Writing an agenda for a meeting might seem straightforward: you think through the topics you want to cover, list them in an outline format, and distribute your notes to the group.
But in fact, the way you craft your meeting agenda can have a big impact on the overall productivity of your session. To help you get the most out of your gathering, here are several key tips on how to write an agenda for a meeting:
Nail Down Key Meeting Information
At its core, an agenda serves to share important information and keep attendees on track. That’s why writing a good meeting agenda starts with gathering these key details:
- The attendees. Who will attend your meeting? Of these attendees, who is required, and who is optional? Will all attendees have the opportunity to speak, or will some be present only to observe? Document your attendee list in your agenda—including departments and titles—to facilitate introductions.
- The meeting’s objective. What are you trying to accomplish with your meeting? Good meetings aren’t convened just to get people together. There should, ideally, be some tangible action you’re trying to achieve, such as answering a question, making a plan, or communicating progress.
- The topics you’ll cover. Following your objective, your meeting agenda should include a breakdown of the specific topics you’ll discuss. For instance, if you’re planning a sales team meeting, the specific items you cover may include sharing sales performance data, reviewing new product updates, or practicing responding to sales objections.
Simply writing a meeting agenda that includes this key information will go a long way towards improving productivity. But there are several additional steps you can take to maximize the impact of your sessions.
Communicate Your Purpose
When possible, create and distribute your meeting agenda at least 48 hours before your meeting to allow attendees time to prepare. This is especially important if you’ll be discussing sensitive topics during your session—blindsiding attendees with hot-button topics as they arrive means they won’t have time to organize their thoughts in advance. This, in turn, means that your meeting won’t be as effective as it could be.
In addition to sharing your meeting in advance, be explicit about any prior preparation you’d like attendees to undertake. For example, if you expect them to share performance data, let them know ahead of time to compile their reports. If you plan to discuss a major announcement in your industry, send along reference materials so that teams can get up-to-speed before they’re put on the spot in your meeting.
Be Reasonable with Your Timing Expectations
We’ve all sat through sessions where it was clear the meeting’s organizer was overly ambitious with their agenda. Unfortunately, failing to plan your meeting’s timings appropriately can leave attendees dashing off to their next sessions—without you having covered the most critical items on your agenda.
Before your meeting, take a second to jot down how long you expect to spend on each bullet point agenda item you created. Does what you plan to cover feel doable within the time you’ve allotted? Will you be opening the floor up for discussion at any point, and if so, have you allocated enough time to do so?
Remember, it’s almost always better to end early and be able to give people their time back than to have to plead with them to stay longer.
Invite Attendees to Own Agenda Items
No one likes sitting through meetings that consist of a single person droning on for hours on end. But, as many leaders have found, getting attendees to engage isn’t always easy either.
A ‘happy medium’ between these two extremes is inviting attendees to own different items on your agenda. Once you’ve set your agenda, identify which of your attendees might be able to lead each section, where possible. Then, invite them to lead that discussion in the actual meeting. They’ll engage more deeply, and you’ll benefit from the incorporation of different perspectives into your session.
Just be sure to give attendees plenty of notice if you plan to ask them to lead parts of your agenda. No one likes being put on the spot or feeling like they’re unprepared!
Consider Your Company’s Culture When Involving Executives
If you work in a more formal office and plan to invite top executives to your meetings, there are a few etiquette considerations you’ll want to keep in mind, including:
- Coordinating with your executives’ teams. Getting time with executives is often more challenging, due to their limited availability and the layers of support staff involved in managing their calendars. Plan far enough in advance to get the time you need, and enlist the help of their assistants in distributing your agenda in advance.
- Respecting the team’s hierarchy. If executives will attend your meeting, it’s generally a best practice to list them first on any emails or calendar invitations you plan to send out.
- Allowing extra time for executive commentary. While the timing of your meeting should be planned to ensure no one gets cut off, you’ll want to be especially careful when executives will attend. Pad some extra time into your schedule in case they open up conversations that take you away from your original agenda.
Account for Post-Meeting Follow-Up
Finally, be sure to include a bullet point on your meeting agenda for post-meeting follow-up items. This may be as simple as reviewing the actions the team aligned on during the agenda, to ensure everyone is clear on their post-meeting action items. Or, if your session has been more free-flowing, including this agenda item brings attendees back down to business to identify tangible takeaways.
If you record your meetings in Otter, one key post-meeting action item is to make sure all attendees have access to the notes—which you can do by auto-sharing Otter’s notes with all guests on your calendar event:
Encourage attendees to collaborate within Otter’s notes, based on what they feel the meeting’s key takeaways were. If everyone on your team takes this step, you’ll create a record of the meeting’s content and important points that’ll come in helpful down the road if any member of your team needs to revisit what was shared in the session.
To see these features in action, sign up to get started with a free 10-day trial of Otter Business today.