You spend an hour walking your client through your latest designs. She makes a bunch of comments, letting you know what she likes and doesn’t as you feverishly take notes to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Then you spend a week making changes, present them to the client … and discover that you totally misunderstood what she wanted. And have to spend another week redoing everything.
You’re frustrated, the client’s frustrated, and you’ve wasted hours of your precious time and talent.
It doesn’t have to be this way! At WorkLife, we’ve spoken with hundreds of leading design agencies about how they run successful client meetings.
Here are 5 things top design firms do to ensure happy clients and successful projects. And the good news is, you can apply them to just about any kind of meeting, from design reviews to project kickoffs.
1. Share your notes with clients
George Bernard Shaw famously said “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that is has taken place.” Too often, we filter what we hear through our own biases and opinions, so our memory of what was said and what was actually said don’t line up.
To be a great designer, you need to have strong opinions about everything from information architecture to color palettes. So when a client says something, it’s just too easy to hear what you want to hear.
Instead of scribbling private notes in your own notebook, take notes somewhere the client can see. That way, if you write something that doesn’t reflect what they had in mind, they can tell you right then and there. But don’t just count on the client speaking up. Check in with them during the meeting to make sure what you’ve written accurately reflects what they meant.
2. Be a detective
Often, clients have strong opinions about what they want, but they’re not clear why they want it. Your job is not only to listen to what the client is saying, but also to understand why they’re saying it—sometimes better than they do.
Imagine you’re a detective charged with understand the motives behind their opinions. When a client states an opinion, especially one you disagree with, resist your temptation to begrudgingly do what they say, or to show them all the reasons they’re wrong. Instead, get curious and start digging deeper.
Here are a few questions you can ask:
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- What goals are you trying to accomplish?
- What do you like about doing it that way?
- Where else have you seen something like that?
- What experience are you trying to create for your user/customer?
3. Assign next steps
A meeting’s effectiveness can be measured by how it affects the future. Way too often, meetings end without anyone knowing exactly what they’re supposed to do next.
If an action item comes up in the meeting, make sure to write it down separately from the notes, and assign it to a specific person—whether from your team or the client’s. Email the person after the meeting to make sure they understand their responsibilities.
4. Ask what was decided in each meeting
In his book, “Death By Meeting,” Patrick Lencioni recommends ending each meeting with the question: “What exactly have we decided here today?”
This serves 2 purposes:
- It ensures you actually make decisions
- It creates consensus
So many meetings consist of conversation where you discuss different options, but don’t actually agree on which ones you’ll try.
Spending just 5 minutes at the end of the meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page will save you a ton of hassle and headache down the road.
5. Share a meeting recap
Immediately after the meeting, send out a recap of the decisions that were made and next steps people committed to, including who committed to what. That way, if anything was misunderstood, it can be immediately flagged and corrected, and everyone will have a record of what was agreed during the meeting to refer back to. You can start the next meeting with a review of the recap to make sure everyone’s on track.
Stop wasting your time and talent
Taking these simple steps will save you countless hours and tons of frustration, and keep you focused on solving problems that matter.