When planning to meet, one of the best tips for productivity is to create an agenda. Although an agenda is simply a sequence of topics or tasks that need to be discussed, it helps attendees understand why you are meeting and prepare accurately.
Have you ever been in a meeting that’s run overtime, where people have come unprepared or that was just down-right a waste of your time? Most of us have been in at least one meeting like this and you’re probably still thinking of what a waste of time it was. If we’ve all got this stressor, why haven’t we come up with a solution by now?
The issue might be as simple as introducing a mandatory agenda. An effective agenda can help you solve some of the most frustrating yet common issues with meetings. For example, when you introduce the concept of an agenda for every meeting, you’ll be able to answer the following questions.
- Is everyone contributing to the meeting?
- Have the relevant people been included and are there any unnecessary people involved in the meeting?
- Will you stay on time and end on time?
- Have you discussed all the points of interest?
- Have you efficiently followed-up action items and tasks from the last meeting?
We’ve studied hundreds of hours of meetings to help you write an agenda that you’ll stick to.
Effective meeting agenda: Purpose
When planning your agenda or deciding on the agenda topics, it’s important to keep the team’s needs and reason for meeting in clear view. From this, you can decide on the format of the agenda. While your agenda outline and format might be different, it’s important to ensure that they serve the same purpose; an agenda informs your participants of the meeting, what tasks need to be done and their importance.
How to write an agenda:
It is important to create a well-planned and orderly agenda. A disorderly agenda can cause your discussion to go off track, creating unproductive discussion and leading to poor outcomes, discussions or missed insights. Here's how to write an agenda template you can use for your next meeting.
- Set the objective of the meeting as the main item of the agenda:
The objective of the meeting is the main component in an agenda and must be set clearly. The said objective, when communicated to the participants, sets their expectations correctly. We recommend using minimal words and simple language to ensure ease of understanding in no uncertain terms.
- Inform the participants of the details of the agenda, ahead of time:
The time, place, date and details of other participants, items to be discussed, and other important pre-meeting details must be communicated to the people attending the meeting via the meeting agenda. It's also important to send our your agenda well in advance so that participants have enough time to read, revert and prepare accordingly. Last-minute communication usually results in key members being unable to attend or prep and effectively renders your meeting ineffective before it's even started! Making sure that you craft and disseminate your agenda in a timely manner greatly increases your chances of having a successful meeting.
- Ask for input from attendees:
Every team member or attendee in your meeting will have concerns, questions or points of discussion that must be addressed in the meetings. Including your team in the pre-meeting process will help keep your attendees engaged and focused. This also helps in the creative development process of the project or work you are discussing. Therefore, the next step in creating a great agenda is to allow your attendees to add items to the agenda. This enriches the overall purpose of your meeting and studies have shown that this involvement motivates participants to engage as their respective concerns will be addressed.
- Select important topics for discussion ahead of less important ones:
While it's crucial to get input from other attendees, it's equally important for the meeting host to curate the flow of the meeting. Meetings take time and you're taking time out of your busy schedule to attend. Therefore, you want the most value out of that invested time. That's why you'll need to review the agenda again and prioritize important topics that are of immediate concern above the unimportant ones. Always use the Parking Lot method for anything that can be dealt with later. Examples of important topics are ones that affect the entire team, decisions that have a deadline and follow-ups of previously discussed topics.
- Set it in a questionnaire form:
Asking a question enables people to have an insight into the topic and know exactly what is being asked of them. It's been shown that people are more receptive to questions than direct orders. Therefore, by listing items as questions on your agenda, you'll be able to prepare the team for a thorough discussion and will be able to track where each member stands on the project/topic of concern.
- Set a time limit for each agenda topic:
Meetings are notorious for being long, dragged-out timewasters. This can be because the discussion veers of on a tangent, attendees are unprepared or if there are distractions during the meeting. Therefore, it's always a good idea to set a time limit per topic. When estimating the time limits, you'll need to take into consideration the length of the entire meeting, scope of the topic, if there are any issues to be resolved and allocate time for solution discussions. By setting a time limit, people are less likely to veer off-topic, attendees stay focused and you've created an effective meeting agenda!
- Propose a process for addressing each agenda item:
There should be a process that you must adopt to address each item on the agenda list. This increases the effectiveness of the meeting. This includes identifying issues, resolving them, coming up with solutions and more.
- Identify who is responsible for leading each topic:
It is not always up to the meeting organiser to lead the discussion on each topic. Usually, other participants are also assigned certain agenda topics for discussion. Sharing this load will help your team stick to the agenda because there is a clear delineation between topics and cultivates a meeting culture. This also ensures that competent voices are heard in the meeting and your team can make informed decisions together!
When an agenda is simple, comprehensive and contains the important details, then it becomes very easy to stick to it. The above steps are sure to help you create an effective agenda for your next team meeting!