Meetings are important for disseminating information and making decisions, but they can waste a lot of time that can otherwise be devoted to productivity. As the one in charge of organizing meetings, you may think that writing the agenda is as time-wasting as the actual meeting itself, but you’d be mistaken. An effective meeting agenda can determine all the issues to be discussed as well as the key personnel involved, leading to a concise yet complete meeting to take place. A well-thought out agenda will therefore result in a meeting devoid of unnecessary delays and distractions, saving everyone’s time.
Here are several tips for writing a meeting agenda.
- Prepare the agenda at least a week in advance. Give the staff members time to prepare for the meeting or revise their schedules to accommodate it. A good way to improve office productivity is to set a date for regular meetings then set regular dates when you are expected to write the agenda for them.
- Determine the issues in the meeting. By setting the issues, the length of the meeting can be managed and the participants can prepare beforehand. Use bullet points to reinforce the idea of a brief meeting. Declare whether the meeting will take place under an hour, a few hours, the entire day or in a span of days. One tip for creating a brief meeting is having all the issues fit within one page. Postpone excess topics for a later date.
- Establish the location, time and key people involved in each meeting. This essential information will prevent the bulk of clarifications that will otherwise ensue when issued a vague agenda. It will also keep people aware of the time and reduce unnecessary discussion within the meeting. Set the meeting at a time when most of the staff is available. A stated time will also allow attendees to reschedule their other plans for that day. Finally, add essential reminders such as the switching off of mobile phones, deadlines for suggestions of modifications and an email address for personnel who must submit a letter saying they cannot attend the meeting.
- Use OARR as a guide for an effective meeting. OARR means “Objectives, Agenda, Roles and Responsibilities”. This guide will determine the goal of each particular meeting, the issues to be discussed and the expectations from the participants.
- Eliminate issues that can be discussed over other channels. Meetings are very effective in group decision-making by allowing face-to-face transactions and simultaneous discussions. However, it can be time-consuming and productivity-reducing, and can even diminish office morale by reinforcing feelings of inactivity. Limit the issues to those important and urgent enough to merit discussion in meetings then find other ways to disseminate and discuss leftover topics by using electronic means such as office email and instant messaging, or one-on-one interaction.
- Have a trusted co-worker review the agenda. The information should be clear and simple, with no grammatical errors.
- Have the agenda printed. Post the agenda on the office bulletin board for all to see. You may also reinforce this action by emailing the same agenda to the participants.
A well-written agenda can improve the flow of the meeting by letting participants prepare for it beforehand. If the office has its own established meeting format, apply this formula so that all attendees are already familiar with the flow of the discussion.