A meeting agenda is a register of items you are looking to accomplish at a meeting. The agenda should be distributed to all team members 24 hours before the meeting so that all participants get enough time to prepare for the meeting. Preferably, if possible, the meeting agenda should be made available to each participant several days before the meeting.
Great meetings are usually derived from necessity. That necessity must be well defined before the chair of the meeting decides who needs to be in the meeting and how the meeting will run. Meeting agendas achieve exactly that, and much more, serving as a preparation tool before the meeting and a manual during the meeting.
An effective meeting agenda clearly outlines the discussion topics and the objectives of the meeting. It is a written way that helps team members to be on the same page, during, before, and after the meeting, providing all the essential information to set the team up for success.
What is a Meeting Agenda?
Created before the onset of the meeting, an agenda is a list of all the meeting activities and discussions that you are looking to cover in your meeting. They are laid out in order, often in sets of bullet points or as a list.
Meeting agendas can range from a basic list to a complex document. Exactly how much detail you need to include in the agenda depends on the type of meeting you are conducting and how organized you would like it to be. A quick one-topic discussion may require no agenda at all, while an all-hands-several topics meeting should be carefully planned to maximize the team’s time.
Agendas are generally different from meeting notes, which usually begin with the agenda but are filled in with more information about what took place during the meeting.
For instance, a meeting agenda may include a question that needs to be answered in the meeting, such as, “Discussion: Should we buy a new bus this or next month?” And, in your notes for the meeting, after the meeting, you might note down, “Decision to buy a new bus this month to be delayed until next month due to the budget cuts this month.”
When an Effective Meeting Agenda is Require?
When you are preparing an agenda, you should know the type of meeting that is being held. There are different situations in our work place that require an agenda. Every meeting is unique and it will help you identify the objectives, structure and activities that best suit the situation.
Below are some of the situations that require an effective meeting agenda.
This one of the common situations that require an agenda. The meeting highlights on the update on member progress, challenges faced, and steps to follow next.
This is an integral part in the success of the team. Corporate events and outings are among the major activities discussed in the meeting. It help bond the members with common interest and goals.
Problem solving situations
These meetings are known to be the most complex. The meeting is set to address identified issue at hand.
Most of the decision made in institutions are made in a meeting. The process of decision making should be clearly highlighted in the agenda.
Information sharing situations
This information can be about new product, upcoming changes and/or presentation of ideas. The agenda is prepared to tell the participants of the topic of discussion, and primary who the speaker will be.
There are different situations that require an agenda for different reasons. In every situation, the agenda sends a message to all the participants of a meeting and preparing them in advance on the topic.
Basic Contents of an Effective Meeting Agenda
Below are elements that are included in a meeting agenda.
Topic: Depending on what situation the meeting is to be held, the topic should be at the top of the page.
Date: The date of the meeting is centered below the heading.
Start Time: To ensure that everyone is on time for the meeting, the time indicated on the agenda should be a few minutes earlier. Time is an essential element to a meeting and for that reason, everyone should be notified effectively of the time.
End time: The end time of the meeting is also important whereby it helps the participants to organize their own time on other matters.
Location: Indicate also where the meeting is to be held. You can provide the address of the facility. This will help the participants organize their time also.
Topics and subtopics: This will help the participants get ready for the meeting. It is an important element for an effective meeting agenda as it prepares the members on the topics of discussions.
How to Create Your Meeting Agenda
Your first step in drafting your meeting agenda is to decide on what kind of document you would like to use. This sets up how easy it’ll be for the participants to create, share, and reference your meeting agenda.
There are several options you may decide to use when formatting your agenda, including:
- Word Doc
- Google Doc
- Calendar invite
You will have to consider whether the team members will be contributing to the agenda or if they will be able to comment on it. If so, emailing may not be the best option, and using a more shared approach will best fit your meeting.
For example, you may want to design and print your agenda in PDF format before the meeting. Using this format makes it difficult or almost impossible for other team members to make their suggestions to the meeting agenda or fill in their parts with more detail if they are participating in the meeting. That is why a shared document is, in most cases, preferred.
However, regardless of what format you choose for your agenda, here are some of the best practices to use to make the best and the most effective meeting agenda possible.
Draft your meeting agenda in advance
Early meeting agenda creation has several benefits- from narrowing down meeting objectives, which help identify who needs to be available in the meeting – to estimate the duration of the meeting for discussion of the items listed. Having a clear outline of a meeting before sending out invites increases the chances that all the participants will arrive well prepared since they will know what is included in the agenda.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when drafting your meeting agenda:
Prepare and share the agenda in advance
In most cases, it may not be productive to share your meeting objectives and discussion topics with the participants on the day of the meeting. This might, however, work for weekly or daily meetings which have low-stake decision-making objectives. The best approach is to afford all the participants enough time to go through your primary objectives and suggest changes. Meeting agendas are more powerful when shared, and when all the participants can contribute to them.
Whether an important piece of information needs to be included to inform the meeting – or each topic needs to be allocated more time- enabling all the participants in the agenda making process creates a firm foundation and grants all the participants a sense of ownership. Furthermore, drafting your meeting agenda early gives you, as the chair of the meeting, enough time to organize your thoughts and goals, and ensure that nothing important is left out on the meeting day.
Decide on a formal or informal agenda
A meeting with a new client requires a different agenda style compared to a weekly low-stake internal meeting. Informal meeting agendas are usually short and straightforward, something like this:
Sales and Marketing Reflection Meeting
- Housekeeping (10 minutes, all attendees)
- Presentation of sales and marketing campaign results (20 minutes, Paul Mic.)
- Discuss the strengths and challenges of the campaign (30 minutes, all sales reps)
- Brainstorm changes for the next marketing campaign (10 minutes, all)
- Assign project leads (10 minutes Paul Mic.)
An agenda like this assumes several things: that all the participants understand what to expect from “housekeeping,” that Paul has been given enough notice that he will be making a 20-minute presentation, and that all the participants have been involved enough with the sales and marketing campaign to identify the strengths and challenges and brainstorm the changes. There may also be internal discussions in place to ensure all voices are heard.
Use action-oriented language
The best and most effective agenda topics are also more than just a procedural list. They explain the primary objective of that part of the meeting as an action. For example, “Brainstorm changes for the next marketing campaign” is much more substantial than simply writing “Brainstorm.”
Identify Meeting goals and clearly state them
Why are you looking to have a meeting? What are your objectives? Before you decide to create a meeting agenda, be sure to have a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve. List all your objectives; this way, all the participants know what to expect in the meeting.
One way to achieve full employee participation is by including the questions you are looking to get answered on the agenda. Questions are known to inspire thinking better than ambiguous statements that don’t clearly describe the issues at hand.
Enable enough preparation before the meeting
There is nothing worse than all the participants showing up to the meeting unprepared to discuss the topic at hand. Even though stating the objectives can help reduce the chances of this happening, another option is to incorporate the expectations on the agenda when the invites are sent. If, for instance, the participants need to be acquainted with certain documents or pieces of information before they can reasonably participate in the discussion, state as much and make sure to attach all the documents to the agenda and meeting invite.
Use the Meeting Agenda to take notes
One key thing anyone chairing a meeting should do is to take notes during the meeting. One way to efficiently do this is to use a note-taker. Even though there are several ways to take meeting notes, the most effective practice is designating one note-taker who will then share the notes with all the participants after the meeting.
This may be done via a shared document or even a whiteboard that gets photographed and given to all attendees at the end of the meeting.
Free Effective Meeting Agenda Templates
Feel free to download our free effective meeting agenda templates and alter it to fit your needs. All of them are professionally designed to encompass everything you need to include in your meeting agenda, including:
- A clear objective of your meeting at the top
- Meeting information
- Participants list and responsibilities
- What needs to be brought to the meeting/reviewed before the meeting
- Agenda items, each with a leader, objective/goal and outcome
- Some space for notes
Filling meeting notes on the agenda helps you to keep track of which meeting goals have been met and which ones require action. Assigning attendees to action items and noting down the due dates of such items in the meeting notes keeps essential information in one easy-to-navigate place: the meeting agenda which everyone has access to.
Before you adjourn the meeting, ask if anyone has any questions or if they would like to seek further clarification. Be prepared to clarify even those small issues that they may not have understood. It is imperative that all members understand what they have been able to achieve in the meeting, what the desired outcomes were, and which items have been designated for further review or action. When you are looking to create a better working culture, it is important that at the end of your meeting, you ask the attendees: How did this meeting go? What went well, and what didn’t? And what needs to be changed? The feedback you receive from these questions can inform and better shape your future meetings.