Meetings are absolutely necessary for us to get work done but many organizers are averse to creating agendas for meetings because they feel it takes too much work. However, no matter how intelligent the meeting guests may be, we are all only so capable of coming up with solutions to problems we haven’t had time to think about. Just as an airline pilot needs a pre-flight plan to understand what distance, weight, fuel status, and other critical details are needed during the flight, so does your guest so they can prepare for the meeting and have confidence in what they need to do and how they can contribute during the meeting.
The Components of a Good Agenda
Good agenda templates are made of a logical and methodical mix of questions you can ask yourself to ensure you are setting your meeting guests up with the right information to prepare and guide the discussion. Keep in mind if you cannot answer these questions, neither can they so this is one reason it is so important to have an agenda shared prior to a meeting.
1. Why are we meeting?
The pillar of an agenda is the meeting purpose, goal, or desired outcome. No matter what you wish to call it, it is the reason for the meeting. A carefully crafted purpose is critical for guests to know what they are being asked to participate in, to understand if it is a good use of their time, as well as how they can contribute. The goal or purpose should go beyond the meeting title to clearly articulate what is the desired outcome of the meeting.
2. What are we talking about?
When putting together the agenda topics, here are several things to consider.
- Welcome and Summary Start with a welcome and quick review of the goal. Never assume everyone is as prepared as you are to jump into the topics at hand. For those guests bouncing from one meeting to another, taking a few minutes, in the beginning, can help set everyone’s mind on the same page like a reset button.
- Topics to Cover Convey the topics that need to be covered in brief, succinct titles and descriptions that share the challenge at hand. For multiple topics, set them in a logical order. For example, consider putting the “quick” items at the top in case the more challenging items may run over so you can walk away with a solution or plan for at least one item. Consider breaking down a single, large topic into smaller chunks so the meeting can successfully address some if not all of the issue.
- How Much It can be defeating to attendees before they even join the meeting if they do not feel a meeting goal is achievable with the time they are given so try to keep the number of topics to a minimum.
- Consider the Audience If you have topics that not everyone is needed for, consider breaking up topics accordingly and scheduling smaller sessions with the appropriate guest list.
- Save Time for Decisions It always feels great in the meeting moment that everyone understands the same decision or next step but that is usually not the reality. Setting the last few minutes aside before everyone walks away to the next challenge is the best time to restate and scribe the final decisions as an opportunity to be sure it is captured properly in the recap and everyone is hearing the same thing.
3. What tools or information will I need to show or share?
Help provide additional context to the meeting topics with resources that can be used prior to and during the meeting.
- Showing Most meetings have documents or visuals that need to be displayed during the session. Locating these documents and resources prior to the meeting and attaching them to your meeting can help enable you to quickly locate and use them during the session reducing disruption and flow of the meeting.
- Sharing If you attach pre-reads or work that needs to be done prior to the meeting, set this expectation on the agenda and provide as much lead time as possible.
4. Who else can help?
If there are others who can contribute to the session, bring them in to help. fAsk for contributors and assign owners so they can help with the meeting preparation and discussion.
5. How much time do we have?
When the agenda items are in place, review the topics and estimate how much time you can assign to each. If you are unsure, recruit advice from those familiar with the topics and save time in the end for decisions. Save 5 minutes at the end of a 30+ minute meeting or 10 minutes at the end of a 30+ minute meeting.
Make This Repeatable For Your Guests and YOU!
While the first time preparing an agenda seems like a lot of work, the more consistent you are with this process, the better influence on meetings in your organization. Your meeting guests will quickly catch on to your meeting style and expectations while naturally developing better meeting habits.
You can also save yourself time by reusing your agendas. Hopefully, you are using a meeting tool like Docket in which you can save your agendas as templates or use free meeting minutes templates to be used for other similar meetings and only need to take the time to refresh the content meeting by meeting.