Preparing an agenda for an effective meeting

Submitted by Kamal Wickramanayake on Tue, 11/17/2020 - 00:54

Meetings in many instances are organized without much clarity about what the ultimate objectives are. It is also possible to find meetings where time is spent unnecessarily. Someone who is result oriented and keen in effective time management can achieve better outcomes from a meeting by spending a bit of time to prepare a focused agenda.

Benefits of effective meeting agendas and the practice of adhering to them are not limited to those meetings. The practice of using effective meeting agendas guides even the other activities of organizations to be carried out without incurring unnecessary delays. The practice also guides the people to be result oriented. Hence, effective meeting agendas and the ability to stick to them can be used as two indicators to judge how healthy an organization is.

Look at the attachments section at the bottom for a template to prepare an effective meeting agenda. Some guidelines have been written in red color within the template.

Here are some more guidelines:

  1. For the meeting to be effective, the plan in the agenda should be realizable. Hence, you cannot meaninglessly allocate durations for agenda items. For each item, get an initial estimate of time needed during the meeting from the owner of the item.
  2. Sometimes it may not be possible to allocate time for all the items due to the limited time available for the whole meeting. It is very important that meeting items are prioritized based on their importance and then pick from the top.
  3. Item prioritization should also focus on what will happen if one or more low priority items are omitted from the plan. At times, items that may appear to be of low priority may turn to cause problems if omitted from the agenda and hence they may be reconsidered to be included in the agenda after giving higher priority.
  4. If the available time is less than the demand to accommodate all the important items, you surely have to look at alternative means to make the agenda realizable. For example, scheduling another meeting or asking the participants to do some homework before coming to the meeting might work.
  5. Once the initial version is prepared, get it reviewed by someone. Sometimes you may find a single person who will be able to validate the times assigned for all items. Sometimes, you may have to contact several persons.
  6. Get the best agenda possible, tag it with version number 1.0 and distribute among participants well in advance of the meeting. Inform the participants to suggest changes (if ever they have any) before a set time.
  7. After that informed date/time for receiving changes, tag it with another version number and redistribute as final. For example, if no changes are made, it could be tagged as "1.0 (final)". If a few minor updates are made, it could be "1.1 (final)". If a totally new agenda is created, it could be "2.3 (final)" and so on. You might need to review the updated agendas before circulation.

All planning would be fruitless unless you will be successful in executing the agenda properly. Hence, effective time management during the meeting is a must.

From the preparation of the agenda to the conclusion of a successful meeting, collaboration from the participants and their focused effort to achieve results are needed. Even if they had not experienced such in the past, once they get into the habit, they all start to love effective meetings.