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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 who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

If you pay attention to your everyday life careful enough, you’ll know that you can learn from everything and everyone you come across. Our life is basically full of useful lessons that we should learn.

Here are 26 useful things to learn that Abhishek A. Singh shared on Quora. Let’s see how these life theories would lead you to live a different life.

1. Primacy and recency: People mostly remember the first and last things that occurred, barely the middle.

When scheduling an interview, ask the employer the time slots they do interviews and try to be the first or the last.

2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind, put a mirror behind you at the counter.

In this way, angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chance of them behaving irrationally will be lowered significantly.

3. Once you make a sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways.

My previous boss was training me and just gave me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, the first person to talk would lose.

It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuses, but usually they bought.

4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait.

If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue to talk.

5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous, like public speaking or bungee jumping.

When we eat, our brain tell ourselves, “I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger.” This has helped me to stay calm.

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6. People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

Also, most people like talking about themselves; so ask lots of questions about them.

7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend. Let them ask you questions about it.

If you’re able to teach something well, you will be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you.

It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen the next time.

9. The physical effects of stress — breathing rate and heart rate — are almost identical to the physical effects of courage.

When you’re feeling stressed in any situations, immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, you are NOT stressed.

10. Pay attention to people’s feet.

If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it.

Fake it till you make it. Period.

13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes.

When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds.

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And as suggested by Brian Stutzman:

If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring.

Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time.

After a second, you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

14. Build a network.

Become the information source, and let the information be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office.

Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother…

Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage.

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    16. Stand up straight.

    No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

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    17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary.

    These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

    18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space.

    You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

    main-qimg-a0187fc57b3d874f251bd06c388991dd

      19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks.

      You’d be surprised how long you could drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

      20. Going into an interview… be interested in your interviewers.

      If you focus on learning about them, you’ll seem to be more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

      21. Pay attention parents! Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control.

      For instance, when I want my son to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?”

      Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

      main-qimg-0dc201c56efe2beb49b842205f253dfb

        22. Your action affects your attitude more than your attitude affects your action.

        As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

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        23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

        Notice who you look at and who look at you when you laugh with a group of people!

        24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position.

        If someone is sitting with her legs crossed, cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you, lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them.

        Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

        25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect (suggested by Matt Miller)

        I find the basis of the Benjamin Franklin effect is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing. This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too.

        Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.

        The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

        26. Handle panic and anxiety behaviors by tapping fingers (Suggested by Jade Barbee)

        When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs.

        For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many life situations – emotional sadness, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

        Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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