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Published on October 9, 2018

How to Construct a Killer Meeting Agenda That is Simple and Effective

How to Construct a Killer Meeting Agenda That is Simple and Effective

Have you ever attended a meeting and you were left confused what the meeting was meant to achieve after it ended?

It’s a common occurrence; you attend your regular monthly organization meeting, a special task force meeting or a social group committee meeting promptly that went on and on and on. When it ended, you were left scratching your head wondering what to take away from the meeting.

You did your due diligence and carried a pen and paper, but nothing important was said that you could jot down. You might remember a few funny quips by someone who kept interrupting the speaker or the personal anecdotes of the chair who gave too many of her own opinions, but in the end you left feeling tired, dissatisfied and unsure what the purpose of the meeting was:

“What was this meeting supposed to accomplish? Was there any meeting agenda?”

If this is something you’ve experienced, it’s a sign of a poorly run meeting. Unfortunately, many meetings are a waste of time.

No wonder many of us dread meetings in general.

How to change your meetings from flat to awesome

The problem with ineffective meetings is that people don’t plan them properly, and yet they expect the meetings to be successful. Like most things in life, if you don’t plan important activities you plan to fail.

For a meeting to be successful, you should have a good plan for it. That entails setting a clear, actionable and distinctive agenda that will direct the course of the meeting so that it doesn’t go off on a tangent.

Think about what you want to achieve in the meeting ahead of time. That way you‘ll prepare a suitable message, attendees will have key points to take away from the meeting that directly address issues at hand, and everyone will walk away from the meeting feeling like their time was well spent.

But how do you construct a solid agenda for a meeting that is worth the time?

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Steps to design a solid agenda for any meeting

According to organizational psychologist, speaker, and leadership team consultant Roger Schwarz, an effective agenda sets clear expectations for what needs to occur before and during a meeting. Schwarz writes in a Harvard Business Review article:[1]

“It helps team members prepare, allocates time wisely, quickly gets everyone on the same topic, and identifies when the discussion is complete… If problems still occur during the meeting, a well-designed agenda increases the team’s ability to effectively and quickly address them.”

Of course, there’s no magic wand to make meeting agendas pop. But, the following tips will help you design a simple and effective agenda that make every meeting you run more effective and enjoyable for everyone:

1. Define the goal for the meeting

Come up with a clear and definitive goal for the meeting beforehand.

What is the purpose of holding the meeting? Is it to introduce new policy guidelines, generate new potential promotional offers, detail issues that need resolution, plan an activity like a donation drive for a local charity, or something else?

Determining the exact purpose for the meeting establishes a clear and focused goal, so your meetings don’t veer off and take an unfocused or aimless turn.

If you need to research and gather more information about the goal of the meeting, better do so before the meeting starts. That way you’ll arrive armed with all the information necessary to run the meeting smoothly.

2. Outline discussion topics

List the topics, themes or issues that will be discussed at the meeting.

Pick topics that affect the whole team as opposed to individuals, and that require the whole team’s input to solve adequately, such as “How do we best allocate shared resources?,” or “How can we improve employee-management relations?”

Keep the meeting discussions to less than 5 topics. Too many discussion topics lead to long agendas that seem daunting and might not be read.

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Beware outlining agenda topics that are not interdependent may cause members to disengage in discussions or not attend the meeting at all.

3. Identify who is expected to attend

Name the people who should be attending the meeting. Tapping members in this way helps to motivate these individuals and others to attend.

Contact the members ahead of time to quickly hash out the agenda and to assign roles to them. This will get them more invested in the meeting agenda, and can help to develop new leaders from within the team.

If someone other than you is presenting some part of the agenda or moderating the meeting, list those people too. Send out their names in the agenda at least a week ahead of time to keep everyone informed and on the same page.

4. Ask for input from the other members

Encourage everyone else attending the meeting to get involved in setting the agenda items, instead of dishing out goals and objectives set only by the leaders in a close-door meeting.

Ask the group or team members to submit their suggestions for agenda items, questions about issues to be discussed in the upcoming meeting, or other matters that need to be addressed in the team setting.

Encouraging members’ participation in setting the agenda helps them become more invested in the meeting and motivated to achieve the goals. Schwarz advises:

“If you ultimately decide not to include an item, be accountable — explain your reasoning to the team member who suggested it.”

5. Allocate time for each discussion item

Decide on the appropriate amount of time to allocate to each agenda item, and inform members exactly how much time will be spent on each discussions topic.

Be careful not to over-schedule time to agenda items. Let the weight and priority of the topic dictate the appropriate amount of time allocated to it. This way members will not spend too much time on less important issues at the expense of weightier issues, and the meeting will not overrun.

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The agenda is your road map. It should indicate all of the stops on the way to reaching your goal, without allowing too many unnecessary stops and side trips.

6. Indicate how members should prepare for the meeting

Meetings often suck because people are unprepared.

Instruct team members to give thought to the reasons the meeting is happening and the desired outcome ahead of time. This means you need to send out the agenda with sufficient time before the meeting.

Ask members to research and read background material on the agenda items. Tell them to come prepared with their initial thoughts about each topic.

Also, list the material or tools they need to bring with them for the meeting, if any, such as a voice recorder, pen and paper.

7. Add a Q&A section for live discussions

This should be added at the end of your meeting agenda, where you let participants ask questions.

According to a study published in the journal Management Research Review,[2] employees find meetings the most productive when they gain from it resources that help them perform better in their roles.

To this we say: allocate time for members to ask pertinent questions or even raise off-topic matters towards the end of the meeting.

Live Q&As provide immediate gratification for participants. Those who are able to voice their questions feel like they are being heard and it helps them get the feedback they seek to excel.

Besides, you can gather valuable insights on the feelings, frustrations or information gap that exists in specific areas from participants’ questions, which can help inform the agenda for the next meeting.

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8. Set a date, start and end time, and location

Make sure you stick to the meeting start and end time, even if there are only three people in the room. Word will get round that you are always punctual and people will come on time, or not come at all.

If people keep showing up late, or do not show up at all, this may be your cue to change the meeting venue, time or agenda items.

9. Make provision for a meeting review

If your team or group meets regularly, two questions can inform a simple and effective review of the meeting in the end: “What did we do well?” and “What do we want to do differently for the next meeting?”

Investing five or 10 minutes to answer these two simple questions will cultivate a sense of making progress in meetings, enhance team performance, and ultimately remove participants’ meeting remorse.

10. Leave room to celebrate accomplishments

After you have run a successful and engaging meeting, make a point of highlighting and celebrating the achievements you made in the meeting.

Did you achieve the goals you had set for the meeting? Celebrate that and any other successes in the meeting as a way to foster team spirit and morale.

Consider also individual member milestones. Maybe one of the shy members made a significant contribution for the first time in the meeting. Celebrate that too, as a way to give recognition to participants. Studies show that 83% of employees find more fulfillment in recognition than in rewards and gifts.[3]

Bottom line

People dread meetings when the meeting lacks structure and organization. You’ll be able to overcome this challenge by being proactive in designing a clear and focused meeting agenda.

Take the advice in this article and apply the suggestions before you’re hosting your next meeting.

Featured photo credit: Štefan Štefančík via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur. He is also the founding editor of Web Writer Spotlight.

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Last Updated on October 17, 2018

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

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Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

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Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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