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Last Updated on March 17, 2020

How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda (With Templates)

How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda (With Templates)

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.

In this article, you will learn how to create an effective meeting agenda and host productive meetings.

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.

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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.”

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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

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Date: November 18, 2019

Time: 1-2:30 p.m. ET

Agenda

  1. 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
  2. Recruitment of Mentors/Mentees, Max Marcus, Associate Director, HR (1:15-1:35 p.m.)
    • a. Other corporate models
    • b. Brainstorm criteria
  3. Mentor Program Requirements, Seth Walsh, HR Intern (1:35-1:55 p.m.)
    • a. Pros and cons of structured mentor meetings
    • b. Brainstorm requirements
  4. 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
  5. 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

Call-in Number/Code

Agenda Items

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Introductions 4 p.m.-4:05 p.m.

  1. John Smith—Presenter 4:05 p.m.-4:20 p.m. Companies contacted
  2. Marianne Legit—Presenter 4:20 p.m.-4:35 p.m. Potential leads
  3. Sylvia Stretch—Presenter 4:35 p.m.-4:55 p.m. New canvassing techniques
  4. 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

  1. Welcome/Introduction – [Steve Parks, 9 a.m.-9:10 a.m.]
  2. New Product Line Overview – [Paul Aria, 9:10 a.m.-9:20 a.m.]
  3. Demonstrations – [Claire Ringis, 9:30 a.m.-9:40 a.m.]
    • a. Whitening toothpaste
    • b. Toothpaste that strengthens gums
    • c. Toothpaste that fights plaque
  4. Product Marketing – [Steve Parks, 9:40 a.m.-9:50 a.m.]
  5. Discussion and Q & A [9:50 a.m.-9:55 a.m.]
  6. Next Steps – [To be distributed after the meeting]

Bottom Line

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 Tips for Hosting Productive Meetings

Featured photo credit: Štefan Štefančík via unsplash.com

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Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible 13 Ways to Be a Great Team Player At Work How to Decline a Job Offer Gracefully (With Email Examples) Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work)

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

Reference

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