Some of us would live blissfully if one never had to attend another meeting. Like it or not, meetings are still critical means to organizing groups of people. The worst meetings are those called for some vague purpose that is never clearly stated. People waste the first part of the meeting discovering and clarifying the purpose of the meeting. Avoid that by making a clear agenda so people come to the meeting prepared, and to complete business as quickly as possible.
- Start with simple list – most important is simply to have an agenda even if it is just a list. Any agenda. A simple list of discussion topics is far better than nothing. By one estimate 63% of meetings lack an agenda of any kind. A simple list of the agenda items achieves a lot.
- Good descriptions – Since words mean different things to different people, consider a short paragraph to clarify the intent of the agenda item to all participants. Put yourself in the place of the meeting attendees and estimate what might be clear to them. Descriptions must make sense to external people who will review the agenda, such as occasionally upper management.
- Assign presenters – Different agenda items are usually associated with different people in group. If a person has advocated for a particular agenda item, then include their name on the agenda so they can be prepared to present the key points and possibly give a presentation.
- Estimate time – Meeting time is limited, attendee time is precious. Plan to give each item time according to how important it is. Transparency is your friend here. If people know they have only a topic is only going to be discussed for 5 minutes, they will be more proactive in getting their points out quickly. Setting expectations is your best way to end the meeting on time.
- Backlog items you don’t have time for. Not every meeting can consider every topic. If your list is too long to handle in a single meeting, don’t just ignore the topics. Create a backlog list of items that you intend to get to one day, but will not be handling in this meeting. Only, be sure at some point in the future to address those otherwise this can backfire.
- Gather presentations – If someone plans to present slides or other materials, then attach them directly to the agenda, so attendees can review in advance. Even presentations finished at that last possible moment can be attached during the meeting, making them easily available to all. Asking each speaker to email the presentation not only takes time from the speaker, and recipients, but future team members will be left out.
- Remind presenters before the meeting – If you have an agenda item assigned to a person, and you do expect them to lead the discussion, make sure they have ample warning. An email a couple hours or a couple days ahead specifically notifying them will help make your meetings run better.
- Keep it succinct – The agenda should not have long prose arguing in favor or against something. The agenda should be short and to the point so that people understand what is being discussed. The further persuasive argument should be attached somewhere else from the agenda.
- Link to earlier meetings – many agenda items are discussed across multiple meetings. Make links to previous meeting agenda and minutes to make preparation for the current meeting easier for everyone.
- Invite corrections before the meeting – Distribute the agenda well ahead of the meeting so that people can respond so you can correct the agenda. Some items might already have been resolved, and can be removed. Others need more clarity in the description. Make sure you have time to receive that.
- Post the agenda online – Agendas should be updated with corrections and improvements, and that means the one you sent yesterday by email is now out of date. Instead of sending an attachment, send a link so that everyone can see the latest version.
Creating an agenda time, but I guarantee that every minute spent making a good agenda will pay back 5x as much in the meeting getting things done. 24 billion hours are wasted each year as the result of unproductive meetings. Organizations spend roughly 15% of their time on meetings, with surveys showing that 71% of those meetings are considered unproductive. Don’t let that be your meeting! A small amount of preparation in advance will make your meetings far more productive, and the agenda is at the core of this.
Circle Weaver is a platform for organizing any kind of group, and it is a very low-cost effective way to keep groups on the same page. It provides a number of feature to make the creating and managing of meeting agendas easy. Circle Weaver is a coop united by a single theme: people are the source of all good, and when we work together we transcend our challenges. If you don’t know Weaver, give us a try!