Agendas: the secret weapon for every meeting

Written by Paul Morton

40 percent of workers say that half the meetings they attend are redundant. What’s more, more than a third of workers have fallen asleep in meetings. This doesn’t mean every meeting needs to be a thrill ride. But, you do need to engage your attendees in a meaningful way. Meeting agendas, then, are invaluable.

Beyond presentation skills, you can make your business meetings more effective, dynamic and valuable with an agenda. For example, everyone in attendance knows exactly what the meeting is about and what they need to do to prepare for it.

Agendas are the secret weapon of a productive meeting. Here’s our top tips for coming up with the ideal agenda.

Step 1: Don’t wait until the last minute

Don’t create an agenda ten minutes before the meeting starts. This is counter-productive. You may as well have no agenda at all. Create your meeting agenda and send it to attendees at least three days before the meeting takes place. This way, they have time to think about the topics.

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Step 2: Clearly define the meeting objective

It may seem obvious, but let your attendees know why you’re having a meeting. And be specific, don’t just say ‘we need to talk about the website’ when what you really mean is ‘we need to see if we can streamline our homepage to try and increase sales’.

Knowing the specifics of what to say means your attendees come prepared, rather than having to come up with everything on the day.

Step 3: Prioritise agenda items

Add agenda items in order of importance. The longer your meeting goes on, the more likely you are to lose the interest of those in attendance. So, start with the important things first, when they’re all fresh and eager. This also means you won’t accidentally miss something vital due to time pressures.

Step 4: Allow plenty of discussion time

For each agenda item, mark how long you plan to spend discussing it. We’d advise padding this time slightly just in case the conversation overruns. If you need two minutes, schedule the discussion to last three. Or if it’s a ten-minute discussion, set aside fifteen. Not only does this ensure you will have enough time to fully discuss any topic, it’s likely you’ll end your meeting ‘early’ if you don’t use the allocated time.

Step 5: Tell attendees how to prepare

Your meeting will be more productive if you tell attendees how to prepare for it. Not only will this help with expectation setting, but they’ll be more engaged in the process, too. Do this by letting them know the decisions that require answers by the end of the meeting. Let them know exactly what to think about, and they will feel both useful and engaged.

Stick or twist? Should you allow agenda deviation?

The next question is: Do you allow your meeting to deviate from the agenda set out? Really, it’s up to you, some things are so important they transcend your plans. But remember, if you do allow it, you run the risk of derailing your previously effective meeting.

Walk the walk while you talk the talk

If you take our advice on how to create agendas, you can turn your meetings from time-wasting snooze-fests to effective and driven sessions that bring real benefit to your business. So, remember to plan, define your meeting’s purpose, timetable and let attendees know how to prepare. If you do, you’ll be able to walk the walk while you’re talking the talk.

To find out other ways you can help your business become more efficient and effective, contact an expert at Turbine here.

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Lessons , Communication , Meetings , People management , Small business