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How To Design An Agenda For An Effective Meeting

Meeting agenda

There’s a reason Elon Musk says it’s OK for his employees to leave meetings if they find them to be unnecessary. It’s because most team meetings could be better organized. Without proper planning and a coherent meeting agenda, even a board meeting can be rendered completely ineffective.  

After a bad meeting, your employees might take time to refocus. They can experience “Meeting Recovery Syndrome,” in which  productivity decreases as a response to elongated or useless meetings. This adds to the unintended costs of a poorly organized meeting.

Without a clear plan, presenters can arrive unprepared and/or drift off onto irrelevant talking points. They also might spend too much or too little time communicating directives. Such problems often are indicative of poor agenda design. A great meeting agenda can be a gamechanger. 

Here at MeetingPulse, we help you create more engaging, productive meetings with our online live polling and survey app. We hope you will find lasting value in this step-by-step guide to creating an effective and time-saving agenda for your next team meeting.

Gathering Input to Get on the Same Page

Share a pre-event survey with your target audience - or just crowdsource the agenda itself

Before drafting an agenda, consider your target audience. Who are they? What do you want them to take away from your presentation? A good rule of thumb: Reach out to meeting participants beforehand and ask them to suggest talking points for the team meeting agenda, and their reasoning for suggested items.

If a certain suggestion would not be a good discussion point, explain why it shouldn’t be an agenda item. This lets people know that you respect their input while ensuring that the information discussed will be relevant.

To gather input, you can use MeetingPulse to create a quick survey ahead of time. You can also directly crowdsource the agenda using the Agenda solution itself. Both are easy for employees to fill out, and the information you gather will help you  create an agenda that gives each team member clear expectations. 

Keep Your Calendar Invite List Short

It is very common for people in a meeting to feel excluded. Team members are invited, but not given a chance  to participate because the subject matter does not involve them or their department. While you may think that it is beneficial to over-invite, a smaller, more intimate group is always best.

Too many attendees can increase the likelihood of disruptions that make it harder for presenters to communicate effectively. Make sure the meeting topics are relevant to those who have been invited. If it is necessary to hold an all-hands meeting, consider setting up working groups and using polls to keep everyone engaged. MeetingPulse offers a sentiment chart feature to gather audience feedback, letting you know whether people are bored or happy by using emojis to gauge their feelings.

Consider the Meeting Goals

What is the nature of your meeting?

Not all meetings are created equal. For the sake of efficiency, it is important to establish what you want each team member to take away, and what you need them to bring along for an efficient meeting for the entire team. This is especially true when you host remote meetings.  

Your agenda should always feature a reachable goal — even if your meeting does not result in one. The idea that everyone involved is working towards the same purpose ensures greater efficiency.

Sharing information

If the goal of your meeting is to bring members together so that they can share information, be sure to acknowledge this. Direct each member or team lead to bring all relevant materials to the table for discussion.

Receiving input

If you want to gather feedback, advise participants that their input and suggestions are expected and/or required in order for you to make a final call. By giving them ample time to brainstorm beforehand, you can ensure that everyone will be ready to engage and the time spent together will be used well.

Making a decision

If you want participants to make a decision during your staff meeting, include the decision needed in the shared agenda. Be direct — if you are in charge of leading the meeting, reinforce that fact during your opening presentation. Avoid polling methods that waste time, like taking a count of hands. Instead, you can ask meeting attendees to access a quick link through MeetingPulse and submit their response live.

Related: How to Get People to Take a Survey

The Agenda

What to Include in an Effective Meeting Agenda

Generally, a good meeting agenda is a detailed agenda, and will include the following:

  • Informational items. Updates that are relevant to the meeting topic (i.e. quarterly profits, or individual performance results).
  • Action items. Items for the group to assess and achieve throughout the meeting (i.e. performance within a specific timeframe).
  • Discussion topics. Points for the group to consider, and eventually provide feedback on (gathering input on upcoming changes to an established business procedure).
  • Meeting objectives. Clearly define the meeting objectives in one to two sentences. This way all attendees and leaders can use this as a reference throughout the meeting.  

Meeting agendas should also include specific logistical details, like who will be presenting and for how long. If you’re having a formal meeting, your agenda should also be formal.  Agendas should be distributed well in advance of a scheduled date. If the agenda is not shared until the very start of the meeting, at least establish and communicate the goal of the meeting beforehand.  

You can integrate MeetingPulse with Powerpoint and ask employees to access documents (like the agenda) by using the link you provide. And if you find an agenda format that works, use it to create a meeting agenda template to help guide any recurring meetings. 

Plan a Realistic Amount of Time for the Meeting

Timing is everything. A meeting time that is too brief can leave participants feeling inadequately informed, but meetings that drag on can be overwhelming. It is important to consider the duration of each leader’s presentation. Consider Parkinson’s Law: “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

By giving your participants too much time to complete a simple task (i.e. action items), they might feel pressured to fill the extra time with more work. So, besides wasting time, they feel needless stress and tension.

Do the math to determine the right amount of time for each meeting task.  Time blocks are also a great tool to include. By scheduling and listing out every minute of the meeting, you and your team multiply your collective focus.

Define Meeting Roles

Establishing roles for each member of the meeting is another integral part of  maintaining efficiency. When assembling your agenda, be sure to include:

  • The name of each proposed speaker/leader
  • The topic and purpose of their presentation
  • The steps they should take to prepare, and
  • How much time they have to speak.

Making this information available to everyone improves organization and transparency.

Not everyone needs the same amount of time to speak. 

Determine which presenter(s) should have more time based on the specialization of their work as it pertains to the meeting topic. 

Advise Key Players if Preparation Is Required

Once you have created your agenda — even a rough draft with an agenda template — it is a good idea to share it with leaders on the team who are presenting so that they have adequate time to prepare their speeches or status updates. This is especially important for meetings that feature a heavy amount of supplementary materials. Give these leaders time to digest the volume of work and provide feedback or request minor changes.

Establish a clear theme for the meeting and make it the focal point of your meeting agenda. Once you’ve shared a preliminary draft with your leaders, try to have them tailor their topics of discussion around that theme.

Create an Engaging Presentation

Incorporate your agenda into the presentation

Now that you’ve created an effective agenda — be sure to show it off. If you are leading the meeting, incorporate your work early into the presentation so that everyone can get a sense of how the meeting will flow.

Make your agenda the very first slide the audience sees. Remember to use language that is geared toward your target audience (a conversational style is often your best bet). Also, limit the amount of material you include in the presentation slides, because too much clutter can make it difficult for others to follow along.

Related: 20 Interactive Presentation Games

Include Your Audience

Despite your best efforts, attention spans can drift throughout a presentation if it is not consistently engaging. The easiest solution to this dilemma is establishing and maintaining a connection. Allow ample time for audience questions throughout your presentation, not just toward the end. And take down any questions left unanswered in your meeting notes. (Better yet, use MeetingPulse Q&A to record all questions for later follow-up!) That’ll remind you to circle back on any unanswered questions. 

Live polls are an effective tool for engagement. They encourage participants to think not only about your questions, but also about their answers. They can help create mental breaks so that your attendees can regain their attention and stay focused right up until closing remarks.

By encouraging your audience to participate, you create a true group experience that leaves everyone feeling as though they have played an integral role in the presentation. Include a link to a survey or poll at strategic places within the agenda to keep everyone paying attention.

And lastly, be sure to thank all of the attendees who participated and helped to shape the tone of the meeting. Acknowledgment is a great way to ensure that the same team members will look forward to future meetings.

Conclusion

An expertly planned agenda can increase the effectiveness of any meeting by establishing expectations for all participants, resulting in greater overall productivity. It enables teams to address and resolve key targets, while also providing opportunities for discussion and sharing feedback for your team’s next steps. 

By using the above tools to develop an effective agenda before your next meeting, you can ensure greater focus from your audience and dramatically increase engagement. A few simple steps are all you need to take your organizational skills to the next level.

Related: 25 Fun Poll Questions to Ask Your Audience

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