Without having a plan in place, meetings can run off the rails. Here's everything you need to know about the importance of having a meeting agenda.
Have you left a work meeting thinking what was the point? It’s annoying to attend a meeting without a specific focus or sit through a meeting that goes completely off-track.
Without a plan, meetings waste time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
Don’t underestimate the power of an agenda. A well-organized agenda is the foundation for a productive meeting.
A meeting agenda should have a clear objective, bring people together, and offer direction for the future. Take a look at some reasons why you should create an agenda for your next business meeting.
Define a Goal
Before you make a plan for your next meeting, think about what you hope to accomplish and craft your agenda with that idea in mind.
Business meetings without an agenda lack purpose and can go off the rails without a preset list of discussion topics. These types of meetings lack direction and produce few positive results.
When participants know the goal of the meeting ahead of time, they have time to think and prepare relevant questions or observations to add to the discussion. When they know the agenda, they’re more likely to attend the meeting and do their part to make it a success.
Allow Time to Prepare
Rather than have meeting after meeting without a clear focus, give participants some time to consider the topics. When they know what’s on the agenda, they’re more likely to take the time to think about or research the topics.
Intelligent discussion and debate produce more results than impulsive responses. Give your colleagues advanced notice of the meeting. Take the time to craft a relevant agenda and offer participants adequate time to prepare.
Your colleagues will appreciate the effort, and your meeting will be more organized and successful.
Stick to Relevant Matters
You don’t have to discuss all aspects of your business at every meeting. Instead, stick to a shortlist of relevant topics and dive deep.
Pick topics that affect your business now or in the near future. If you have recurring meetings, don’t spend a lot of time reviewing old minutes.
Instead, get right to the point and pick up where you left off. Have a time limit on discussions.
This encourages participants to be concise and get right to the point. If you allow your meeting to go on with endless discussion and questions, you’ll lose your direction and your audience.
Bring People Together
Make sure you have a list of everyone who needs to attend the meeting. You don’t want to realize in the middle of a discussion that a key player is missing.
Before the meeting begins, emphasize the agenda and the focus of the meeting. Allow a few moments of lighthearted discussion before moving to a serious tone.
You want all participants to feel comfortable, engaged, and ready to participate in the discussions. It never hurts to have something to offer such as coffee and breakfast items, snacks, or a light lunch.
This helps break the ice and is good for company morale.
Keep Everyone Focused
When a meeting goes off track, it’s usually a result of participants trying to express their various views. As the leader, it’s your job to keep your agenda moving along while letting the participants know their voice matters.
Keep the topics relevant to the agenda and ask for questions and observations on those issues only. Let participants know they can address other concerns at another time.
This is much easier to accomplish when everyone has the business agenda in front of them. Your meetings will be much easier to manage when the participants know exactly what to expect.
When participants know the objectives for the meeting, it’s hard to have an excuse for being unprepared. With an agenda, they know what they need to expect and which topics they will discuss.
This saves time and eliminates the embarrassment of participants being put on the spot without knowledge of the topics at hand. Be sure to send out an agenda and give participants ample time to prepare for the meeting.
If your meeting is virtual, it’s just as important to have an agenda. Expect everyone to be on the same page, prepared, and ready to participate.
When your employees feel valued, they are more likely to speak up and share their ideas. Make sure they know you want to hear from them and that you value their opinions and ideas.
A clear agenda allows members time to think about their ideas and feelings about the topics you will discuss. Include time for everyone to add their input to the discussion.
When you empower employees, it inspires loyalty. Employees who feel valued are more likely to be productive and engaged in their work.
Manage Meeting Times
When you have work meetings, you don’t want participants to feel like they’re wasting time. Meetings where one speaker drones on or multiple people argue back and forth are not productive.
An agenda can be a time management tool to help your meeting run smoothly and keep everyone on track and moving forward. You can add a time frame for each discussion item on the agenda.
Sticking to a time frame helps employees stay focused on the issues and keeps the meeting from dragging on too long.
Focus on Results
Having an agenda helps everyone involved prepare for the topics of discussion. But your agenda should also suggest what you expect of employees when the meeting is over.
Give them a task to complete before the next meeting. This can help keep them involved and participating in future meetings.
Although the items on your agenda may be about current issues, you should explain how these issues matter for your company now and into the future.
The goal is to keep employees actively engaged and invested in their success and the future success of the company.
Tips for a Successful Meeting
When everyone is busy, meetings can seem like an intrusion on employees’ time. Make sure your meetings have a purpose.
No one wants to sit through a pointless meeting when they have other things to do. Having an agenda can help ensure your meeting has focus and direction.
Here are a few tips for a successful meeting.
Start on Time
Make sure participants aren’t sitting around waiting for a few stragglers to show up before the meeting can begin. There are a few things you can do to encourage people to be on time.
Send out the agenda at least 24 hours in advance.
Send an email a few minutes before the meeting is set to begin.
Have someone prepared to call those who are late.
Hold the meeting in a prominent spot where it’s noticeable if someone is late.
Request in advance for participants to show up on time.
Make it clear you expect everyone to be there on time and begin the meeting on time even if some are late. Make sure remote employees also understand the importance of attending virtual meetings on time.
Only Meet When Necessary
Meetings don’t have to be a weekly ritual. If there’s a good reason to meet, hold a meeting.
If you simply need to distribute information, send it by email. Your employees will appreciate your consideration of their time. They will be more willing to participate when there’s a good reason to meet and discuss important issues.
Let People Air Their Differences
Meetings shouldn’t be one-sided lectures from a manager to the employees. Everyone should have a chance to express their thoughts and opinions on the agenda items.
Be sure employees are discussing ideas, not attacking each other. Allow passionate discussion within reason, and make sure participants know they can disagree without punishment or retaliation.
You will always have people who can’t wait to share their opinions and others who may be hesitant to speak up. Sometimes people feel like they need permission before sharing their thoughts.
Try to show everyone they are there for a reason and their opinions matter. If you notice someone who isn’t speaking up or participating, ask their opinion.
This will get them involved, and they may be more willing to engage at the next meeting. The point is to involve everyone and have a productive meeting.
End on Time
Your agenda should designate a time to begin and end the meeting. Try to stick to this schedule as much as possible.
If you have a meeting at the end of the workday, you don’t want to keep people from their families or other responsibilities. It’s always a good idea to end a meeting on time or a little early if possible.
The Benefits of a Meeting Agenda
When you’re in a management position, meetings are a necessary part of the job. Being able to run a successful meeting takes some work and some practice to get it right.
One way to keep everyone focused on the issues is to have a meeting agenda for everyone to follow. With an agenda in place, participants know what is expected of them and can prepare to participate and share their ideas.