A good agenda is the key to organizing a successful meeting. It is the roadmap to guide everyone through the meeting. Studies show that up to 70% of meetings have no agenda or have poorly developed ones.
The agenda is lets people know the purpose of the meeting, the topics that will be addressed and the order in which everything will be discussed. Good agenda’s allocate an amount of time for each item enabling a reasonable amount of work to be completed in a specified amount of time. Agenda’s also help participants to prepare for the meeting and keep the meeting focussed and on track.
When preparing for a meeting, ask participants if there is anything they would like added to the agenda but make sure to include a deadline for their submissions. Set a time limits for each item to help to determine the length of time you need to accomplish everything on the agenda. Send out a preliminary agenda one to two days before the meeting to remind participants of what they need to bring or prepare.
The more detailed the agenda, the more focused and productive the meeting will be. Try to allow a few minutes at the end of the meeting to wrap up, set the date for the next meeting, and review any action items as well as who is responsible for them.
An agenda should include the following items:
- the date and location of the meeting (include directions or maps if necessary)
- time and duration of the meeting (arrival time and start time if different)
- name of attendees
- name of the Meeting Chairperson
- goal of the meeting
- topics for discussion with descriptive details
- presenter or discussion leader for each topic
- time allotment for each topic
- wrap up
This video explains the various parts of the agenda and responsibilities of the leader or chairperson of the meeting.
In the following video, Ron Eichhorn explains how to create powerful agendas and control meeting outcomes.
Department Heads Meeting, ABC Company
March 23, 2014
Meeting Chair: Fred Black
Attendees: All Department Heads
Goal: To discuss the merits of expanding the business
Arrival: 9:00 a.m. — A light breakfast will be served
Meeting: 9:30 – 12:15
|Welcome Remarks: Define goal for meeting||10 min||Chair: Fred Black|
|Department Reports||60 min|
|Accounting: Financial Report on current status||20||Jim Smith|
|Human Resources: Manpower required to support new business||20||Myrna Josef|
|Marketing: Strategic Plan for new branding||20||Sukhdip Singh|
|Executive Team Reports||60 min|
|V.P. Communications||20||Gord Jameson|
|V.P. Operations||20||Maria Ramirez|
|Discussion Leading to Decisions||20 min||All|
|Wrap Up: Summary and Action Items Date for next meeting||15 min||Chair: Fred Black|
Guidelines for Meeting Conduct
The chairperson should work with the team to establish basic guidelines for discussions to protect the rights of each member and maintain order. Guidelines or expectations may include the following:
- Respect individual differences.
- Consider opposing points of view.
- Express disagreement of ideas without criticizing.
- Keep the focus on the ideas rather than the person (don’t make it personal).
- Avoid defensive behaviour (interrupting, changing topics abruptly, etc.).
- Allow others to talk without interruption.
- Listen carefully before responding.
- Restate what others have said for clarity.
- Demonstrate a willingness to compromise or seek consensus.
- Accept and publicly demonstrate support for group decisions.
- Leave disagreements at the meeting.
Often topics come up in a meeting that are relevant but not on the current agenda. Put these ideas in the “parking lot”. You can write them on chart paper so they are visible to everyone. Save a few minutes at the end of the meeting to address these issues. If they need further discussion, you can add them to the agenda for the next meeting.
Ideas to keep participants awake and engaged
- Give each participant responsibility for part of the meeting. This will help everyone to be active contributors rather than passive observers. You may even ask individual group members to take turns chairing the meetings. This is great for developing leadership skills.
- Hold the meetings in different locations. This is a good opportunity to see where other members work.
- Have unexpected refreshments and meals to surprise everyone and keep them interested. Avoid heavy sleep-inducing meals before the meeting. Choose light, healthy snacks.
- Schedule short breaks. Meeting time should never exceed 1.5 – 2 hours without a break. People can only absorb so much information at one time.
- Try handling discussions in different ways. For example, you could break into small groups for discussions and have one member of each group report back. Take time to celebrate successes and recognize special efforts.
- Invite speakers to present to the group but be sure their presentations are interactive so that all members can be involved.
Minutes are the written record of a meeting. The primary function of minutes is to record the decisions made but it should not take the format of a verbatim transcript. They are created during the meeting and are usually transcribed and put into proper format after the meeting for distribution to the members.
Meeting Minutes Format
When creating meeting minutes, include the following:
- the organization name, place, date
- a list of people present
- the time that the chair called the meeting to order
- any decisions made
- an overview of items discussed and the order they were discussed
- the time the meeting ended.
Tips to help you in taking minutes
- Start by preparing an outline, based on the agenda, ahead of time. Leave space for notes. This makes it easy to jump into the next topic.
- Prepare a list of expected attendees and check off their names as they come in. Or you can pass around an attendance sign-in sheet for everyone to sign.
- Don’t try to record everything that is said but try to get the gist of the discussion and take enough notes to summarize it. Be sure to note any action items and the person responsible for carrying out those actions as well as any decisions that are made.
After the meeting: When typing up the minutes
- Don’t wait too long to type up the minutes: you want the discussion to be fresh in your mind.
- Get the minutes approved by the facilitator before they are distributed to the members.
- Focus on the action items, not the discussion.
- Be objective. Watch your tenses and be consistent. Avoid using people’s names except for action items. Use your best business technical writing skills.
- Keep your writing “dull”. Avoid using adjectives or adverbs if possible.
- Proofread the minutes before submitting them.
Websites to practice taking minutes
Simulated Meeting for Minute Taking Practice – youtube.com
How to take minutes at a business meeting – youtube.com
Mock Meeting for Minute Taking – youtube.com
How to be a Master Minute Taker – youtube.com
Taking Meeting Minutes: An Important Skill by Dawn Rosenberg McKay – careerplanning.about.com