Effective Agendas Lead to Effective Meetings

While reading an HBR article on writing effective agendas the other day, I had an epiphany. There is no reason anyone should sit through a poorly run meeting. After all, this is a solved problem. As long as the organizer knows what she wants out of the meeting, meetings should be short and to the point.

At the core of the effective meeting is the agenda. If you can create an agenda that addresses your objectives, you’ll create an environment that encourages better meetings. Granted, you’ll still need to run the meeting with discipline, but setting the agenda ahead of time is a good a start. Here are a few tips that have worked well for me in the past.

  • Before preparing the agenda, be sure you have well established goals for the meeting. Having a meeting to simply “touch-base” or to “get everyone together” is a status report, not a goal.
  • Use your goals to establish your agenda items. This top down approach guarantees that all of your agenda items are moving you toward your stated goals.
  • Every agenda item should have a well defined deliverable such as a decision, a series of actions, or information sharing.
  • If an agenda item falls under the “information sharing” category, be sure to timebox it. If you decide you need more time to discuss, that’s fine. Just be sure that you’re conscientiously deciding to spend more on a topic as opposed to allowing time to simply slip away.
  • Assign a leader for each topic. Even though you may be calling the meeting, you may not be the best person to lead a particular agenda item. Give the leader plenty of time to prepare for the meeting.
  • Decide who absolutely needs to be there for each agenda item. If you’re unsure, don’t invite them. If they need to be involved, someone else will point this out to you.
  • Share the agenda well in advance. Giving people a chance to prepare is a great way of ensuring that you don’t waste time on fundamental concepts.
  • Nice article, Darrell. I’ve found that assigning someone to take notes and document the next steps is also valuable. This is especially true, when it’s a small internal meeting.

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