Effective Meetings Start With An Agenda#meetings by August 28, 2016
Meetings are a necessary part of doing business. Whether you are pitching an idea to a room full of potential investors, closing a deal with a new client, or just organizing your weekly staff meeting, meetings will take time out of the day for all parties involved. There is one thing that can be done to ensure that the time spent together as a group is as brief and effective as it can be- having an agenda.
That may seem like table stakes, but it is a common problem that most meetings are inflicted with. There isn’t an agenda. At all. Having an agenda will do several things for your meeting and, thus, your personal brand as being a professional:
- It signals that you are organized and have a plan.
- The agenda lets all parties come to the table prepared.
- It will define clear goals so that something is accomplished.
- All attendees will have a placeholder for when and how the meeting will be conducted.
- It describes and provides materials for use during the time together.
The following goes into detail on what each of these means for you and for the parties getting together. After all, you all are taking time out of your busy days to meet. You might as well get the most out of it.
Have a plan
First and foremost, you need to have a plan for how the meeting will go down. This means you put down in a meeting invite what the topics will be and how long each will be discussed. Again, it is amazing how many meetings just have a so-called “agenda” with just a brief sentence or two telling the purpose. Many times without much more detail to let those attending what the meeting is even about.
Spend the time to list each and every talking point that will be covered in the meeting. If there are owners for the topic or materials that will be used to talk about the topic list that out in the plan.
Set a time limit for each item to be discussed. This may or may not be reality but it is good to time-box discussion items so that you can refer to each time period as they are raised during your meeting. There is nothing worse than a run-away meeting topic that rambles on and on. Soon you will discover that some meaningless topic has taken up most of the meeting and you either have to schedule another meeting to cover the rest of the discussion points or just punt on them.
In any case, think ahead of time about what will be covered and communicate that in your agenda.
Provide attendees materials to be prepared
We’ve all been in meetings where someone comes to the meeting and is not prepared to talk about a subject. This causes all kinds of problems, notably: * It may be cause for another meeting to be scheduled because a decision cannot be made without this crucial input. * The person stumbles through having to be brought up to speed- taking time away from other parts of the meeting, basically making the time wasted on preparation multiplied by the number of participants. * The unprepared simply fakes it and provides input on a the topic on the fly without really putting in the thought that should have been given. This has obvious implications.
Having listed out in the agenda the talking points, the material that will be covered and who is responsible for each area will allow the participants to come prepared. If they don’t come prepared, they should be publicly shamed for wasting everyone’s time.
Just as any other part of our lives, having goals will enable us to achieve the greatest output. Meeting are no different. The agenda should spell out exactly what the expected outcome from the meeting will be. Is this meeting to come to a decision on which direction the company should go? Is it just an informational session where members of different divisions can come together to align on company happenings? Is the goal could even be to decide what meetings are needed in the future. This will happen, especially at the onset of a large project undertaking.
Define explicitly what you hope to accomplish in the meeting and at the end be able to send out meeting notes that state whether that was accomplished.
List meeting logistics
The meeting will take place on a certain date, at a certain time and with certain attendees. The agenda is the statement of record for all of these logistical specifics. Make sure to understand whether everyone invited to the meeting:
- Will be physically in attendance or not. This will dictate whether you need to schedule a webex session to share slide online and a bridge line for everyone to call into.
- Is required or optional. This should be identified in the agenda. If someone has something that arises everyone should know whether the decision to miss the meeting will have an impact or not. A required attendee that cannot make the meeting time and place means that the meeting will have to be rescheduled. An optional one, well they are optional.
Make sure materials are available
Make sure all meeting invitees have the materials available to them ahead of the meeting for review. This enables them to come to the meeting prepared with questions over the information present in them. Again, nothing is worse than having to review the materials with everyone all at the same time. It is very inefficient. That being said, if the meetings intent is to have a working meeting to go through it together then spell that out as the objective, otherwise pass the information along well in advance to give ample time for preparation.
As an aside, make sure that if you are hosting the materials on a network location that all meeting invitees have access to the files.
No matter what the purpose of your next meeting, make sure you think about the agenda. It is the very first step in making sure your time is spent wisely and your goals are accomplished. You should read more on why effective meetings matter.