How to Make a Meeting Agenda That Actually Gets Things Done [Infographic]
By Jenna Ott
Does anyone else out there feel like they are in an endless loop of meetings?
As a marketer serving multiple clients at any given time, I find myself averaging 9-12 meetings a week.
To be fair, I actually enjoy most of these meetings because it gives me a weekly opportunity to catch up with my clients, but what I don’t enjoy is a meeting that has no direction and leaves me wishing I could get back that hour of my day.
Recently, I stumbled on this infographic from The Business Backer that lays out a pretty solid meeting agenda. Paired with some of my experience and tools, I think it’ll be helpful to you too.
The Consequences of a Wasted Meeting
So, meetings don’t always go according to plan. That’s life, right?
Sure, things come up and stuff happens, but there can be real consequences of a meeting not well spent.
The obvious… wasted time.
We’re all busy. Chances are you and your meeting attendees find yourselves thinking “I have other things I really should be doing right now.”
Wasting time with a meeting that doesn’t provide value not only frustrates those involved, but it can have financial ramifications as well.
When employees have to work a little over time or miss a deadline because of a meeting they had to be in, the sting is that much greater if it wasn’t productive.
Morale is impacted. Time is taken away from other priorities and even family or friends. It’s draining.
A good meeting highlights tasks that must be accomplished and who needs to be accomplish them.
If your meeting doesn’t do this, you have people unsure of their roles and responsibilities which leads to project delays.
The Challenges That Lead To A Wasted Meeting
There is nothing worse than spending an hour discussing and deliberating without ever feeling accomplished.
But here’s a thought… is it possible you didn’t have a clear idea of what you wanted to accomplish?
Consider this: You’re in the habit of pre-scheduled weekly meetings.
Eventually, you start to go through the motions without giving any thought to them.
It’s kind of like when you get home from your commute and you can’t even remember the drive because you’re so used to doing it you’re basically on autopilot.
Another issue that often arises is being in a position where you are trying to wrangle multiple voices and figure out who is responsible for each item. This can be especially difficult when you are dialed in and don’t have the benefit of seeing the other people in the room.
And it isn’t uncommon for you arrived at the end of your meeting with items left on your agenda that you just didn’t have time to get to. Often times, it’s not that you didn’t have time to do it all, but you spent just a little more time than necessary on other items.
It would be so much more productive if you were able to find a way to mitigate these challenges and even give yourself a head start on the next meeting.
Key Components of an Effective Meeting Agenda
Creating an opportunity to be more productive in meetings very much starts with the meeting agenda. There are multiple areas and elements that can be optimized to do so.
1. The Agenda Review
Once settled, take the time to go over all of the agenda items before diving into each one.
This gets the meeting off to a good start, giving everyone a clear view of what will be discussed and an opportunity to add to the agenda, if needed.
It also helps to ensure that you distribute time accordingly throughout the meeting.
Also, remember to be specific.
Yes, a meeting agenda is very much an outline. but the more detail you provide early on, the more clarity your meeting attendees have.
By knowing exactly what is being addressed, your meeting goes in a very productive direction.
2. Stating Outcomes
By clearly identifying the objective of each item on the agenda, you create a focus.
Everyone is clear on the purpose or “why” of the task and the discussion becomes more targeted around that objective.
3. Noting Time Limits
Actually setting a time limit on the conversation for each agenda item ensures that each item will be addressed by the end of the meeting.
It also allows the meeting leader an opportunity to collect their thoughts and consider the realistic amount of discussion an item requires. It also helps discourage unnecessary tangents.
4. Identifying Roles and Responsibilities
This is something I can’t say enough positive things about. On your meeting agenda, be sure to identify who will be leading the conversation on what. This way, they can arrive prepared.
Anytime I’ve found myself faced with a delay or miscommunication, it could be attributed to confusion around who was responsible for what.
As the meeting leader, knowing the priority of each item on the agenda will allow you to ensure attention is given to the most pressing matters.
If time runs out and lower priority items didn’t make it into the meeting, you’ll know to shift them to your next agenda.
6. Use Questions To Facilitate A Problem Solving Approach
When your agenda simply lists topics for discussion, discussion is what you get, but by posing your topics as questions, you push people to respond in a way that focuses more on finding answers and solutions.
7. Make it a Quick and Easy Read
Avoid making your agenda too long..
Keeping your agenda along the lines of an outline, makes it easy for people to look over quickly and get a sense of what they should be prepared to talk about.
It also increases the chances of everyone reading it beforehand and coming into the meeting prepared.
8. What Went Well And What Can Be Improved?
The idea of ending the meeting with this question is really insightful.
It serves two main purposes. Identifying strengths and weaknesses and highlighting areas that require a bit more attention, both of which bring immense value.
Changing My Meeting Mentality
After walking through this infographic, I found myself thinking long and hard about the meetings I find myself in every week.
Not only the ones that I run, but those run by my teammates and leadership here at IMPACT.
I realized that many of us, whether we realize it or not, have adopted quite a few of the items outlined.
I also found a lot of areas for improvement.
Personally, I love the idea of assigning times to each item. This is something that I’ve actually seen in practice in IMPACT’s monthly All-Hands Meetings, and it works incredibly well.
I also plan to add task owners to each item on my agendas from now on.
Not only will this help me to keep track of who is responsible for what, but it will create a sense of accountability for each item.
I’d venture to guess that when any of us creates a meeting agenda, we have an idea of priorities in our heads. However, I’m not so sure that many of us structure the agenda to reflect that.
It seems like a no-brainer and I look forward to being more cognizant of it.
Adding questions into my agendas is something I’m excited to test out.
I’ve had plenty of meetings where a lot of discussion occurred without ever reaching a solution to a problem. Changing my approach by asking more pointed questions and seeing the result of that is really appealing.
One thing I will do is give myself a pat on the back for asking what went well and what can be improved upon.
We do this pretty regularly here at IMPACT.
As the main point of contact for clients, many of us ask a very important question on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
We ask our clients to rate the engagement on a scale of 1-10 and if the rating isn’t a 10, we ask what we can do to improve.
There is so much value in this simple question. Not only does it open up an honest and thoughtful dialog about the working relationship, but it often uncovers things that would never have been brought to the surface otherwise.
I hope you’re able to find similar value in this. I think we can all agree that anything that makes good use of our time and prevents us from wasting it is quite worthwhile.
Wondering where to begin?