Better Meetings

The ultimate guide to product meetings

Illustration of a product manager contemplating their meeting calendar

For product managers, meetings are where product strategy and outstanding project execution begin. But that also means having a lot of meetings.

Like … a lot of meetings.

If you’re a product manager, time management is more important for you because it’s literally your job to be in meetings. Whether it’s talking to customers, tracking how work is moving forward, or encouraging teams to do their best work, your meetings are a big part of how you get your work done. 

To help you prioritize and organize, we’ve created a cheat sheet with sample agendas for the most important meetings for product managers (with tweets and inspiration from those doing the job every day).

Types of product meetings 

Product meetings fall into six categories. Some of these categories overlap, but we’ve found it’s most helpful to think of product meetings in these buckets: 

  • Ideation meetings: jam sessions, brainstorming, etc.

  • Planning meetings: project kick-offs, feature requests, etc.

  • Operational meetings: sprint planning, daily standups, design reviews, etc.

  • Team meetings: a decision-based alternative for people who don’t like status meetings

  • Retrospectives: sprint-specific or monthly review meetings

  • Customer research: research calls with users 

Ideation meetings 💡

Ideation meetings are fun because they focus on what’s possible, not what is. Either as formal brainstorming sessions or informal jam sessions, ideation meetings bring together product managers, designers, and a developer to talk about how to make a product better.

Product ideation meetings plan new features and run through use cases, spanning from massive overhauls to small tweaks that will make the user experience that much better.

According to Todd Henry, creativity expert and author of Herding Tigers, successful creative brainstorm meetings depend on a bit of homework. A few days before your meeting, send a note to all attendees that includes just two things:

1. Problem definition: Be clear about the problem you need to solve. Describe why it’s a problem for users, and include customer quotes about the problem if you can.

2. A call-out for ideas: Alignment on direction should happen in a group, but some people brainstorm best when they’re alone. Ask people to come up with three ideas before the meeting. 

During the meeting, follow a set of agenda items designed to optimize your brainstorming time. Have a glance at this creative brainstorm meeting agenda template to find out what they are.

Planning meetings (or kick-off meetings) ⚽

Planning meetings are fun because they happen before project execution, when everyone is still fresh and optimistic. Invite your tactical, get-$hit-done folks to these meetings.

Product feature kick-offs

Product feature kick-offs mark the official start of new feature development. While ideation meetings are “blue sky,” kick-off meetings bring teams back down to earth by clarifying scope of work, removing ambiguity, and creating accountability with stakeholders. The goal of the kick-off meeting is to make sure team members understand how to complete their objectives.

Successful kick-off meetings need a solid agenda and follow-ups. Adrian Neumeyer, founder of Tactical Project Manager, created this detailed project kick-offmeeting template for anyone looking to start a project with confidence. 

Sprint planning

Product teams usually have a backlog of items to complete, whether it’s to fix bugs, redesign screens, or develop new features. Sprint planning meetings define what can realistically be accomplished in your next sprint, which can be anywhere from a week to a month long. Your product roadmap should be visible to all team members during sprint planning, so you can make sure it’s guiding all the decision-making that happens.

Here’s what you’ll cover in a sprint planning meeting:

  • Review user story backlog

  • Agree on backlog items in next sprint

  • Discuss team capacity for new backlog items

  • Assign backlog items

  • Q&A

Tip: Use past sprint planning agenda items to create future agenda items, so you’re always keeping up with what did or didn’t get done during your last sprint. Effective meetings FTW!

Operational meetings

Operational meetings happen when projects are in progress. These meetings are any conversations needed to keep project and initiatives moving forward, whether they happen within one team or across multiple teams that need to understand each other’s work. 

Sprint demo 

A sprint demo is a hype meeting. When you’re in the weeds with larger feature development, sometimes it’s a morale booster to stop and show off your progress to everyone involved.

Product manager Paweł Łubiarz recommends telling a meaningful story with your sprint demo. Get people excited with product storytelling by using his agenda template for your own sprint demo.

Daily standups

Daily standups are 10-minute meetings that happen every day to keep teams on track to complete their current sprint’s objectives.

Daily standups shouldn’t have formal vibes. They’re lightning-round style meetings that ask every participant to briefly answer these questions:

  • Which objectives did you complete yesterday?

  • Which objectives are you completing today?

  • Are there any blockers preventing you from completing your objectives?

Design reviews

Design reviews happen between UX designers, product managers, and sometimes developers or other team members to review multiple options for a feature. These meetings are focused on providing feedback and direction at the right time, so that designers have the information they need to complete their objectives.

As a product manager, this is your chance to bring user feedback to UX designers, so you’re always solving problems with your customers in mind.

UX designer Jessi Bradshaw says, “The key to design feedback meetings is being clear what needs to be decided, and who should be there.” Use Bradshaw’s simple design review meeting template to run your own design check-in.

Team meetings 🗓️

If your team hates daily standups, there’s a better alternative: the team meeting that focuses on decisions instead of status updates.

Andy Johns, partner at Unusual Ventures, says that the majority of project roadblocks come from decisions that haven’t yet been made by management teams. Team meetings solve this problem by gathering function leads in product, design, engineering, and marketing once or twice per week, depending on the volume of decisions that need to be made. 

Before every meeting, each team member should bring a list of decisions they need to make, which will be discussed in real-time at the meeting. Get the full template for Johns’ team meeting and start moving away from daily standups (if that makes sense for your team).

Retrospectives 👓

Retrospectives happen at the end of a sprint or after a product or feature launch. Also called “sprint retro meetings”, they’re a time for meaningful reflection, focusing on what your team did well and what could have been improved during a sprint that just happened. 

Agile coach Maria Chec recommends doing “regular retrospectives and frequent, ad hoc postmortems” so that your sprints are always improving. Retrospectives are where teams share data on any milestones or metrics that happened during the sprint, which usually leads to insights about the successes or failures within the sprint.

But there’s more to retrospectives than looking back—there’s a fair amount of looking forward, too. Use Maria Chec’s sprint retro meeting agenda template to best structure your retrospective for sprint improvement. 

Customer calls ☎️

It’s not an internal meeting, but we couldn’t neglect including the customer call. It’s too important for product managers!

If you don’t know your customers, you can’t create the best product for them — full stop. Also known generally as “research calls,” customer calls are your chance to collect information about your ideal user’s needs, problems, goals, and pain points. 

Customer calls may feel intimidating, but they become less so when you know the right questions to ask and do enough of them that they feel more like conversations. Customer calls should, at a basic level, reveal:

  • Why they started searching for a product like yours

  • Why they chose your product

  • How your product can work better for them

  • Where your product is shining for them

  • Who they needed approval from to buy your product (if B2B)

  • Feedback on a particular feature (if relevant) or integration

If you’re a product manager in the B2B space, this market research call agenda template by Hubspot could help make customer calls a little less intimidating. 

How to run better product meetings with Vowel 

Product managers are in a lot of meetings. Vowel makes those meetings more efficient by letting you:

1. Set and share an agenda for every meeting (you can even add timers for each topic)
Vowel meeting agenda
2. Auto-transcribe your conversations and bookmark key moments
Live meeting transcription in Vowel
3. Take collaborative meeting notes with team members (and private notes for yourself on research calls)
The Vowel in-meeting experience including live transcription, collaborative notes, reactions and comments
4. Assign action items in your notes so takeaways and are super clear for meeting attendees
Shared meeting notes in Vowel
5. Save and share relevant clips on decisions made, insights reached, team needs, and customer feedback that’s valuable (you can even organize by folder!)
Share clips of meetings in Vowel
6. Keep all your cloud recordings in one spot so you can easily reference and search them
Keyword search across recorded meetings in Vowel

Just because you’re in a lot of meetings doesn’t mean you need to be overwhelmed by them. Try Vowel for free with your Google account and see how you can better plan, host, and act on your meetings (it’s more efficient than Zoom — we promise!).