In order to use valuable time effectively during a meeting it is crucial that you have a well-prepared agenda. An agenda helps the chairperson to stick to time and lead the meeting successfully. It also helps participants to prepare as they can see when they will be involved. Finally, it is of great benefit to the minute taker as they can see what will be discussed, the aim of each item and the priority given to it. Here are the top ten tips for creating an agenda so that your meetings are productive:
1. Know the purpose of the meeting. Then decide the best time of day for this meeting and who should be involved. If this is an important decision-making meeting the chances are participants will stay awake whatever time of day it is! However, a routine information sharing meeting is likely to be more successful if you avoid the "sleepy" times of day, or the end of the week.
2. Determine the formality of the agenda and meeting. If it’s a formal meeting include the following before the main items: apologies for absence, minutes of previous meeting, matters arising from the previous meeting. However, if it’s a more informal meeting, eg a team meeting, then item headings are enough.
3. Ask the chairperson and participants to submit agenda items at least two weeks before. This will allow you time to prepare and circulate the agenda. It will also help to prevent such a long AOB section at the end.
4. Put the items in a logical order. Group similar items together to save repetition during discussions. Put important items early in the proceedings when participants are most alert.
5. Start and finish the agenda with two or three quick, less important, items. When participants arrive, or feel it is time to go, their minds may be elsewhere! This order will get everybody involved, encourage them to participate and distract them from their own thoughts.
6. Vary items so that you have a mix of less important and more challenging ones; so that you have some participants involved and then all involved. If you have several presentations, intersperse these between more challenging items. For long meetings (more than two hours) include a break for everybody.
7. Include a verb on each agenda item so instead of ‘Canteen’ put ‘Review and agree new menu for next three months’. Instead of ‘Budgets’ put ‘Discuss and decide 5% reduction for next year’. By including a verb everybody is clear about the purpose of the item and will therefore prepare accordingly.
8. Include the start time against each item so everybody can see how long each will last. This will give an indication of its importance. Also, add the name of the person responsible for introducing the item. This will also help those who may only be required to attend part of the meeting, so they know when they are expected to attend.
9. The agenda, whether formal or informal, should always include the date, time and place of the meeting.
10. Finally, add the details for the next meeting.
"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect it's successful outcome." William James
"No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction." Charles Kendall Adams