We’ve all been in meetings that veer off topic or in which participants are unprepared. In order to prevent this from occurring and avoid wasting people’s time, it’s important to start your meetings with a clear agenda. A well-written meeting agenda helps participants come better prepared and stay on task. A meeting agenda is also helpful in allocating time, getting everyone on the same page, and identifying when a discussion of a particular topic is complete. When problems occur during a meeting, a meeting agenda can bring the conversation back on course and help your team address issues.
A meeting agenda outlines all of the topics that your meeting will cover and allots time to each topic. The following are some helpful tips for designing an effective meeting agenda, whether you’re meeting with five people or 50.
Take some time to establish the topics you need to discuss in your meeting. Encourage meeting attendees to provide input on which topics they’d like to see addressed in the meeting and ask them to include reasons for why they want to see a topic addressed. Give them a deadline by which you need to receive their input. Once you put together a preliminary list of topics, take some time to prioritize them based on deadlines and order of importance. If you decide not to include a topic suggested by a team member, explain your reasoning to the team member.
When choosing which topics to prioritize, try to select topics that affect the entire team. Team meetings can be difficult to schedule because everyone is so busy and it can be hard to get everyone in the same room at the same time. Therefore, it’s important to show that you value people’s time by choosing to cover topics and make decisions that affect the whole team. Otherwise, meeting attendees may disengage from the meeting.
When writing out your meeting agenda, list the topics in question format. This makes it easier for participants to prepare for the meeting and gather their thoughts. For example, rather than just creating an agenda topic like, “Business intelligence dashboard,” you can pose it as a question that really narrows the focus, such as, “How can we present the business intelligence dashboard more effectively to our clients?” This helps meeting attendees monitor whether a conversation is on track and determine when the question is answered or if the discussion is complete.
Additionally, calculate the amount of time required to address each topic in the meeting and provide that estimate in your meeting agenda. Allot enough time to introducing the topic, answering questions about it, discussing differing points of view, coming up with unique solutions, and setting up action items. If you provide an estimate of the time needed to discuss each topic, team members will be able to adapt their discussions to fit the timeframe.
Spell out how you plan to address the topics in your agenda on the agenda itself. Unless you specify a process, each attendee will participate in the meeting based on their own process. For example, your chosen process might be to have the meeting leader poll each participant on a particular topic. Identify who is responsible for leading the discussion on each topic.
By developing an agenda using the tips above, it will be easier to stay focused during meetings. Distribute the agenda plenty of time in advance of the meeting–preferably at least 24 hours, to give your team members enough time to prepare. For continuous improvement of your meetings, consider what went well at the end of each meeting and what you could have done differently. Doing this every time will help you improve performance, write more effective meeting agendas, and have more productive meetings.
Resource Central is meeting room booking software for Microsoft Outlook® and Exchange that allows you to book meetings quickly and easily. Resource Central gives you a quick overview at a glance of all available meeting rooms and their capacity and features. You can also quickly see who is available on your team and invite them to your meeting, attaching a meeting agenda to your invite. For more information about how Resource Central can improve your meeting planning process, sign up for a free trial or free online demo.