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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

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.

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?”

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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.

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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

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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

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

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  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 About Productive Meetings

Featured photo credit: Štefan Štefančík via unsplash.com

More by this author

Vicky Oliver

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

How to Get Promoted Fast (A Step-by-Step Guide) 20 Critical Skills to Add to Resume (For All Types of Jobs) How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda (With Templates) How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

Can I Be Creative?

The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

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How Creativity Works

Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

What Really Is Creativity?

Creativity Needs an Intention

Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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Creativity Is a Skill

At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

Start Connecting the Dots

Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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