I’ve heard people say it, and I used to say it myself: Creating a meeting agenda is pointless and only costs me time; we always discuss the same things anyway. Sound familiar?
What is the point of a professional meeting agenda?
And the emphasis here is on professional. Take ten minutes to search through your email inbox for your most recent meeting invitations. You will probably find some that specify the meeting place, time and purpose, e.g. “Update Project XYZ,” and include only a generic agenda statement, such as “We plan to discuss the progress of the project.” These vague meeting guidelines are wasting time and leaving your team unmotivated to participate.
If you want to breathe life into your meetings and drive results (whilst also getting kudos points from your team and colleagues for hosting a meeting that has structure and purpose), then you should always circulate an agenda.
A professional meeting agenda is important because it:
- allows participants time to prepare so they can make a valuable contribution
- eliminates excuses as participants are forewarned about which topics will be discussed
- keeps everyone focused on what needs to be discussed
- helps team members collaborate more efficiently
- makes a professional impression on your external partners and customers
- helps you drastically reduce the time that you spend in and following up on meetings
What should you include?
In a professional meeting agenda, there are 10 details that you should always include:
- The exact date, start time and end time
- Who should attend
- Individual items that you want to discuss
- Who should be prepared to discuss certain items
- Start and end time for each item on the agenda
- Requests for updates about action items from previous meetings
- All required presentation materials
- Any material that attendees should read to prepare themselves
- Contact information for questions about the agenda
- Summary and next steps
And the most important item in this list? The attendees. Only invite the people who absolutely need to participate to avoid wasting anyone’s time.
How to create a meeting agenda
Now let’s dive into what this looks like in practice. Let’s say you have a project meeting with your global communications department, during which you plan to discuss the use of an infographic. Your meeting agenda template could look like this:
Meeting Topic: Work-Life Balance Infographic
Date: Monday, 17 August 2015, 5-6 PM British Summer Time (BST)
Attendees: James Garner, Tim Meyer, Ruth Carol (5:00-5:30), Susan Longear
Preparation: Please read the attached press releases and press clippings.
Notes: If you have any questions regarding this agenda, please email me before 5 August.
Introduction: James Garner (Designer)
Objective: Agenda overview and objective for the meeting
Budget review: Ruth Carol (Finance)
Objective: Update available budget for project
Brainstorming: All (Communications)
Objective: Identify potential media targets
Wrap up: Susan Longear (Head Communications)
Objective: Define next steps and responsibilities
Use the following structure for your own meeting agenda:
[Date, Begin and End Times (Including Time Zone)]
[Agenda Item and Presenter]
[Begin and End Time of Agenda Item]
[Objective of the Agenda Item]
[Required Individual Preparation]
[Summary & Next steps]
Eight tips to keep in mind when preparing agendas
A professional meeting agenda is like a roadmap that guides all meeting participants through the topic you wish to discuss. It also serves as an anchor that prevents you from straying from the topic or — if that’s already happened — gets you back to the actual topic at hand. Here are eight tips for making the most of your meeting agendas.
- Only invite the people who absolutely need to participate.
- Appoint someone to watch the clock and keep the meeting on track.
- Briefly review your agenda at the start of the meeting.
- Summarise the action items agreed upon at the end of the meeting.
- Select a date and time that is convenient for everyone, especially if you have international attendees.
- Make sure to convert the date and time for all international attendees.
- Send out a reminder email with the agenda a few hours before the meeting starts.
- Specify at the outset if you need someone for the entire meeting or just for a single action item in your agenda.
If you follow these tips, you can save time, receive fewer queries, increase productivity, banish meeting boredom and get your meetings running more efficiently. Sound good?
For more great meeting tips, download this free guide: The Insider’s Guide to Better Meetings.