We’ve all been in meetings where we have to fight the urge to fall asleep when it becomes unproductive and unnecessarily long. They leave you questioning why you showed up and if you learned anything about the project, team, or whatever the meeting was about.
But if you didn’t learn anything else, you probably learned how not to run effective meetings. Namely, if people are tuned into their phones, not paying much attention, and dozing off, it’s probably time to change up the basics.
One of the most common faults when running meetings is an unproductive, unfocused, and poor meeting agenda. Agendas map out the discussions, keeping everyone on track and within the time permitted for the meeting. They are a necessary tool for effective meetings, but they only work if you can create one that leads to efficiency. But how exactly do you do that?
To get started, you’ll want to pick a time and date that works for everyone. Once you’ve done that, you can start crafting your agenda. Make sure to start early so you have enough time to send it out in advance. After that, here are the three vital steps for making an effective meeting agenda.
You should never have a meeting without clear objectives and goals for the discussion of that meeting. Your objectives are what you want to get out of the meeting– what are you discussing? What’s the focus? Are you making any decisions? You should never hold a meeting just to hold a meeting. It should always have a focus. And the key word there is focus because you don’t want to talk about too many different things within one meeting. A good rule of thumb is that it should have a general direction. If you are talking about the development of a certain project, keep the discussion on that project. You can talk about a variety of things regarding that project, but don’t discuss more than one project during one meeting. It can create confusion, ambiguity, and a lack of depth regarding the topics.
This one probably seems obvious, but the reality is that people often don’t make agendas with effectiveness in mind. Typically, discussion leaders will put on an agenda everything that they want to go over in a broad and unfocused manner. For an agenda to be worthwhile, you should have a necessary reason to put an item on an agenda. If it isn’t something for the entire team or something that is pressed for time, it can probably wait. If an item only pertains to a few members, don’t make the rest of your team listen to that exchange if they don’t need to– talk to the others individually outside of meeting times. And if you have other platforms for talking about an item (perhaps email or group chats), use those instead. You should only include the most important items on your agenda that need to be discussed in person so that you can save time and move more efficiently. No one wants to sit in on a meeting with too many topics, so be sure to limit it.
Once you have your agenda items, create a timeline for the meeting. Set a limit for how long you want the meeting to be, keeping in mind that the longer the meeting the less focus you will likely get from members, and assign each item an allotted amount of time for discussion. Doing this will help to ensure that you stay on track during the meeting, even when everyone gets really into a discussion. Because you only have an allotted amount of time, you will know when it has been too long and it’s time to move on. Set times enables the discussion to end on time, which certainly makes everyone involved happy and respects everyone’s time.
After you create your agenda, send it to the team at least two days in advance so that everyone can read through it and be prepared to bring their ideas for discussion to the table. At the meeting, pass it out or project it on a screen so everyone can follow along and stay focused. With an agenda created through the steps above, the meeting is sure to run more effectively.