Deliver a people-friendly Product Review

Written by Tim Feeley on

With limited time and no guarantees that attendees are up-to-speed on your product, how you communicate during your Product Review is as important as the content itself. Plan with your specific audience in mind to make the most of your time together.

No two organizations “do Product Reviews” the same way. In fact, at larger organizations (like Google), different product areas have different expectations for Product Reviews.

And—hold on to your hat—even within the same department, it’s possible that the meeting on your calendar called Product Review will serve a different purpose between occurrences.

Spoiler alert: There’s no magic series of events, or recitations of Product Mangers past that make a meeting a Product Review.

Meeting naming conventions aside: these recurring meetings tend to involve stakeholders and other cross-functional partners and usually have an agenda that includes:

  • Looking back: What did the team finish, launch (or kill) lately; how did it go? What did we learn? What can we apply?
  • Looking around: How is our product performing now? What are current, past and potential customers saying and doing? What does the market landscape look like? How are things going internally within the org?
  • Looking ahead: What is the team working towards next (e.g. shipping code, researching, prototyping)? What decisions did we make, or have to make?

You’ll notice that this list has a lot of question marks! And, in 30 minutes (maybe 60 if you’re lucky), there’s no way you’ll be able to answer all of them. Nor should you!

As Product people, we’re constantly going on about “product-market fit” and “user empathy.” And we should!

Not only in our products, but in how we approach internal alignment and communication—we should make sure we understand who we’re presenting to, what they want out of us, and what we need from them.

Be intentional

Hint: there’s no such thing as “just to give an update. If your review is nothing more than an update, then I’d suggest writing an email and giving everyone back their time.

The first thing that helped me craft better product reviews was to get out of the mindset that I was there to inform. While that certainly was a byproduct of my presentations, it wasn’t the primary, or even most important part.

Personally, I view Product Reviews as a way to achieve an outcome I wouldn’t otherwise be able to, without the synchronous attention of the people who are attending.

Create a plan

I’ve refined a lightweight framework that I still use to this day when planning out my product reviews, but it really can be used for any communication where you want to be more intentional about delivering an actionable message.

In this document, I’ve outlined some of the questions I ask of myself and of my attendees to make sure I understand why we’re here.

In the margins, I’ve also added some tips and tricks that I look for, too.

Grab a copy; feel free to make a copy and adapt it to your needs. And, of course, send any feedback my way.