How to Create a Meeting Agenda
Posted on January 28, 2015
You have probably heard at some point that having an agenda and sticking with it is key to an effective meeting. Research shows that 50 percent of the time spent in meetings is wasted. Not surprisingly, the absence of a proper meeting agenda is the single most common cause to ineffective meetings and wasted time.
Having a clear meeting agenda will keep your meetings on track, keep you and the other participants focused on the issues at hand, and help you be more efficient.
That’s why we think it should be as easy as pie to have an agenda available at every meeting. In this article we will try to explain the basic components of a good meeting agenda. Use these tips independently of whether or not you’re using any apps or software to aid you in your meetings activities. If you are using the Mobilimeet meeting app you will be able to manage most of tasks in this article with much less effort.
(Tip for Mobilimeet users: Mobilimeet makes it easy for you to put together a detailed meeting agenda before the meeting and have participants follow along as items are completed. Also, participants are notified of any changes at anytime, so last minute changes are a problem of the past.)
Meeting Details and Invitations
Before, or in parallel to, creating the actual meeting agenda you need to decide on “when”, “where” and “who.”
Finding a date and time that suits everyone can be a challenge in itself. If you’re scheduling a meeting with just your work colleagues, you may have access to participants’ calendars so you can see when they are available. If not, you will likely need several alternative date/time slots before you will be able to set a definite date and time. There are a few apps out there that could aid you in this process, but typically email is the most widely used tool in order to sort out the day and time.
The actual meeting invitations are typically sent out via email or as automated messages from your calendar application (if you use one).
(Tip for Mobilimeet users: When you are sending out invitations to meetings in Mobilimeet, you will be immediately notified when someone accepts an invitation. There is also an overview of the entire participant list where you can easily see who has accepted.)
Apart from the basic details such as who will be attending, location, and the date and time, maybe the most important information Is the “what”, i.e. what the purpose of the meeting is and what you hope to achieve. This is also, typically, the mostly overlooked piece of information. If you do not decide on the purpose or goal ahead of the meeting, and communicate this to your meeting participants beforehand, you may end up in a situation where people have different, and perhaps conflicting, understanding of the purpose of the meeting. People may wonder why they were invited in the first place, or it may be unclear whether you are there to have a discussion or make a decision.
When setting the overall objective or purpose of the meeting, try to keep a narrow focus and be as concise as possible. Make sure to communicate the purpose of the meeting ahead of time as part of the meeting invitation or include it at the top of the agenda.
(Tip for Mobilimeet users: Use the meeting description in Mobilimeet to write a line or two about the overall objective of the meeting. This will be automatically included in meeting invitations so that participants will know well ahead of time what to expect.)
A Basic Meeting Agenda
The actual agenda is just a list of topics or items. The agenda clearly limits the scope of the meeting by defining which topics should be covered and in which order. Preparing a meeting agenda and sticking with it during the meeting will help you stay focused and mitigate the risk of ending up in discussions that are not related to the topics to be covered.
It really does not matter what type of meeting you’re planning to have. Most meetings, be it a team meeting, status meeting, project meeting, sales meeting, board meeting, stockholders meeting or any other type of meeting, will benefit from having a clear and structured agenda. Even the ad-hoc single-topic meetings you have several times a day with one or a few colleagues could benefit from having an agenda.
In formal meetings like board meetings, management team meetings, or other recurring or series of meetings, it is common to start off the meeting with deciding who is responsible for taking meeting minutes and going through the minutes and actions from the last meeting. Thus, these will typically be the first few items on the agenda. In less formal meetings you can go straight to the key topics to be covered.
Traditionally, you would prepare the agenda in a Word document and distribute it to the meeting participants by email or on paper. Be sure to collect feedback from the other meeting participants beforehand if there are any items that should be added to the agenda.
(Tip for Mobilimeet users: Create the agenda by simply adding the topics right inside the meeting itself and have it be distributed automatically to the meeting participants. This way everyone will always have access to the latest version and participants will be automatically notified of any changes to the agenda.)
It is recommended that you highlight important items on the agenda such as decisions. You can easily do this by using for example the prefix “Decision:” for these items. This makes it easy for all participants to know what to expect.
Independently of the type of meeting, make sure you take note of any decision, to-do or action during the meeting. If the meeting is of a recurring nature, it makes sense to schedule the next meeting (or next couple of meetings) while you have everyone gathered around the table. So make sure to include this as the last item on the agenda.
Supporting Materials and Documents
Most pre-planned meetings will need supporting materials or documents to provide additional information on the different topics on the agenda. This could be memos, financial reports, status reports, or whatever you need your meeting participants to have access to and read before the meeting.
Make sure that you have an easy way to distribute all supporting materials and documents to your participants. If you are using email, or even printed paper copies, as a means of distribution you need to make sure that you can manage updates to the documents in a structured manner so you do not end up with people missing out on the latest versions or create confusion to due too many emails with different updates.
(Tip for Mobilimeet users: Keep all your supporting documents in a Dropbox account and attach them directly to the meeting in Mobilimeet. Meeting participants will always have access to the latest version of all meeting materials and will be automatically notified if new documents are added or if there are any updates to the existing ones.)
Preparation is key to an effective meeting, and the key component of preparation is a proper agenda. Creating the agenda beforehand and distributing it to your meeting participants together with supporting materials will enable everyone to come prepared to the meeting. As a result you will have a more effective meeting, more focused participants, and contribute to better company culture, in the end saving you both time and money.
The linear structure and the limit of scope provided by the agenda itself will help you stay focused during the meeting. Also, If you have defined a clear goal for your meeting and have communicated this goal ahead of the meeting, this will further limit the scope and expectations, contributing to an even better meeting.
Sign up for Mobilimeet and download the app to get started and prepare the agenda for your next meeting.
Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on agenda organization.