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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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Published on April 16, 2019

How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life

How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life

When was the last time you did something for yourself?

Whether it was deciding to treat yourself with a little something or travel for some R&R, how often do you practice self-care?

Well, as good as above sounds, there’s a common misconception that many of us have about self-care: that it’s only about indulgence and enjoyment.

However, self-care goes far beyond indulgence. It’s actually about respecting your mind and body, understanding its limits, and being able to take care of every part of yourself, in a holistic way.

And, you really don’t have to go to extreme measures or do anything specific–like meditating or following a plant based diet–in order to practice self-care. You just have to make sure that what you’re doing is in your best interests.

So how can you make that happen?

Below are a few proven methods that will help you become a better version of you. Follow through with these regularly and you’ll be well on your way to living your very best life.

Listen to Yourself

The bulk of self-care is knowing yourself.

This means knowing your body’s limitations, and being in tune with your feelings, emotions and thoughts. So it’s important, then, to know who you are and what you want to do in life, in order to truly say that you know yourself. 

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What is your purpose?

Have you ever thought about this question?

Your purpose doesn’t have to remain the same throughout your life. What you found a purpose in at age 19 would likely be different at age 49.

In your current situation, think about the different roles that you have – as a working professional, a spouse, a partner, a parent, etc.

Do you feel like you are fulfilling your purpose through any of these roles?

All you have to do is ensure that what you’re chasing is meaningful to you; this will bring focus and motivation as you strive to achieve your goals.

If you have your purpose defined, then that’s awesome! You know what drives you and why.

But, if you don’t feel like you have a purpose nailed down, it’s good to start by asking why.

For example, why are you working in your particular job or industry? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. In which case, you may find yourself not having a direction for where you’re headed in life.

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If you’d like to learn more about finding your purpose, then I recommend you check out this article:

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

Seek Out Continuous Education

Now, this may seem less common when you think of self-care, but lifelong learning is incredibly useful and an important component of taking care of yourself.

It’s Super Practical

Lifelong learning is extremely practical these days and does not require as much effort as it may have in the past. Long gone are the days when you could only find information on something by visiting a library. In this day of the internet, anything you can imagine is at your fingertips.

You don’t need to physically go to a learning institution to learn. You can watch Youtube videos to learn new skills, take online courses to earn a degree, and scroll through an endless amount of articles, books and journals from reputable news and informative sites.

When you’re constantly pushing yourself to learn and take up new things, your mental health also improves. Research shows that an active and engaged mind is responsible for diminishing age-related memory loss and improves overall cognitive abilities.

Your Confidence Will Skyrocket

You’ll also have improved self worth as it teaches you to step outside of your comfort zone, which will undoubtedly improve your confidence.

You’ll also connect better with others by expanding your knowledge base. Learning exposes you to a multitude of new ideas and perspectives that you may have otherwise never considered. This also increases your adaptability. Whether it’s at work or just wanting to adapt to society, your peers, and loved ones, life long learning prepares you to take on new challenges.

You’ll Be More Desired in the Job Market

Another obvious reason for continuous education, is that your employability will also increase.

With the ever changing economy, and huge influences from technology, social media, science etc., job descriptions today are moving targets. Assignments and roles change so quickly in response to changing business demands, it becomes a Herculean task to keep a job description database current.

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In years past, stability was a characteristic of the world of work. Procedures, information, jobs, and organizations were established and provided continuity. Education was completed in the first 14 to 22 years of one’s life, followed by a long career occasionally punctuated by short-term job training.

Today, however, jobs, companies, and technology are disappearing and being created simultaneously. To remain current and maintain a competitive advantage in the human capital marketplace, an individual is challenged to continually learn.

People return to school at every age to enrich their skills and knowledge for their current positions. Some even prepare themselves for new jobs or career changes, moving them forward into new opportunities and technology.

We can be assured that we will be challenged to continue to learn new tasks and information throughout our lives. Successful careers belong to flexible, curious learners who are prepared for opportunities because they know themselves and where they make their best contribution. As Peter Drucker, the father of modern management stated,

“Knowledge is choice.”

Lifelong learning also increases social awareness and perspective. To genuinely understand and empathize with others, increase social awareness, and foster strong interpersonal relationships, it’s important to seek out new perspectives. Enhancing the skills that positively impact emotional intelligence can bring even greater happiness and success, both personally and at work; and, this is all part of self-care.

Improve Your Habits (Both at Work and at Home)

Now, the last piece of advice I want to introduce to your self-care regimen, is to improve your habits.

Habits define who you are, and are built up over time. You are what you eat is a great example of this. If you make it a habit to eat foods that nourish your body, rather than make your body feel bad, then you will be much healthier overall.

Good Habits Allow You to Reach Your Goals

Since habits dictate your days and nights, such as waking up every morning to get to work before a certain time, or brushing your teeth before bedtime every night, they play a major role in whether we do or do not reach our goals.

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When you form habits that allow you to progress towards your goals, you’re automatically living a purposeful day, everyday.

Habits Make Your Time a Priority

How do you spend your free time? Do you opt to lounge on the couch watching Netflix passively, or do you engage in activities that support your purpose in life?

It’s natural to waste a lot of time during the day, but fostering good habits will make you set a pattern for how you spend your time and give you the choice of what you choose to spend your time on. By improving your habits, you’ll find that you can be a LOT more productive. When you create good habits, you become more efficient with your time and a lot less is wasted.

This in essence creates an overall positive influence on your life, allowing you to treat your mind and body well, which is why improving your habits are so important to self-care.

Your Well Being Comes First

We live in such a fast-paced society, where we are often so caught up in our work, families, maintaining our social lives, our studies and everything in between. It’s an understatement to say that life can get a little overwhelming at times.

If you’ve ever watched the safety video onboard a plane, you’ll know that they always ask for a parent or adult to put on the safety mask first, before tending to the child. This may sound selfish, but the fact is that if you truly want to ensure the child’s safety, then your safety needs to come first so that you can protect and care for the child without complications from your end.

The same goes for self-care. We need to ensure that our well being is priority, so that we can be the best for the people around us.

Listening to yourself, practicing lifelong learning and improving your habits are steps that you can take to ensure you’re constantly in the best state of mind, alongside the indulgence and rest that you reward yourself with.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Raychan on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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