How to Develop an Effective Meeting Agenda

Your Preparation Determines Whether You Reach Your Desired Outcomes

Five business executives sitting in a meeting follow their meeting agenda.
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A meeting agenda is the list of items that participants hope to accomplish at a meeting. The agenda should be distributed to participants several days in advance of a meeting, minimally 24 hours so that participants have the opportunity to prepare for the meeting.

In combination with meeting minutes, the documentation that participants receive following a meeting, the agenda is the plan for the meeting and the reported follow-up for the prior meeting.

When you develop an agenda for a meeting that is not regularly scheduled, the following steps will assist you. Later in this article, you will see a template for a regularly scheduled meeting. The two types of meetings share similar agenda items but are not exactly the same.

Developing a Meeting Agenda

First, identify whether other employees are needed to help you plan the meeting. Then, decide what you hope to accomplish by holding the meeting. Establish doable goals for your meeting. The goals you set will establish the framework for an effective meeting plan.

As Stephen Covey says in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "Begin with the end in mind." Your meeting purpose will determine the meeting focus, the meeting agenda, and the meeting participants.

Building an agenda is making a plan for the meeting. You start with the main goal or purpose that you are trying to accomplish by holding the meeting.

Once you have decided upon your goal, you need to determine whether you need the assistance of additional employees to plan your agenda. If yes, invite them to join you.

After determining your overall goal, you, or your team, need to make the following decisions. In addition to the purpose or goal of the meeting, each of these items appears on the meeting agenda.

  • Needed participants for the actual meeting,
  • The items that need discussion or action that will lead to the accomplishment of the goal or purpose,
  • The amount of time that you anticipate the group will need for the discussion of each item,
  • A date and time for the meeting,
  • A suitable location, that will hold all participants comfortably, for the meeting,
  • Pre-work for the meeting. This will include any reading, documentation, data, meeting minutes from a prior meeting, or any other preparation that will make your actual meeting successful. This preparation should be attached to the meeting notice and agenda when you distribute them to invited participants.

In addition to the above decision items, standard agenda items should include:

  • Review the meeting’s purpose, agenda, and expected outcomes and product.
  • Review the minutes of the prior meeting.
  • Review participants' progress on commitments and action items made at the prior meeting.
  • The note taker or leader needs to review the commitments made by participants during the meeting as a final agenda item.

Decide Who Must Participate to Accomplish Your Agenda

Once you have decided that a meeting is necessary to accomplish your goal, you need to develop the list of participants.

Not every employee can or should participate in every meeting, but inviting the right participants will enhance your likelihood of success. Determine your participants by asking yourself questions such as the following.

Meeting Agenda for Regularly Scheduled Meetings

Not every meeting needs a custom developed agenda. Most employees have regularly scheduled meetings for their departments or work groups. You also have teams and projects that you participate ni.

An ongoing project may not require a newly developed agenda for every meeting, but your team will be well served by adopting a standard approach to your meeting.

The regularly scheduled meeting divides into three segments that each has standard agenda items: Informational Items, Action Items, and Forward Planning.

Meeting Agenda

Informational Items

Action Items

Forward Planning

If you follow these guidelines when you develop your meeting agenda, you enhance the probability that your meeting will produce results.

Related to Meeting Agenda

  • Who must own the solution the group develops?
  • Who owns the process the group is discussing?
  • Who needs to know the information you are distributing?
  • Who can provide data and facts to guide decision making?
  • Who has experience or expertise to share with the group?
  • Who must support the implementation of any solutions or tasks?
  • Who must provide permission or resources to accomplish the meeting outcome?
  • Who might oppose the implementation of any solutions or direction?
  • Warm-up and greetings. Consider a brief icebreaker depending on how frequently the group meets.
  • Review the meeting’s purpose, agenda, and expected outcomes and product.
  • Review the minutes of the prior meeting.
  • Provide appropriate departmental and company information that the team needs.
  • Review progress on action items, action plans, and commitments. Review group progresses on goals.
  • Discuss and make decisions about the agenda items for this meeting.
  • Identify next steps.
  • Identify the purpose, outcome, and agenda for the next meeting.
  • The note taker should review the commitments made by people during the meeting.
  • Identify any assistance needed from people not in the group and assign participants to make contact.
  • Send minutes out within 24 hours of the meeting.

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