Meetings are synonymous with headaches, at least in many businesses and organizations worldwide. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. When run efficiently, meetings can be a great space for communication, collaboration, and team-building. A meeting agenda may be the secret that helps you turn your meetings around. Let’s dive into how to create a meeting agenda that’s effective and easy.

A Quick Intro to Building a Meeting Agenda

You’re likely already familiar with the concept of a meeting agenda, which is essentially a roadmap for your meeting. An ideal meeting agenda lists all the key details your team needs to know, including topics to discuss, goals, and planned activities. 

A meeting agenda can look and function in many ways, but it always has one main goal: to provide participants with clear expectations and a guide to navigating the meeting. 

One thing we can nearly all agree on is that there are already too many meetings in the modern workplace. Many of those meetings are poorly timed and run, creating a paradoxical issue of too many meetings that also never seem to get enough done.

Agendas are a simple but powerful tool that can mean the difference between spending the equivalent of several days each week in meetings and having a few impactful sessions. Creating an agenda also prompts important reflection on past meetings, minimizing duplication and wasted time. 

So, meeting agendas help you have more productive, fewer, and more engaging meetings. They also help your team stay on track. 

Understanding the Purpose of Your Meeting

Before diving into how to create a meeting agenda for your team, let’s zoom out a little. The underlying truth that guides your meeting agenda is the meeting’s purpose or objective. 

Understanding this piece of the puzzle is key; if you don’t know your meeting’s purpose, how can you determine which agenda items or discussions are relevant? Luckily, determining your meeting’s purpose is usually pretty straightforward. If you can’t already identify it, here are some steps you can use to help bring it into view:

1. Set a goal. 

Define an achievable goal for your meeting to keep your team focused. Keep it simple to ensure that it’s realistic. 

Example: “We will analyze this month’s sales data and create goals for next month.”

2. Break down topics. 

List all of the topics you’ll need to discuss during the meeting. To clarify which agenda items are open for discussion, phrase points as questions rather than statements.

As you list topics, consider the type of meeting you’ll be having. This will help you ensure that your entire agenda aligns with the meeting’s overall purpose. It also gives you a better picture of how much time or effort to dedicate to certain parts of the meeting.

  • Informational meetings are focused on sharing and gathering details, distributing updates, learning new things, and discussions.
  • Decision-making meetings tend to prioritize achieving actions and thorough discussions (with actionable next steps).
  • Brainstorming meetings might focus more on discussions and use loosely structured time blocks.

3. Identify decision-making items. 

Determine which agenda items, if any, are actionable – i.e., require action to be fully resolved. Highlight, star, or otherwise mark these so that they stand out. By the end of your meeting, you should have clear next steps for any action or decision-making items. 

Key Components of a Meeting Agenda

An effective meeting agenda should have a clear purpose, but it should also have some specific details, including these essentials:

  • Date, time, and location of the meeting
  • List of participants and their roles
  • Topics to be discussed, with a brief description for each
  • Time allotments for each agenda item
  • Specific objectives for each topic
  • Any pre-meeting preparation or materials required

Your meeting agenda should also be easily accessible by your entire team – and organization, if applicable – ahead of time. Make sure yours ticks all of these boxes before you distribute it. 

Meeting Agenda Templates

If you’re looking for an easy way to create a new agenda, use a meeting agenda template like those below. Find a template that matches your preferences and has room for all of the key details discussed above. 

Any of these free agenda templates can help you get started:

Steps to Building Your Agenda

It’s time to put all that brainstorming into a complete meeting agenda. Here are the basic steps you’ll need to follow to make it happen.

1. Gather insights from key participants.

Consult your meeting’s key participants – leadership, presenters, attendees, etc. – to identify necessary agenda items and discussion points. This can be as simple as sending out a quick email or message asking for input, which you can then transfer to your agenda. 

It’s also smart to revisit previous agendas to find any unresolved items or previous questions that you don’t want to forget about. 

2. Prioritize topics by importance and relevance.

With a full list of things to discuss, prioritize items based on their importance and relevance to the meeting’s objectives. Returning to our budget discussion example from above, reviewing data reports would be more important than brainstorming ideas for future projects, so it should go higher up on our agenda.

3. Allocate time slots for each agenda item.

Set an appropriate amount of time for each discussion, presentation, or decision-making item. This is another area where knowing your purpose comes in handy – the more relevant something is, the more time it should get, and vice versa.

4. Assign responsibility for leading each agenda item.

This part is easy: assign each item to the person who introduced it or who needs to lead the discussions and actions surrounding it. This way, everyone knows what they’re responsible for preparing and knows what to expect.

5. Finalize and distribute the agenda.

Polish the agenda and distribute it well in advance of the meeting. Ensure your whole team understands the agenda so that everyone comes ready to focus on the day of. 

Best Practices for an Effective Meeting Agenda

Meeting preparation is important, but it can also be stressful. Make the process as painless and beneficial as possible with these best practices.

Keep it simple

A common mistake is overloading agendas with a ton of information, so much so that it’s impossible to sort out what truly matters. Keep your agenda focused and concise to maintain engagement and attention. 

If you find yourself with a huge list of topics, try consolidating them into a shorter list or break them up into a few meetings with different goals. 

Account for extra time

Leave some extra time for unforeseen discussions or issues that might pop up during your meeting. It’s more likely than not that you’ll get a little off schedule at some point, so accounting for it ahead of time will make things far less stressful should it happen. 

Consider incorporating breaks

Longer meetings can be a drain on your energy levels and motivation. Incorporate small breaks to make things easier and keep your mind sharp. 

Tips for Facilitating Meetings Based on Your Agenda

Creating a meeting agenda is one thing – enforcing it is another. Here are a few tips to help you facilitate meetings that actually match your agenda:

  • Start the meeting by reviewing the agenda. Set the scene by reviewing the agenda’s structure and ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Keep discussions on track by adhering to time slots. If you notice your discussions creeping past the time limits you set for them, pause, make a note, and plan to return to them in the future.
  • Encourage participation from all attendees. If everyone chips in and does their part, you can breeze through discussions and actions much faster.
  • Summarize key points and action items at the end. Bring everything back together at the end of your meeting by summarizing the agenda once more, including any new changes. 

Adjusting Your Agenda for Virtual Meetings

When hosting virtual meetings, especially if you’re accommodating remote or hybrid workers, there are a few things you’ll need to keep an eye out for. Account for details like those below in your agenda to ensure that you don’t forget about them (and so everyone knows they’re an intentional part of the meeting).

  • Tech checks and troubleshooting – Leave some time to double-check that your camera, microphone, presentation equipment, and other tech is functioning properly. You might also want to record the meeting, so plan to have the right tools (and don’t forget to put “hit record” in your agenda!)
  • Special engagement tactics – Without in-person interaction, meetings can quickly become stale or inefficient. Keep everyone engaged by introducing unique solutions to your agenda, like breakout rooms or small-group discussions.

How Industrious Can Help With Meeting Needs

Going into a meeting without a well-planned agenda is like going out on stage without ever looking at a script. When it comes to productivity and efficiency, even the smallest details can make a huge difference. A simple agenda is all it takes to revolutionize the way your team handles meetings.

Another change you can make that will transform your meetings is the space you meet in. Industrious welcomes workers and teams from all backgrounds to enjoy on-demand professional meeting rooms. Bring together a remote team, invite hybrid and in-person workers together, or mix things up by meeting outside of the office. 

Regardless of how you work, Industrious is here to give you access to flexible, engaging working environments that help you stay focused. Reach out or visit us today to see our spaces in action.