatically decline any new invites.
Tip 2 — Eliminate Unnecessary Meetings From Your Calendar
After some time in any company, it’s only natural to find yourself with a calendar filled with many random repetitive meetings, from old kick-off syncs to new deliverable reviews. Go through these meetings with your supervisor and ponder where and when your presence should be required. Maybe you’ll find meetings that will only require your presence on a bi-weekly or perhaps even monthly basis. Or try to see if you can remove yourself altogether from a particular type of meeting. Arguing that any valuable information that might come up can be quickly passed to you asynchronous. Either way, you must discuss with your manager and team that you need to choose wisely how you spend your time to continue producing good work.
Tip 3 — Ask for the Agenda Before Accepting the Invite
This one is critical: never go into a meeting without knowing its purpose. This may sound simple, but it can really be the difference between a successful meeting and a non-successful one. Meetings are often put on the calendar without a particular goal in mind, just to book the time with the people involved. But practically speaking, one shouldn’t accept spending 30 minutes to an hour of their own workday without knowing what it’s about or what they will do. If you receive an invite without a clear agenda, step forward and ask for one. Request knowing what’s the purpose of the meeting and the clear outcomes the person expects from it, so you can make an informed decision to accept it or not.
Tip 4 — Be Vocal during Meetings about Questions and Needs
We talked about designers asking for information, but they also should be able to use meetings as a tool to wonder or share relevant information. Designers tend to be incredibly proud of their ability to listen and reflect on challenges presented to them during any work interaction. But sometimes that can be difficult with specific meetings that can affect your work and day. During a meeting, use this time tactfully, don’t be afraid to share any roadblocks you have encountered during a project, and request assistance to solve them.
Tip 5 — Finish Strong and Leave Knowing What to Do Next
At the end of the meeting, make sure there is a next step for you to take that everyone involved can agree on. You need to leave the meeting with a set of clear actions and know precisely what the project priorities you need to focus on are. We all know how sometimes the communication in these meetings can feel like a game of Broken Telephone, and essential things mentioned can be misunderstood or even forgotten. To avoid future misalignment on a project, ask specifically what your next steps should be at the end of the meeting.
Tip 6 — Do a Follow-Up After the Meeting
After the meeting is over, it’s vital to do some proper follow-up with the respective stakeholders that were in the meeting. If you still have some questions or need further clarification on a topic, reach out via email or message right after the meeting. By this point, the conversation is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and questions will be easier to answer. Getting those answers right away will avoid future project complications or having to book yet another meeting. In the message, quickly summarise the information given to you, and ask if the information is correct or something is missing. Sending this type of message can also be very helpful to reference later when you are delivering the final product.
Designers (and everyone else) should be able to make meetings work for them. And although these tips may sound exhausting and even a bit uncomfortable, you will really be able to use meetings to your advantage with practice. And eventually, you’ll find yourself having fewer meetings and only attending the one you feel could be beneficial for you — and even fun. You might even help shape your company’s meeting culture along the way.
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