Business Writing

The Meeting Agenda

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I was thinking that I have posted about writing the minutes of meetings, but I haven’t yet written anything for you on how to write an agenda. It’s time to fix that, so here goes!

What is an agenda?

Quite simply, the agenda is the framework for your meeting.

Do I need one?

Yes, yes, yes. The agenda not only provides a framework. It’s also a tool for:

  • Keeping the meeting on track, and
  • Making sure everyone who will attend the meeting is prepared.

What should I include?

The basics

Okay, let’s get the standard items out of the way first.

  • Name of the meeting
  • Time and date
  • Location of the meeting
  • Name of the chairperson
  • Unless it’s completely obvious, include a list of those invited
  • The agenda items

Pretty straightforward so far …

The added extras

The next few items will help you keep meetings on track. You’ve already defined what topics the meeting will cover, but by adding some extra information you can make sure people come to the meeting well-prepared and with a clear understanding of the issues. These items help you manage the expectations of the attendees.

  1. State how much time will be allocated to each agenda item. I’m sure you’ve been to meetings that go on, and on, and on … By allocating a time period, and convincing the chairperson to stick to this, you can keep the meeting on track. An identified timeframe helps people focus on the issue because they know that time is limited. This also helps you make sure you get through the whole agenda and don’t have to call a halt to the meeting with some issues not dealt with because you didn’t have enough time.
  2. Add some information about the expected outcome of each item. Do you want a decision; does there need to be a vote; are you looking for agreement or consensus? If you’re using the meeting to gather ideas, how many ideas do you want? The added advantage of working to outcomes is that the meeting attendees will have a real sense of achievement.
  3. State who is responsible for each agenda item. Make sure the concerned people know about their role and have agreed. Allocate responsibilities for items in advance of the meeting so people have time to prepare properly.
  4. Highlight if people need to do any preparation before the meeting. If you want suggestions for an event venue, ask people to bring information on proposed venues. If you’re looking for a trainer, again ask participants to deliver not just names, but also background information and contact details.
  5. Include details of any reading (background papers, reports, correspondence. etc.) that people should read before attending the meeting. Make sure you distribute the papers well in advance so people have time to read them (but be careful about distributing them too far ahead of time—people might put them in their ‘to do’ pile and forget them.

There you have it. Some ideas about information you can include in an agenda to make meetings run more smoothly. Another advantage of preparing the agenda well is that it will help you record the minutes.

Happy writing.