All meetings have a purpose. Some meetings are brainstorming sessions. Other meetings are strategy sessions to achieve a particular goal. Some meetings are debriefs from still other meetings. Whether you are gathering to fill in your employees on the stunning third-quarter results or to practice a pitch for a new client, your meeting will run more smoothly, efficiently, and productively with a meticulously crafted meeting agenda.
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The Importance of a Meeting Agenda
A Meeting Without an Agenda Is like a Road Trip Without an Itinerary
As a busy professional, you lose patience when you feel your valuable time is being wasted. This happens more often than you may realize. For many executives, meetings take up two of the five days of the workweek.
All the more reason to make sure that every meeting is essential. Ask first if the topics can’t be covered another way — through email, perhaps, or via a phone call with the key players. If you determine that a face-to-face meeting is imperative, write a meeting agenda to outline the discussion points, and assign times for each speaker.
You know the frustration you feel when a meeting falls ten minutes behind schedule while everyone politely waits for Susan to finish gushing about her trip to Bermuda? Meeting agendas act as gentle reminders to everyone assembled that time is valuable and to please stay on point.
Well-Crafted Agendas Are Inclusive
Scheduling a staff meeting signals to coworkers that their input is needed, or that assignments need to be made. When you follow up the meeting invitation with a detailed agenda, participants know to prepare. Workers actually say they enjoy participating in meetings if there is a clear objective and pertinent information is shared.
Smart Meeting Agendas Are Goal-Oriented
Meeting agendas set all topics to be covered. Choose different speakers for each topic, and ideally, allot times for each speaker. If it’s a brainstorming session, consider an agenda that lists expected outcomes. For example: “Outline the plan for developing our mentoring program; set timelines; make staff assignments.”
Agendas serve as a guide for the meeting facilitator, keep everyone in sync, and provide a format for the person taking the meeting minutes to follow.
How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda
So, how do you go about crafting this all-important meeting agenda? Apply these 8 useful tips:
1. Solicit Feedback Ahead of Time
Your bosses and colleagues will be more engaged if you ask for their input. Getting their buy-in will make it more likely that they will attend the meeting and champion its outcomes.
A week before the meeting, make it a point to visit with some of the key players at your company and simply ask, “Would you like to include anything on the meeting agenda?”
2. Follow Proper Meeting Agenda Etiquette
After you’ve drafted the agenda, be sure to run it by your supervisor, your supervisor’s boss, and each person cited on the agenda. Never include a speaker on the agenda without first taking this precaution. Avoid listing workers who are out of town or attending other meetings.
If the key player on a particular piece of business is away, ask another staffer to fill in for her. As a courtesy, be sure to let them both know you have taken this step.
Once the meeting agenda is approved and the speakers are set, email the agenda to all meeting attendees in advance. Take care to get RSVPs to the meeting. You want to avoid any surprises.
3. Respect the Timeline
If you have reserved the office conference room for an hour, that is the longest your meeting should last.
At some companies, other groups will have reserved the conference room directly after your group leaves. So ideally, draft your meeting agenda so that your team will have left the room at least five minutes before the next meeting starts.
4. Find an Organizing Principle for the Meeting Agenda
Streamline your agenda so that the attendees will leave having a clear sense of the outcomes. You may want to prioritize, listing the most important projects that must be discussed first.
Sometimes, it makes sense to organize these projects by their deadlines. Other times, it makes sense to list these projects by their importance to the firm.
5. Consider the Number of People Who Should Report
Five minutes of uninterrupted time is often long enough for an update on a particular meeting. It’s the interruptions that add time!
If your senior V.P. of marketing tends to get flustered or veer off track when interrupted, consider a meeting agenda that leaves Q&A for the last ten minutes of the meeting. Then, be sure to enforce it. You can gently interrupt the interrupter and say, “As you know, Paul, we’ve left time at the end for questions. Right now, let’s let Rick finish his update.”
6. Pay Attention to the Order of the Speakers
In some companies, senior management speaks first. In other companies, junior associates do. When figuring out the speaker order, be sure it aligns with your company’s culture.
That said, never include anyone on a meeting agenda who does not need to report. Doing so will just make the meeting run long. When listing speakers on the agenda, deciding whether to include their titles will again depend on your company’s culture.
In a more casual environment, you might just list first names. In a more formal environment, you might list first and last names and include titles.
7. Format Meeting Agendas in the Same Way
A meeting agenda should be made on the organization’s letterhead — or at a minimum, include the company logo. Place the title for the meeting and the date at the top of the agenda, along with the meeting’s projected start and end time.
A meeting agenda should be in outline format in a readable type size. Find a clean design for the agenda, and use it each time for consistency. The font should be easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Geneva or Arial. If a template already exists for meeting agendas, simply use that. If one does not exist, create one. (See the next section)
8. Include a List of Documents Needed for the Meeting
Oftentimes in a meeting, the group will be asked to react to a report or proposal, and it is helpful to list these documents at the bottom of the agenda.
Additionally, it will save time if you send the documents together in advance of the meeting so everyone attending will have time to review them.
If laptops are required, be sure to let attendees know in advance.
Meeting Agenda Templates
As long as there have been meetings, there have been meeting agendas. So chances are, someone in your company knows of a clean, easy-to-read meeting agenda template that you can use. But in not, consider one of these:
Agenda Template #1 – Planning
Mentor Program Planning Meeting Agenda
Location: First-floor Conference Room
Date: November 18, 2019
Time: 1-2:30 p.m. ET
- Background on Purpose of a Mentor Program, Cheryl Smith, Director, Human Resources (1-1:15 p.m.)
- a. Evidence regarding employee engagement
- b. Need to groom rising stars
- Recruitment of Mentors/Mentees, Max Marcus, Associate Director, HR (1:15-1:35 p.m.)
- a. Other corporate models
- b. Brainstorm criteria
- Mentor Program Requirements, Seth Walsh, HR Intern (1:35-1:55 p.m.)
- a. Pros and cons of structured mentor meetings
- b. Brainstorm requirements
- Implementation, Cheryl Smith (1:55-2:20 p.m.)
- a. Timeframe for department heads to identify participants
- b. Pilot program rollout
- i. 1st participant training session
- ii. pilot program rollout
- iii. quarterly debriefs
- c. Program evaluation
- Next Steps, Max Marcus (2:20-2:25 p.m.)
Agenda Template #2 – Information
WXYZ Meeting Agenda
Objective: To create a viable list of businesses to cold call
Meeting Lead: Mary Starsky
Date: November 20, 2019
Location: 16th Floor Conference Room B
Time: 4 p.m.-5 p.m. ET
Introductions 4 p.m.-4:05 p.m.
- John Smith—Presenter 4:05 p.m.-4:20 p.m. Companies contacted
- Marianne Legit—Presenter 4:20 p.m.-4:35 p.m. Potential leads
- Sylvia Stretch—Presenter 4:35 p.m.-4:55 p.m. New canvassing techniques
- Q&A [Only if time]
Preparation for Meeting
- Please read: [List and attach documents]
- Please bring: [i.e. Laptop, suggestions, supplies]
Agenda Template #3 – Presentation
ZZZ Company Agenda
Date/Start and End Time: Nov. 21, 2019; 9 a.m. ET-10 a.m. ET
Location: Cafeteria, 12th Floor
Meeting called by: Steve Parks
- Welcome/Introduction – [Steve Parks, 9 a.m.-9:10 a.m.]
- New Product Line Overview – [Paul Aria, 9:10 a.m.-9:20 a.m.]
- Demonstrations – [Claire Ringis, 9:30 a.m.-9:40 a.m.]
- a. Whitening toothpaste
- b. Toothpaste that strengthens gums
- c. Toothpaste that fights plaque
- Product Marketing – [Steve Parks, 9:40 a.m.-9:50 a.m.]
- Discussion and Q & A [9:50 a.m.-9:55 a.m.]
- Next Steps – [To be distributed after the meeting]
When you write the meeting agenda, you control the meeting
Your aim should be to run a tight meeting. An intelligent agenda will help you do this. Leave enough time for discussion, but not too much time. Also, be sure to start your meetings on time.
When you take charge of crafting the meeting agenda, you are directing what course of action needs to be taken. Your ability to draft an effective meeting agenda will increase both meeting and follow-up productivity. These are two extraordinary feats.
Run the tightest meetings at your company, and your team’s performance will soar.
More About Productive Meetings
- 12 Secrets To a Super Productive Meeting You Should Know
- How to Kill Endless Meetings and Stay Productive
- How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)
- 11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity
Featured photo credit: Štefan Štefančík via unsplash.com