How To Communicate Effectively With Stakeholders
As product managers, we’re tasked with being multilingual. Not in the sense of speaking multiple languages, but in the know-and-be-able-to-translate-key-jargon-from-engineering-code-bases-to-synthesizing-legal-contracts-to-deciphering-marketing-a/b-test-results kind of speaking. This is the type of communication product managers must have as a core skill. It’s the kind of speaking that enables us to effectively corral, influence, and work across an organization to drive product enhancements. The session focused on communicating and collaborating with the four main functions we interact with all the time: senior leadership, our own teams, key cross-functional stakeholders, and our customers. Read on to learn what we learned from these two awesome leaders in the space.
Communicating with Executives and Leadership
Typically at the point when senior management is involved, you’re working on something high-profile. So how do you bring an already time-deprived group up-to-speed on progress? How do you communicate that a launch won’t go as planned? How do you meet with an opinionated group to review designs in a productive (non-disruptive) way?
- Send presentations, decks, and other materials before a meeting. Don’t assume anyone reviews the info before your chat, but it’s good to reference. Bonus: Try pre-printing materials and allow the group 5 minutes to silently review in the meeting.
- Know the facts and own your metrics. Be data driven. Validate decisions by including user testing videos or quotes. Show that you’ve thought through all possible outcomes.
- Be specific about meeting goals and dictate how you’d like their participation. Set limitations. E.g. “This is a go/no-go decision meeting for the functionality of feature X. We’ll be putting design suggestions in the ‘parking lot’ and saving them for future testing.”
- Take notes and close the loop. If someone asks for a follow-up, make sure you do it.
- Proactively send high level updates after the meeting. This can be as simple as status updates with red/yellow/green status, due dates, and blockers.
- Provide your audience with too much detail. Make sure you prioritize what you need them to know to make key decisions. The C-Suite thinks about the business as a whole. When creating your presentation, focus on how your product fits into their business objectives.
- Surprise the audience with bad news. If you do, expect to be pummeled with questions. To avoid this, reach out to attendees 1:1 beforehand with the bad news and use the group meeting to come to a resolution.
- Waste their time by not being prepared. This should be self-explanatory. Never think you can just wing it.
- Ignore the dynamics in the room. Watch people’s reactions and adjust accordingly. If someone is confused or irritated, make sure you address that to bring clarity and defuse tension. If necessary, change your tone, speed up the presentation, or ask questions based on what you’re seeing.
Learn more at Paul Carr media and find out how our media training sessions can help you communicate better in any setting. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the type of coaching you’re looking for and how many participants!