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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

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.

Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work) How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples) 13 Ways to Demonstrate Integrity in the Workplace How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda (With Templates) 20 Critical Skills to Add to Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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