You’ve aligned everyone’s calendars and scheduled time together – yes!
But how should you organize an agenda that will keep the group on track? Let’s talk about it!
Here are 8 top tips on how to organize an effective agenda:
See Related: 10 Ways to Become a Time Management Pro
#1: Identify the Purpose of the Meeting
Sounds simple, right? But how many times in life have you been in a room knowing the conversation could’ve happened over email? You sit there and search for the reason you were called in? Probably quite a few…
Set a clear purpose.
After all, an agenda is a written guide for helping you achieve the meeting’s purpose. Just as I prepare for a corporate event as a master of ceremonies, I know that an organized agenda must lead somewhere. People shouldn’t need to search for the purpose.
- Perhaps folks are gathering to review the final candidates for an available position. The purpose is to officially choose who will receive an offer.
- Or you are gathering to distribute tasks for an upcoming staff bonding week. The purpose is to leave everyone with clear marching orders as the week approaches.
Set your goal before writing the agenda.
An agenda is a planning system, a guide to help you achieve your goals. Without one, the conversation can become unfocused.
Set a clear goal so everyone understands how to adjust their daily tasks to meet them.
#2: Decide What Information Needs to Be Discussed with the Group
Now, let’s be clear. Some conversations really can be emails. And your team will not appreciate taking an hour out of their day for no good reason.
Avoid this by getting your priorities straight.
What tasks cannot move forward without group discussion?
Take a look at each task on your to-do list. Are there many tasks that require group input in order to move forward?
Then it’s time to sit down together. Here’s an example:
One of your important tasks Is to hire a DJ for your nonprofit’s fundraiser. But as you’re planning, you realize that you have questions:
- What kind of music do we want them to focus on?
- Do we know any DJs who have worked for other local nonprofits? Do they offer a discount rate?
- What kind of space will the DJ have to work with? Equipment? Budget?
It will be faster to get the group together and answer these questions all at once.
What information does everyone need to know?
Alternatively, you may not have questions for the group – you have information.
Maybe there is a big change in senior leadership and you know the team will have questions. Or the company is rebranding for the first time in its life cycle. You want to lead a group brainstorming session and find a great idea for the campaign.
These items can help you organize your agenda.
#3: Break the Ice
Now that you have identified the purpose of your gathering, let’s dive into the agenda structure!
Approach this with the friendliness you would in everyday life.
In life, you wouldn’t march up to someone and immediately start talking business. You’d take a moment to greet them. Organize your agenda the same way a corporate emcee would organize a corporate event.
Get into the habit of planning an icebreaker for the group.
This can be verbal, like going around the room and sharing your favorite Disney film. Or it can be a silent warm-up, like writing things that make you happy and then sharing.
Make the warm-ups part of your agenda on a regular basis.
It gives the team time to breathe and ease into the topic at hand.
Don’t forget, they may have been coming from something stressful or engrossing right before this. Allow them time to switch gears.
#4: Provide Context and State Your Goals
Okay, everyone is in the room! Time to explain why.
Organize your agenda to acclimate the group to why they are there. Do this after the icebreaker. Rather than move sporadically through different topics, explain the overall goal.
Why is it important to zoom out like this?
You will increase productivity throughout the session if everyone understands its goal from the outset. Help your team stay focused by making your intentions clear.
Fill in the blank:
“By the end of this session, we will have done/decided ________.” Write it on a whiteboard or drop a note in the group chat so everyone can refer back to it. Build their tasks around it.
You will be amazed at how this helps your team stay organized and on topic!
Once everyone is clear on the overall purpose of the session, it’s time to move forward. Let’s talk about how I recommend you organize the agenda at this point.
#5: Think of the Agenda as a Roadmap
Now everyone in the room (or on the Zoom) knows why they are there. Let’s move through this agenda!
This sounds silly, but add watching Dora the Explorer to your to-do list!
In the children’s show, Dora uses a map that clearly indicates how to reach her final destination. We are at Point A. We want to reach Point C. In order to do so, we must go to Point B first.
Now, you may have bigger tasks and bigger projects to organize than Dora. Perhaps you need to move from Point A to Point G, or even Point Z!
When there are lots of moving tasks and moving parts, I find that it helps to work backward.
As you organize your agenda, think about your final goal and move backward.
Here’s an example:
- Our final goal is to host a fun day of staff bonding.
- That day will include games, food, and prizes.
- We will need to budget how much money we have for each of those buckets.
- We will need to form committees to tend to each matter.
- We will need to decide the date and where this day will take place.
- We must poll the staff for their availability.
See how thinking backward helps with your planning. Follow the path from your end goal to your first task in order to stay organized.
And if all of this feels too overwhelming, you can always hire an emcee to run the meeting for you. (Us emcees got your back!)
#6: Choose a Style
Okay, you have identified the path that will guide you through the agenda. But what mode of transportation will you use to get from beginning to end?
Here’s what I mean: there are many ways to structure a conversation.
Let’s talk about different methods to help the conversation stay organized and productive:
As you read about these options, consider your team. How do they usually prefer to communicate? Which method lends itself to the best time management?
You can structure the agenda using a round-robin system. This is helpful when multiple people or departments have updates to share with the group.
In advance, provide each department with a list of items they should prepare for the group. As you are organizing the agenda, start with one team, then move to the next. And so on.
This method ensures that everyone gets equal time to speak.
The popcorn system is for less tightly structured meetings. It is a style in which anyone can contribute to the conversation at any time.
This method is great for brainstorming sessions when you are trying to ignite creativity.
#7: Build Time for Feedback and Conversation into Your Planning System
As you organize your agenda, leave time for feedback. This is key for effective time management.
Why? Because people are going to have questions and ideas! And they will voice those, whether you organized time for it or not.
As you write your agenda, start planning how you will leave time for feedback.
Create a note on the agenda that explains how it will work. Will there be five minutes for questions after each department presents? One overarching feedback session before wrapping up?
#8: Review Your Action Items
Before you wrap up, stay organized by going over everyone’s due dates and task lists. Try color-coding by department or person responsible. Make marketing a different color from finance, for example.
It helps to write things down as the session is happening.
Write down dates and tasks, then color code to make it easy to present at the end. Allow time for everyone to create reminders for their responsibilities.
This is so important because it provides the group with clear next steps. The most important part of a meeting is taking action once it’s over!
It’s Almost Time to Build Your Agenda!
First, let’s do a quick review of what we’ve learned.
Consider these tips when writing your next agenda:
#1: Identify the purpose of the gathering.
#2: Decide what information needs to be discussed with the group.
#3: Break the ice.
#4: Provide context and state your goals.
#5: Think of the agenda as a roadmap.
#6: Choose a style.
#7: Build time for feedback and conversation into your planning system.
#8: Review your action items.
With these tips, I am confident that you will lead a productive session!
Keep Reading: 6 Secrets for Improving Your People Skills
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.