Research consistently suggests that half of the meeting time is actually wasted on unproductive or useless activities that account for more than $37 billion waste annually in the US alone!
Why is that, you might ask? Well, according to research, most companies give no more than 2-hour advanced notice to their employees about the meeting. What’s more, only 40% of businesses actually have an official written meeting agenda that is distributed prior to the meeting. This results in inability to cover all the agendas and tasks at hand and leads to more than 11% of the time being spent in discussing irrelevant issues.
Does this mean you need to give up on business meeting entirely? Quite the opposite, actually:you just have to find a way to boost your team’s productivity and ensure that they are fully aware of the business agendas you’d like to discuss. One way to achieve that is by using a meeting agenda template.
Meetings are an important aspect of every successful business, whether it has only 2 or 2,000 employees. During a meeting, the team leader or the manager can propose a new idea or approach and get feedback from the employees, while ensuring that the normal everyday operations are going as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
What is a business meeting agenda?
A business meeting agenda is, simply put, a list of items that participants aim to accomplish in a meeting. A typical business meeting agenda will include things such as the topic of discussion, the leader or presenter of each topic, if there are more than one, a suggested time allotment for each topic, as well as an outline of the entire meeting, a checklist and the key objectives of the meeting.
Your business meeting agenda is virtually your business predetermined program or course of action. It’s a systematic record of all items you hope to accomplish in descending order of importance, and might include relevant details such as when and where the meeting will take place, or who the attendees will be. Many business meeting agendas have reports attached to them to illustrate key points or objectives.
As the agenda is a list of all activities in the order in which they are to be taken up, it can only be useful, if distributed to the meeting attendees in advance. Most experts advise on preparing and distributing your business agenda several days prior to the meeting, with the minimum being 24 hours. By doing you, you give your employees enough time and opportunity to prepare for the meeting.
Why is a meeting agenda needed?
Experts suggest that having a business meeting agenda can be greatly beneficial for boosting productivity and enhancing your staff performance. By distributing the business meeting agenda in advance, you can guarantee that all the common objectives of the meeting – such as convening and soliciting information, answering questions, solving problems or brainstorming ideas – will be met.
By handing it in advance, you provide the attendees with the opportunity to prepare relevant information and questions and contribute effectively to the meeting. What’s more, you enable participants to give you or the meeting planner feedback on the discussion points or the general direction in the meeting. This allows you to make any necessary changes in advance, such as adding topics of special concern.
Research consistently indicates that business meeting agendas provide all participants and not only the meeting planner with a greater sense of control. By knowing what to expect, the attendees have time to prepare valuable opinions and constructive feedback that might greatly enhance the staff performance and increase the efficiency with which your enterprise operates.
A well-designed business meeting agenda also provides the person, conducting the meeting, with greater control over the flow of discussions, the issues covered, or the attendees responsible for sharing specific information. It ensures that all employees present understand that the matters on the agenda need to be discussed and are more likely to move at a pace that ensures everything is covered.
So, what can happen if you don’t have a business meeting agenda?
Some of the main problems have already been outlined and are in fact, the issues that most businesses struggle with, such as lack of direction or inability to cover all important items in the allocated time. Not having a meeting agenda means your business meeting will have less direction and your team will be less productive.
It also increases the risk that the speaker or the attendees might stray off the topic, resulting in few tangible or useful results. What’s more, meeting participants might become disengaged and actually feel like the meeting lacks focus or contributes little to their work and decide to skip any business meetings in the future.
How to create a meeting agenda
As you understand the importance of having a business meeting agenda, now it’s time to focus on how to create one.
Agenda Title: You should start by giving your meeting agenda a title. The title should clearly reflect the topic and purpose of the meeting. Make it as clear and concise, as possible and place it at the top of the document, keeping the font simple and readable.
Details: All relevant details about when and where the meeting will take place, should be placed in the header. Consider grouping the date and time together or place them in separate sections. If your business has multiple locations, indicate the exact address of the meeting. Otherwise, specify the room. It’s also a good practice to outline the key speakers and attendees, but without using their job titles. If you’re expecting any special guests or speakers, make sure you include them.
Objective/Purpose: One of the most important aspects of the business meeting agenda is the objective. Write a brief statement, using bold or underline text, and label your section as “Purpose” or “Objective”. Aim for just a few sentences and make it clear to your employees, if they are to expect a meeting, during which you will share important information or seek their input. If you are planning to make a decision, make it known, so the meeting attendees will come prepared with arguments and constructive feedback.
Seek Input: To maximize the productivity, seek input from your employees. Ask them and make sure your meeting agenda reflects their needs and concerns – this will ensure they know what to expect in advanced and will remain engaged and provide you with constructive feedback, rather than drift away or become disinterested. You can also ask them about their reasons for wanting particular topics included. If you decide not to include an item, it’s a good practice to explain your reasons to the employee that suggested it – this demonstrates that you value their opinion.
Topics: Write a schedule that outlines all the main discussion topics, but list them as questions, instead of statements. Questions generally provoke more thought and will allow your employees to prepare better, as well as monitor whether their own comments stay on track during the meeting.
Business meeting time can be expended, which means that it should not be wasted with irrelevant issues or topics that concern a small portion of the business team. Select discussion topics that affect your entire team and not just individuals. Make sure you list topics in order of importance, starting with the most important.This ensures that all attendees will have a chance to discuss the vital issues, especially if some of them have to leave the meeting early.
It also eliminates the risk that they will be too fatigued to focus on the important questions at the end of the meeting. Some business leaders also provide outlines of the discussion topics. Even though this is not specifically necessary, it still might be helpful for navigating the flow of discussions and helping your team prepare with constructive questions and feedback.
Time: After you have listed your topics, list the allotment of time per each topic. Make sure you estimate a realistic amount of time for each discussion topic. Business leaders generally tend to underestimate the amount of time they need, which might result in an inability to cover all the important objectives of the meeting. How much time should you allocate per each topic? Well, the answer will largely depend on how many items you have on your agenda list, as well as how complex these topics are.
Try to give each topic enough time, but don’t over schedule time, too.Consider the complexity of the topic, as well as the amount of input you are likely to receive. If you feel the topic might require some questions, allocated additional 5-10 minutes. As a rule of thumb, keep each meeting agenda to no more than 5 topics, which gives you around 10 minutes per topic, plus additional 10-15 minutes for questions. Make sure you also allocate enough time for your special guests, if you have any.
If you do have special guests, it is best to contact them in advance to ask about how much time they would need for their discussed topic. Also, leave some extra time at the end of the meeting for questions and answers. This is an invaluable opportunity to receive feedback from your team, or let them suggest topics for future meetings. If there are no questions, you can simply end the meeting early.
When running your meeting, make sure you stick as close as possible to the meeting agenda plan, but also be flexible. More often than not, despite your careful calculations, one part might take longer than expected. Instead of following the business agenda to the letter, be flexible with the time you give to the next speaker.
Distribute: Now that we have outlined the important steps of creating the meeting agenda, make sure you double check your meeting agenda for errors. After you have double checked, you can now distribute the agenda to your employees at least a day before the meeting and ideally, several days prior to it.
This provides the attendees with enough time to focus on the objectives, think of their own questions and concerns, and prepare meaningful and constructive comments about the discussion or the direction of the meeting. This also enables you to prompt your employees to read important documents beforehand, instead of wasting time, skimming through them in the meeting
A meeting agenda is an important document that can boost your team’s productivity and ensure that your business meetings remain efficient. Creating a business meeting agenda allows you to stay on track and ensures that all important issues or concerns will be covered during the meeting.
When creating your business meeting agenda, you generally have two course of actions:you can either create one from scratch using our instructions above, or use a meeting agenda template, available below, just fill it in with your specific information. It doesn’t matter which option you choose, provided that you consult your team before that, consider all key objectives and important topics, and also distribute the business meeting agenda in advance.