Wednesday, July 24, 2024
InícioUSER RESEARCHEffective user research meetings need a template

Effective user research meetings need a template

Using a plug-and-play approach for team, project, and career meetings

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Most UX Researchers I know avoid meetings like the plague. Especially when the goal or agenda is unclear, we hate to waste our time on anything that takes us away from what we do best — studying our users and bringing insights to our teams.

But once you’ve pruned the unnecessary events from your calendar, there will still be meetings where your attention or contribution is useful. These are unavoidable, but they can be improved. And one way to do that is to structure them around templates.

Having a predefined structure brings a goal and agenda to the meeting by default. It also saves preparation time and ultimately makes things predictable for all the attendees. Even for meetings that you don’t lead, you can templatize how you prepare.

In this article, we’ll offer templates for some of the most common meetings UX Researchers have, covering everything from team updates to career development.

Meetings with your team

The daily stand-up is a staple on digital product teams, but can easily drift into unfocused territory. Maintain sharp concentration with a simple yet effective template:

Focus areas: Share your main goals for the day and any major project updates.Blockers: If you’re facing an obstacle, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. This is where the collective expertise of your team shines.Personal share (optional, but encouraged): Especially in remote work cultures, foster team connection by briefly sharing something personal, (e.g., an exciting project, a fun weekend plan, etc.).

For efficiency’s sake, consider the following tips:

Keep it brief: Just because it occupies a 30-minute block on the calendar doesn’t mean it needs to take up the whole time. If done efficiently, even a 15-minute stand-up can be valuable.Make it predictable: Have a designated meeting leader, such as the team manager, and establish a consistent member update sequence (e.g., alphabetical order).

Commonly misunderstood, one-on-one meetings with a supervisor are less a venue for detailed status updates, but more an opportunity to look at the big picture. Think about these three core areas:

Organization and team strategy: Gather any insights from your manager about the team or company’s direction. Also ask, “Is there anything I can specifically do to support your goals?” This shows initiative and sometimes creates opportunites for advancement.Targeted feedback: Present a recent challenge you faced (with specific examples) and solicit constructive feedback from your manager, helping you to continuously improve.Career trajectory: Openly discuss your aspirations. Understanding the path to promotion and the necessary skills will guide your development.

Meetings about your research

Stakeholder interviews are often useful for understanding a project’s true purpose and the underlying assumptions that drive it. Here’s what to focus on:

Do your homework: If possible, gather background information about your stakeholders (personality, past projects, etc.). This will allow you to tailor your questions and head off potential concerns.Context and perspectives: What’s the background of this project? Why is it happening now? What decisions will this research influence? Pay close attention to any discrepancies in perspectives among stakeholders.The core problem: What specific issue are you aiming to solve with this project? This is an opportunity to uncover their problems and understand their assumptions.

From there, a successful study kickoff meeting gathers all the logistical information and other specifics you need to get going. In a previous article, I’ve modeled language for how to elicit this information, but here’s a checklist to make sure nothing is overlooked:

Methodology: What research methods will be employed?Participants: Who are your target users? How many will you recruit, and how will you find them?Stimuli: Will you use a live site/app or a prototype? Address all access logistics (logins, test accounts, etc.).Timeline: Are there any date changes? Account for holidays, potential delays, etc.

But an often forgotten element here is the importance of demonstrating your competence, communicating clearly, and assuring stakeholders that the project is being left in good hands.

Communication: Some people live on Slack, while others won’t advance the project without a meeting on the calendar. Establish your preferred communication channels and meeting frequency.Prior materials: Be ready to discuss any relevant work you’ve done in a similar domain, or with the same methodology. If applicable, request access to existing research questions, scripts, or other documents.

Meetings about your career

Informational interviews help expand your professional network and can offer valuable insights for career development. Here’s how to make them count:

Define your goals: Vague questions like “What’s your top piece of advice?” and “What should most people ask you but don’t?” can be irritating. Instead, ask yourself what your current challenges are and where you envision yourself professionally, then prepare a handful of questions relevant to that.Do some preparation: Research your interviewee’s background (e.g., by using their LinkedIn or personal website) and ask about specific experiences relevant to your goals (e.g., “How did you transition from [X] to [Y] role?”).Be a resource, not just a taker: Informational interviews are a two-way street. Can you share insights from your own experience, offer to provide feedback on their work, or refer them to potentially useful resources or events?

As the recent volatility in the tech sector has painfully shown, it’s wise to keep your options open and take requests for job interviews when they come in. Here’s a proactive approach to early stages of the of the interview cycle, such as the phone screen or technical and behavioral interviews:

Prepare the highlight reel: Have concise summaries ready for each role, describing key accomplishments and areas of expertise. Have a story or two ready to go when time allows to add depth and humanity.Anticipate FAQs: Practice your answers to frequent questions like “What are your career aspirations?” and “Why are you interested in this role?” Use compiled lists of interview questions for UX Researchers for further inspiration.Your assessment: Prepare insightful questions about the company’s culture, team structure, and expectations to evaluate if the role aligns with your goals.

As you advance to later stages of the interview cycle, the agendas will largely be set for you. Still, remember the importance of making sure it’s the right opportunity for you. Prepare questions to gauge if a role aligns with your aspirations:

Define your ideal role: What are your priorities? (e.g., team size, company culture, mentorship opportunities, UX maturity). Ask questions to assess if the company matches your vision.Team dynamics: Learn about the working style and processes of the team through questions about communication expectations, performance reviews, learning and development, etc.Typical day: Gain a realistic understanding of day-to-day responsibilities through questions like, “Could you describe a typical workweek?”

The bottom line

A good meeting has a clear goal and structure.

Rather than reinventing the wheel for each meeting or defaulting to whatever was done before, consider a templatized approach. This method ensures that time spent away from research is well-spent and contributes to the larger goals.

In this article, we showed examples of templates in three common meeting types: team meetings (1:1s and standups), research meetings (stakeholder interviews and project kickoffs), and career meetings (informational and job interviews). However, this approach could be applied to any routine meetings that might be held within your team or in the context of your projects.

It can be challenging to try and impose a structure on a meeting that you don’t lead. In such situations, communicate the potential benefits of using a meeting template (e.g. “We’ll reach our goals more quickly and efficiently!”). You’ll often find that people are receptive to ideas to improve an otherwise ineffective meeting.

By strategically employing meeting templates, UX Researchers can optimize their meeting processes, reclaim valuable time, and ultimately elevate the quality of their research.