Setting an Agenda: 7 Tips for the Perfect Meeting Agenda

meeting agenda

Out of 55 million daily meetings, only half achieved their objectives. With only 20% of trained meeting leaders, there is an increasing accountability gap in meetings where most organizations don’t assess the impact of their meetings.

While a meeting agenda sets the direction of the meeting, there’s still more to be done on the leadership and meeting management side for an effective team meeting – the biggest one being preparation. 

This post will show you invaluable tips for setting an agenda with meeting agenda examples. Keep reading to learn how businesses ensure that their meetings are productive, highly focused, and within the specified time limit.

The value of setting an agenda

Agenda setting means determining or stating a meeting’s purpose, discussion points, length, expected outcome, and the person responsible for the discussion points. Preparing for a board meeting gives the attendees a high-level overview of the meeting objective and action items.

A professional prepares and plans for a meeting by setting the meeting’s agenda. The team meeting agenda shows the participants the agenda topics, expected outcome, and time frame, allowing everyone to prepare their discussion points in advance and stick to the discussion topic.

In fact, 64% of meeting attendees believe that the best way to get them excited about a meeting is to plan it well. But the same research found that the younger generation prefers a free lunch.

What should you include?

Here are essential things that should always appear on your meeting agenda:

  • Purpose
  • List of topics and their time slots 
  • Discussion leaders
  • Venue/platform

You can also include the process for addressing the discussion points by breaking up the allocated time into shorter time segments. For example, when discussing “how do we maximize our top sales strategy?” you can write down a process such as:

  • List opportunities – 5 min
  • Analyze the opportunities worth investing – 10 min
  • List challenges – 5 min
  • Propose solutions – 5 min

Overall, your agenda items will depend on the type of meeting you’ll have.

Seven tips an effective meeting agenda

1. Address a single, relevant topic 

A highly focused meeting addresses one specific issue. You’ll want to avoid setting a meeting that addresses two different topics, like increasing sales and optimizing marketing efforts within the same meeting. 

Have those meetings separated to be more focused and meaningful for the relevant teams involved in each objective? 

In addition, allow the team members to choose whether to attend the meeting or not. They may decide not to attend simply because they have nothing to add to the meeting or because their schedule is full.

By sharing your meeting link through Appointlet, you can avoid the trouble of inviting a team member who won’t be available for your meeting. Appointlet automatically checks your team’s schedules to find an appropriate time for the meeting.

In addition to that, the manual approval feature also guards you and your team’s calendar from unwanted meetings with people who aren’t qualified. 

Having a focused meeting with only attendees who’ll be involved in the decision-making process solves the following challenges in a meeting:

  • Team members who multitask in a meeting because discussion issues don’t affect them. These members will be better off attending to other meaningful tasks.
  • Going off-topic because the agenda covers a broad purpose. The result is excessive time wastage and an unproductive meeting.

A survey of 182 senior managers found that 71% felt that their meetings were unproductive. And 65% said that they could have been better off doing their own tasks.

Sound familiar?

Everyone invited to the meeting should have a discussion point and possible action points (i.e., solutions). The meeting would be about these participants evaluating their points, and action points, rather than doing research from scratch.

That concept drives us to the next important aspect of the perfect meeting agenda.

2. Let the team come up with the discussion points

Instead of picking the agenda points from your perspective, let the team develop items they think are important and worth discussing. This allows members to create the meeting flow and feel more ownership of their roles. As a meeting leader, your job is to determine the meeting’s purpose and facilitate the meeting.

An effective way to develop the agenda points would be to share a collaboration document like Google Docs or Microsoft OneNote. Everyone should be able to edit, review, and leave comments. Once you email the team that you’ll have a meeting in a week and its purpose, you’ll include the link to the document in the email. 

But what will you include in the collaboration document, and how do you guide the team members’ suggestions?

Let’s look into that in the following sections.

3. Use the 4×4 method to structure the discussion topics

The four-by-four method is a framework for guiding the meeting’s purpose. 

Here’s what it looks like:

  • Four things that the team accomplished since the last meeting
  • The challenges or blockers that the team faced when completing the tasks
  • Four things that the team could accomplish before the next meeting
  • Any potential blockers for these future tasks

Following up on the results of the last meeting keeps the team accountable for the tasks that they take up from a meeting. Otherwise, they’d feel that nothing changes after the meetings or that they are a waste of time.

I’ll put this into a practical example: say you have an eCommerce store on Shopify and want to increase sales by $100,000. So, the purpose of the meeting is to determine how to increase sales by $100,00. But you probably had a $70,000 sales target in the last meeting.

Applying the 4×4 framework, we’ll have the following:

  1. Four things that the team accomplished since the last meeting
    1. Upsell to 1,000 customers, which resulted in $30,000 sales
    2. Cross-sell to 600 customers, which resulted in $ 20,000 sales
    3. Retargeted 5,000 website visitors, which resulted in $1,000 sales
    4. Sent out customer satisfaction surveys
  2. The challenges or blockers that the team faced when completing the tasks
    1. 30% response rate from the customer satisfaction surveys
    2. Over 4,000 retargeted website visitors did not convert, etc.
  3. Four things that the team could accomplish before the next meeting (i.e., after the meeting you’re planning). Here’s where you lay out the goals you’ll discuss in the meeting.
    1. Upsell to 2,000 customers to get $60,000 sales
    2. Cross-sell to 1,200 to get $40,000 sales
    3. Retarget 10,000 website visitors to get $2,000 sales
    4. Establish an email marketing strategy streamlined with marketing tools for Shopify
  4. Any potential blockers for these future tasks
    1. Lacking expertise in email retargeting campaigns
    2. A limited customer database.

You can write down the four previous accomplishments and the four goals in your shared document. Then let the team fill out the challenges and possible action points.

This leads me to how you should structure these questions in your agenda.

4. Design specific and challenging questions

A study on one company’s weekly meetings found that the teams felt that vague agendas made the meetings waste time. Vague agendas are things like “weekly marketing department meetings” where the meeting could lead to a hundred different discussions, with no clear outcome.

Compare that to an agenda like “how can we increase our SMS campaign conversion rate by 30%?”

A clear agenda specifies the discussion points and hints at the expected outcome. Here are more examples of specific and challenging agenda questions/topics:

  • How can we get $2,000 from retargeting 10,000 website visitors?
  • How can we sell $60,000 from upselling to 2,000 customers?
  • What link-building strategies can we implement to increase our website’s Domain Authority?
  • What can we do to improve our satisfaction survey completion rate by 50%?

5. Allocate enough time for each agenda item

When allocating time for each agenda item, rely on the amount of time you typically spend in previous meetings and consider the number of presenters for each item. Then limit each agenda item to the minimum time required to address it. You may find pausing between discussion topics helpful because people naturally need breaks. 

Most importantly, let the meeting’s owner drive the meeting. Ideally, each member will discuss their discussion point. Remember to prioritize the most critical agenda items because some members could leave halfway into the meeting. You can organize and allocate time for the meeting topics from most important to least significant – or experiment by starting with the fastest and easiest agenda items.

6. Have a ‘parking lot’ section on your agenda 

A parking lot is a section where you record any off-topic topics that a team member will bring up. You should have this space in the collaboration document (e.g., Google Docs). The meeting invitees can review these items, leave comments, and even resolve some of them before the meeting.

Ignoring the parking lot is similar to neglecting meeting breaks. These are natural things that will happen even though you don’t schedule them. Once you have your agenda with all the sections discussed, it’s time for the final agenda-setting stage.

7. Share the agenda in advance and include expected outcomes

You should always share the final agenda with the team 48 hours in advance. The agenda should include discussion topics, presenters, time slots, and ‘parking lot’ items. 

Allow the meeting invitees to add to the agenda if it seems fit. Then review the changes and share the completed copy 24 hours in advance for everyone to be on the same page. You’re now ready to have the meeting! Remember to set a reminder to alert the team members about the meeting.

Final thoughts

When setting an agenda, you don’t need the entire team – you only need the decision-makers. Have these tips in mind:

  • Let the decision-makers determine the agenda items and present them during the meeting.
  • Designate a leader who will be responsible for time management and ensuring that the team achieves the goal of the meeting.
  • Allocate the minimum meeting time, but have room for pauses.
  • Design specific and challenging discussion questions and ask the meeting participants to share possible action points.

Most importantly, have a feedback process for each of your meetings. Follow up on the action steps suggested in the meeting to keep the members accountable.

Finally, find out how Appointlet can help streamline your team meetings today!

 

Jessica La

Jessica La is an AI Consultant with over six years in the start-up, data, and content industry. In her blog ByJessicaLa.com, she explores all things AI and is passionate about the unique ways individuals and businesses can improve, innovate and grow. You can reach her at jessica@byjessicala.com

The #1 online tool for scheduling meetings