Finance4U

How to Create Effective Meetings


We’ve all been to pointless meetings that, in the back of our minds, we begged to have been an email instead. The absence of a clear meeting agenda and poor meeting planning is likely to blame.

To avoid disengagement in your meetings and to boost their efficiency and goals, we’ve put together a thorough guide on how to build a strong meeting agenda. Plus, we’ve created a meeting agenda template you can use as a starting point to plan effective meetings.

Meeting agendas are essential because they help you to stay focused and to clarify what needs to get done during and after the meeting.

What is a meeting agenda?

A meeting agenda serves as a roadmap for a meeting, whether it’s a one-to-one, discussions with your team, or a conference with other stakeholders.

In the agenda, you’ll outline the topics to be discussed, the objectives, and allotted time frames. Well organised meetings – which are driven by a well-crafted agenda – can help you make the best use of your time while preventing unnecessary tangents.

This approach to meetings can boost your productivity and foster a culture of accountability and respect for everyone’s time, leading to smoother collaborations.

Why do you need a meeting agenda?

A meeting agenda is a blueprint for successful collaboration. It can prepare attendees on what to expect, and help you structure the use of your time . These are some benefits to consider:

  • Structure: agendas organise meetings into logical segments and timeframes. This ensures all topics are covered efficiently.
  • Expectations: by outlining meeting goals, objectives, and expected outcomes, agendas set clear expectations for participants. This keeps attendees focused and encourages them to prepare relevant information and documents.
  • Alignment: good meeting agendas highlight common objectives and priorities. This reduces the likelihood of misunderstanding and conflicting agendas.
  • Decision-making: by structuring conversations around key topics and goals, agendas help teams reach a consensus more efficiently while making informed decisions that drive progress.

Who owns the agenda?

The ownership of a meeting agenda is usually shouldered by the meeting organisers, team leaders, or project managers. Staff in these roles should use the agenda to outline the meeting objectives, structuring the discussion so that team members or stakeholders can achieve the desired outcomes.

Agendas set by managers or team leaders can help navigate the needs and availability of meeting participants, helping to improve team engagement.

That said, some managers prefer their meeting agendas to be ‘grassroots.’ In these cases, it’s not uncommon for managers to ask around for topics that team members wish to be on the agenda.

Open agendas can be a welcome way to democratise discussion, though there’s a note of caution: if an agenda always feels empty before this whip-around for ideas, it can suggest that the meeting itself may be poorly designed.

In these cases, the meeting organiser or team leader should consider the ultimate intent behind the meeting, the desired outcomes and next steps, the cast list of necessary attendees, and the cadence of the meeting.

Meeting agenda template

Here’s a customisable agenda template that you can use as a starting point for putting together your own ideas. Remember, you can add or remove sections based on what you’re trying to achieve through your meeting. Adjust the items, time allocations, and delete any sections you don’t need.

Welcome and Introductions

  • Brief introduction of attendees
  • Icebreaker or team-building activity (optional)

Review of Previous Meeting Minutes

  • Discussion of action items from the last meeting
  • Confirmation or updates on action item status

Main Agenda Items

  1.  [Insert agenda item 1]
    1. Purpose of discussion
    2. Background information (if applicable)
    3. Expected outcomes
    4. Allotted time: [insert time]
  2. [Insert agenda item 2]
    1. Purpose of discussion
    2. Background information (if applicable)
    3. Expected outcomes
    4. Allotted time: [insert time]
  3. [Insert agenda item 3]
    1. Purpose of discussion
    2. Background information (if applicable)
    3. Expected outcomes
    4. Allotted time: [insert time]

Action Items and Next Steps

  • Recap of decisions made during the meeting
  • Assigning action items to specific individuals
  • Deadlines for completion
  • Follow-up plan

Open Floor/Other Business

  • Opportunity for additional questions or comments
  • Any other relevant topics not covered in the agenda

Wrap-Up and Next Meeting Details

  • Summary of key points discussed
  • Confirmation of date, time, and location for the next meeting
  • Any closing remarks

Action Items:

  • [Insert action item 1]
  • [Insert action item 2]
  • [Insert action item 3]
  • [Insert action item 4]
  • [Insert action item 5]

Creating an agenda in 9 steps

Piecing together an agenda can be quick and simple. These are the nine essential steps to follow if you want to get it right:

  1. Identify the meeting type: determine if it’s a brainstorming session, decision-making meeting, status update, or training.
  2. Define clear purpose: clearly articulate what the meeting aims to accomplish. Specify outcomes, decisions, or actions desired.
  3. Outline topics for discussion: generate a comprehensive list of discussion points that align with the meeting’s purpose. Break down broad topics into specific agenda items.
  4. Allocate time for each item: estimate the time needed for discussion for each agenda item. Ensure that the total duration of the meeting allows for in-depth exploration of all topics.
  5. Consider participant roles: identify key stakeholders or individuals necessary for each agenda item. Assign roles or responsibilities based on expertise or involvement.
  6. Include additional agenda elements: incorporate elements like introductions, review of previous action items, or any other housekeeping matters.
  7. Sequence topics strategically: arrange agenda items in a logical order that facilitates smooth transitions between discussions. Start with introductory or less complex topics before moving on to substantial ones.
  8. Allow for flexibility: while it’s essential to have a structured agenda, leave room for unplanned discussions or issues that may arise during the meeting. Allocate buffer time or designate a portion of the agenda for open discussions and active involvement of both online and offline participants.
  9. Review and distribute agenda: review the agenda for clarity, completeness, and alignment with the meeting’s objectives. Seek feedback from key stakeholders (if necessary). Once finalised, distribute the agenda to all participants well in advance of the meeting to allow for adequate preparation.

Tips to create the most effective meeting agenda

Crafting clear and concise meeting agendas is essential for productive gatherings. Here are five practical tips to help you achieve this:

  1. Stay focused: define the meeting’s purpose clearly and limit the agenda to essential topics that directly contribute to achieving objectives. Avoid irrelevant topics that could lead to tangents in your discussion.
  2. Use action verbs: frame agenda items with strong, action-oriented language to clearly communicate what needs to be done. Use verbs like ‘discuss’, ‘decide’, or ‘review’.
  3. Consider participant needs: tailor agenda items to address the preferences, priorities, and expectations of meeting participants. As you write the agenda, also take note of who is attending virtually and in-person to initiate engagement with those on Zoom or Teams – it’s easier to zone out when staring at a computer screen.
  4. Set realistic timeframes: avoid overloading the agenda with too many items or scheduling back-to-back meetings without allowing for breaks.
  5. Organise agenda items logically: arrange topics in a logical sequence that flows smoothly. Group related items together to maintain coherence and consider the order in which topics are presented to ensure effective discussions.

Meeting agenda examples

Creating tailored meeting agendas based on specific nature and goals of the gathering is key. These are a few sample agendas you can use to spark inspiration when planning your next meeting:

Team meeting

  • Welcome and introductions (5 min)
  • Review of previous action items (10 min)
  • Project updates and status reports (20 min)
  • Discussion of current challenges and roadblocks (15 min)
  • Brainstorming solutions and strategies (20 min)
  • Assigning action items and deadlines (10 min)
  • Wrap-up and next steps (5 min)

One-on-one session

  • Welcome and check-in (5 min)
  • Review of individual goals and progress (15 min)
  • Feedback and performance review (20 min)
  • Discussion of development opportunities (15 min)
  • Goal setting and action planning (15 min)
  • Wrap-up and follow-up items (10 min)

Brainstorming Session

  • Introduction to the topic or challenge (10 min)
  • Idea generation: roundtable discussion (30 min)
  • Grouping and clustering of ideas (15 min)
  • Evaluation and selection of top ideas (20 min)
  • Refinement and development of chosen ideas (20 min)
  • Action planning and assigning next steps (10 min)
  • Wrap-up and summary (5 min)

Project Update Meeting

  • Welcome and review of agenda (5 min)
  • Overview of project goals and objectives (10 min)
  • Progress update on key milestones (20 min)
  • Discussion of issues and risks (15 min)
  • Resource allocation and adjustments (15 min)
  • Review of budget and expenses (10 min)
  • Action planning and assigning tasks for next phase (10 min)
  • Wrap-up and Q&A (5 min)

Conclusion

Meeting agendas ensure your team has organised discussions and successful goals and KPIs. As you piece together your talking points, make sure to have a think of what you need most from the conversation, and how you can keep meetings short and sweet.

Most importantly, think about ways to keep your team or stakeholders involved during each meeting – time is precious, so you want to make sure you’re building the right environment so everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is typically included in a meeting agenda?

    Agendas typically include a list of talking points in the order in which they will be discussed. This will be followed by some concluding points that summarise the actions points that should be taken after the meeting. You’ll usually see each item has a time written next to it – this helps keep your meeting organised and avoids it from running over time.

  • How do you write a general meeting agenda?

    A general meeting agenda will include the purpose, talking points, key decisions that need to be taken, roundtable discussion, and a summary of the action items that need to be made.

  • Does Word have a meeting agenda template?

    The Microsoft Office template gallery has a small collection of agendas that you can use. Otherwise, you can try asking Microsoft’s Bard to write you a meeting agenda using AI and copy and paste it straight into your document.

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