Meetings are an important part of every business and are often used to help get everyone on the same page. They help teams communicate, coordinate and work toward common goals, driving business in the right direction. Unfortunately, they are also the number one cause of wasted time and resources. Not because they don’t work, but because they haven’t been planned properly.
Poor organisation, off-topic subjects and having no real objectives are all caused by not having a meeting agenda in place. Without an agenda, it’s difficult to know the purpose of the meeting – or if it’s even worth holding in the first place.
Here are some great tips to help you create an amazing meeting agenda like a pro.
Knowing what your goals and expectations are will help you lay solid foundations for the rest of your meeting agenda. Are you looking at developing a new marketing strategy? Will you discuss the outcome of the last financial quarter? Do you need to discuss upcoming changes or get employee feedback and suggestions?
It’s important to come up with a clear objective so that your attendees understand the topic at hand. Where possible, try to focus on a single subject instead of multiple topics. Narrow things down to the most important desired outcome and keep your focus on that. By doing this, your attendees will know what’s expected of them.
It all boils down to keeping things moving in the right direction. Your agenda will help pull focus, keep things on topic and prevent wasted time.
Once you know the purpose of your meeting, it will be much easier to know who you need to participate. This is where you will gather all of your decision-makers and key players to help develop the agenda.
It’s important to involve as many people as possible in this process. Why? Because people who feel they have had input are much more likely to execute your plans. The process should bring people together, not cause divides.
Timing is another key player when creating your meeting agenda. Not only will you need to think about attendee availability, but also about how long to spend on each topic or question. It’s a good idea to set a total meeting duration, then divide each topic by it. Allow for an extra 10 minutes at the end for any discussions and note-taking.
Finally, you’ll want to know where you will hold your meeting. If it’s office-based, you should use a space that has enough seating for everyone. If you have attendees travelling from different locations, you’ll want to find a meeting venue that is easily accessible and has all of the business facilities you need.
While modern technology makes virtual video conferencing easy, it can remove that personal touch that helps encourage honest and open discussions. Where possible, always aim for in-person meetings which always result in a more productive outcome.
The title should be clear in telling the attendees what the meeting is about. You should include important info, such as the venue, the date and the time. This section should also include the names of those who you expect to attend.
Provide a brief summary of what the meeting is going to cover. Keep this short and sweet and avoid divergent into the meeting agenda specifics.
A key component of the meeting agenda, you’ll want to highlight each specific topic or subject and its allotted time. Try to cover all of the main talking points, include an intro and a summary and list any questions you want a resolution for. This will help it keep discussions moving in the right direction and prevent wasted time with irrelevant conversation.
The outline gives you a chance to provide more information on the topic you will discuss. It allows attendees to properly prepare themselves before the day and ensures that there’s no confusion.
The final part of your meeting agenda should include detailed questions that participants need to provide answers to. As an example:
By being specific, you are much more likely to get the answers you need and reach a successful conclusion. Simply listing ‘staff benefits’ as the question could leave things open to interpretation and lead to wasted time.
The final part of creating a successful meeting agenda is to include supporting documents and materials. These could include business performance data, projections and relevant statistics. Regardless of the questions you will ask, you should have information to hand to back them up.
You should also give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the meeting. Unless it’s urgent, aim for a minimum of two weeks from preparation to delivery. It’s also seeing as good business etiquette to send out copies of your meeting agenda at least 3 days in advance.
Print off hard copies of the finalised agenda and any supporting documents to hand out to your attendees, along with a form with a section to add any non-focussed questions or points to raise in future meetings.
Now that we’ve covered the most important parts of planning a meeting, there are a few additional extras that you might want to add in. These are optional and will largely depend on the length of your meeting and the number of attendees.
Most meetings will last for an hour or so. However, if you’re planning on a half-day or full-day meeting to hash out important details, breaks are important. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to take a 10-minute break for every hour. If you’re using a meeting venue, you’ll also need to decide if you need breakout rooms.
Regardless of how large or small your meeting is, providing refreshments is always seen as good practice. At the very least, tea, coffee and light snacks are always appreciated. If you’re hosting a more formal meeting or conference, a sit-down dinner can be the perfect way to bring the occasion to a close.
Are you going to need additional seating? Will you require audiovisual technology? Do you expect people to attend via video conferencing? Try to visualise your meeting in your mind and plan ahead for any equipment you might need. If you’re using a meeting venue, you’ll want to find out what equipment is available and arrange logistics for any equipment you need to transport.
Every successful meeting or conference relies on a well-planned out meeting agenda. While it is tempting to add in as much information as possible, simplicity is key. Focus on highlighting important questions and topics and ensure you give sufficient time for any post-meeting discussions.
Once your meeting is over, send out a follow-up email thanking your attendees for their input. Take this opportunity to ask them if they have any other related questions or solutions and their overall thoughts of the meeting outcome.