This article explains how a meeting agenda can help you plan more effective meetings.
Download a blank agenda template (Microsoft Word) you can print and use.
A meeting agenda helps you and your colleagues prepare for a meeting and guide yourselves through the items you need to discuss. Time spent in planning an agenda will likely save time for all meeting participants by providing a clear set of topics, objectives, and time frames. Some meetings may require more planning time than others. For example, a department-wide retreat will probably involve several hours of planning by several people, while a weekly staff meeting could be planned by one person in a shorter amount of time.
A sample agenda with commentary on each section is below. As you read through the sample, you may click on linked items to jump to explanations of those items.
|Department Meeting Prep
|feedback for editing proposal
|feedback to proposal
|share info and needs
|2018 Team Priorities
|get a shared view of our priorities and provide input for Li
|spend-a-dollar and discussion
|International Students Fair
|get list of ideas for preparing our participation
|list actions, due date and person responsible
|list items and get commitment
Below you'll find a description of the parts of an agenda, tips for helping them work, and additional resources for planning and facilitating effective meetings.
Parts of an agenda
Our sample agenda lists several ways to handle a discussion:
go-around: simply taking turns to speak; generally going in a circle around the room or table
feedback: asking the group to respond to specific questions about an idea
spend-a-dollar and discussion: this method asks group members to assign any part of an imaginary "100 cents" amongst a number of ideas. In the example, the group will use spend-a-dollar to rank their team priorities. Spend-a-dollar is similar to a "straw poll" -- it helps a group see which ideas in a list are high priority, and how strongly members feel about those ideas. Discussion is a good follow-up step to refine the results into useful input.
brainstorm: when a group generates ideas freely and openly. An important element of brainstorming is that it does not involve the evaluation of ideas -- the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible. See our brainstorming guidelines.
We recommend that groups use a flipchart during meetings to keep informed and to record agreements made. In addition, meetings generally go better when one person acts as facilitator.
There are other dimensions to planning effective meetings, but this simple agenda format offers a good foundation for a successful meeting. Here are three additional tips to supplement the specifics we've already outlined:
- Flexibility. At its best, a well planned meeting opens with a "planful guess" of how to handle the agenda. A smart facilitator checks with the group at the meeting's outset to see if important last-minute items need be added to the agenda and to negotiate and juggle the agenda to include them. Once underway you may find that an item requires more time, in which case you may negotiate for that during the meeting, or find a good stopping point before reaching your desired outcome. This choice, too, can be decided by negotiation with the meeting participants.
- Preparation. Deciding the who, how, time, priority and desired outcome for each item requires preparation. The greater the preparation, the greater the probability of a successful outcome during the meeting.
- Shared Responsibility. Whether the item owner, facilitator, group leader, or group member plans a good meeting, collaborative effort is key -- before, during, and after the event itself. With collaborative effort, a meeting becomes an integral part of each person's productivity and satisfaction.