The work week is busy, I know. It can be challenging to find time to actually prepare for your meetings.
But investing time in writing a meeting agenda is worth it.
Here’s how to write one that will keep you on track and make you look good:
See Related: 8 Helpful Ways to Measure Workplace Productivity
What is a Meeting Agenda?
A meeting agenda is a simple written breakdown of the topics to be covered during a meeting. Meeting agendas help the meeting leader – or better yet, the master of ceremonies – stay on track.
Distributing the agenda before the meeting also helps team members prepare for the discussion topics. It helps everyone get on the same page and avoid unproductive meetings.
Without further ado, here is how to write an effective meeting agenda:
#1: Set Your Goal for the Meeting
The most important thing to know is why you are having a meeting.
It may sound silly, but it’s a question many people don’t consider! Why is this a meeting instead of an email or a quick phone call?
Your meeting goal will help define your discussion items.
For example, your meeting goal may be to brainstorm a theme for the annual fundraising campaign. Therefore, agenda topics will include things like: open brainstorming, voting on favorite ideas, and discussing final candidates.
Make meeting goals tangible.
Effective meeting agendas are not vague. While there may be time for open discussion, make sure you walk out having made real progress. Clear next steps. Action items.
What does a tangible goal look like?
This can look like finalizing which team members will lead which projects for the quarter. Choosing the menu for a new season at a restaurant. Setting the strategy for an upcoming marketing campaign.
The entire team should leave the meeting understanding their next steps.
#2: Structure Discussion Topics Based on Your Meeting Objectives
Let your meeting goals indicate how you will structure the conversation as corporate emcee, if you will. Some topics will involve into open discussion. Others will involve providing feedback. Still others will involve reporting out to the rest of the team.
Break the team meeting into sections by topic.
Topics may be: budget, marketing, networking, brainstorming, feedback, etc.
Ultimately, you can design your meeting agenda however you please. Just make sure the topics you choose are in service of accomplishing your goals.
#3: Break Topics Down by Time
This is a very important piece of the puzzle! Do not trust your internal clock when it comes to meetings. People will get carried away in conversation and you will not cover all the topics you planned.
Break down each section by how much time you will dedicate to it. Some topics may require only five or ten minutes. Others may take a half hour.
What is important is that you set realistic time breakdowns.
Don’t wishfully assign ten minutes to a topic you know will garner forty minutes of discussion. You won’t feel rushed and will stay on track.
Of course, timing out sections on the agenda is great. But what you really need to do is track that time during the meeting. Set timers on your phone. Keep a strong eye on the clock. A good meeting agenda helps you keep things moving.
#4: Let Meeting Participants Know What to Prepare
When you send a calendar invite to the team, send the agenda with it.
Set clear expectations for each team member
Dedicate a section of your agenda to telling the team what to prepare. This will help everyone participate effectively. They won’t be scrambling to find a file from six weeks ago or pull up an email.
You told them what they would need to be successful, so they can have everything ready to go. This lowers stress and increases productivity.
Ask team members to suggest agenda items
You don’t need to write a meeting agenda all by yourself. In fact, there may be topics you don’t think of that the team would like to discuss.
So, seek input from your team!
If they want a discussion point added to the agenda, ask them to contact you. This practice ensures that everyone gets what they need from the meeting.
#5: Consider the Content of the Previous Meeting
Maybe your team meets regularly. But maybe your last gathering to discuss this subject was months ago.
Everyone is so busy! It can be difficult to remember what was mentioned earlier at previous meetings.
So, refer to your meeting notes.
And if you don’t already take meeting minutes or notes, start! Keeping a record of what is discussed is vital. It helps you refer back to helpful ideas or conversations and is a life-saving tool if you ever have to work as an event emcee too.
As you write a meeting agenda, look back on the minutes from the last relevant meeting. It will help remind you where the team left off. This is useful as you define the discussion topics for this meeting agenda.
#6: Distribute Pertinent Materials Before the Meeting
The entire team knows what you expect them to bring to the meeting. But do they have everything they need from you?
Consider any documents you have that the team does not.
If they will contribute to the team’s ability to participate in the discussion, go ahead and distribute them.
- Maybe you just received blueprints for the new arts building the organization is breaking ground on.
- Perhaps you have bios for the newest board members.
- Or maybe you have audience reviews from your theater’s most recent production.
Distributing pertinent materials increases transparency and team member satisfaction.
I highly recommend making this a part of your decision making process
#7: Develop Contingency Plans
You’ve dedicated a specific amount of time to all discussion points. But a conversation seemed extremely important and you wanted to let it run long. It happens!
We like to avoid staying on one topic much longer than it was slated for. But sometimes it’s unavoidable, depending on the direction the conversation flows.
All you can do is be prepared.
When you schedule the meeting, also consider scheduling overflow time.
This can look two different ways:
- Schedule more time for the meeting than you actually anticipate needing.
- Schedule an overflow meeting for the next day to cover unaddressed topics.
This planning helps you both respect your team’s time and dedicate enough time to each agenda item. It helps you allow for in-depth conversation while achieving meeting productivity.
#8: Consider the Type of Meeting
Meeting agendas can look different depending on the type of team meeting you are having.
Are you hosting…
- An annual staff meeting with two hundred people?
- A retrospective meeting to go over team procedures?
- A simple recurring meeting to check in with your interns?
- A high-stakes business meeting with a huge potential client?
These agendas will differ depending on your needs. For example:
- A retrospective meeting agenda may leave time for a fun team icebreaker
- A time-sensitive meeting with an especially picky client will get right down to business
- A morning-long conference agenda will require breaks to be built in as an agenda item
- A weekly team meeting will probably be fairly short because you speak so often
You ultimately decide which format is most effective for you.
#9: A Detailed Agenda is an Effective Agenda
It’s all in the details. At its core, a meeting agenda is an informative document. It must contain all the information your team needs – and that includes logistics:
Be sure to include these logistics on all of your meeting agendas:
- Meeting date
- Meeting time
- Video conference link (if pertinent)
- Meeting location (if in person)
You can find meeting agenda templates online.
These can help provide an outline for your meeting agenda.
If you’ve never created a well designed agenda before, it’s a relief to see one for yourself!
Eventually, you should aim to develop a meeting agenda template you can use again and again.
You will have more productive meetings and keep participants focused.
When the meeting begins, everyone will know what to expect.
Let’s Recap Together!
By now, you should be ready to write an effective meeting agenda.
Be sure to keep these 8 tips in mind:
Meeting Agenda Tip #1: Set your goal for the meeting.
Meeting Agenda Tip #2: Structure discussion topics based on your meeting objectives.
Meeting Agenda Tip #3: Break down topics by time.
Meeting Agenda Tip #4: Let meeting participants know what to prepare.
Meeting Agenda Tip #5: Consider the content of your previous meeting.
Meeting Agenda Tip #6: Distribute pertinent materials before the meeting.
Meeting Agenda Tip #7: Develop contingency plans.
Meeting Agenda Tip #8: Consider the type of meeting.
Meeting Agenda Tip #9: A comprehensive agenda is an effective agenda.
With these tips, your next meeting is going to go swimmingly!
Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.