What are meetings? Meetings are about multiple people contributing to an idea, a question, or a decision.
Once you have determined your meeting topic and structure, you get everyone to the table… and then what? How do you make sure the conversation stays on topic, and that everybody is able to share new ideas?
Enter: the meeting agenda.
The agenda is essential in running a meeting well. The agenda lets everybody involved know what is expected: what needs to happen in this meeting, how everybody will participate, and what the next steps will be.
Here are the areas every meeting agenda should include.
Why is this meeting being held.
Remember that meetings are about an exchange of information. A meeting purpose statement must reflect what that exchange is about and why it matters. In its simplest form, this sentence can always begin “This meeting is to determine… “ and fill in the rest.
To prepare your meeting agenda, start with one simple question: what is going to change as a result of this meeting?
Then add why it must change and what outcome you hope for.
The purpose part of the agenda lets people know how they should prepare, and assures them that there is work to be done in this meeting.
Who & Why
List the people who will be in this meeting, and then explain why they are expected to be present.
All too often I see employees roll their eyes or breathe a sigh of frustration at the thought of “just another meeting”. This is because they expect to sit in a room for an hour, listen to information, learn nothing new and then be released.
By telling people why they are included in the meeting, you are telling them how you expect them to participate, and also how to prepare. If they should be doing some research, or data collection beforehand, this is how they know.
You are giving them responsibility, and therefore empowerment. This tells people “we expect this outcome and this meeting is your opportunity to contribute”. Since, as we know, meetings are about all attendees also being active participants.
A small but essential part of the agenda: when is the meeting, where is the meeting, and what should people bring.
Give people the chance to manage their time: do they have to commute, do they need a certain widget or tool for an online meeting, should they bring anything other than pen and paper?
What is the discussion?
This is an elaboration of the purpose. In short, it tells people how the discussion will be led and what the salient points are.
Once again: this helps participants prepare for the meeting.
At the end of the meeting, it will also help organize the follow up notes and confirm the next steps.
A good meeting agenda will:
- Tell attendees how to prepare for the meeting
- Guide discussion and boundaries during the meeting, and
- Organize notes and next steps after the meeting.
Contact me for free meeting preparation and meeting agenda templates in PDF form.