Merge's Blog

Agendas are a necessity for effective meetings

In previous blog posts, I’ve explored the bottom-line financial cost of ineffective meetings as well as offered ideas on how to make your meetings more productive.  Here’s one more thing that you can do to ensure that you maximize the potential in your meetings.

Always issue an agenda, distributed at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting. If you find yourself calling an unplanned or emergency meeting, use the first 10 minutes to develop a quick agenda on a whiteboard or flipchart, and don’t proceed until you’ve reached agreement on it. One of the best and easiest ways to develop an agenda is to use a table format with a minimum of four columns as follows:

  1. The agenda item
  2. The name of the person responsible for leading and/or facilitating the agenda item
  3. The required outcome for the agenda item, e.g. group discussion, information, update, decision, consensus, action, round-table reporting
  4. The allotted time for the agenda item (Make sure that the total of the allotted times does not exceed the total time set aside for the meeting!)

So for example, your agenda may contain the following items:

  • Purchasing software rollout: Amy Harris, IT lead; project update; 10 minutes
  • Customer service survey results: Reena Davis, customer service manager; information and action on complaints; 30 minutes
  • Software training vendor selection: Bob Edwards, procurement specialist; decision; 15 minutes

Now obviously, this is the basic format, but you can choose to add additional columns to your agenda based on your specific needs.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of an agenda … without it, you may well end up in the meeting from hell!  Have you attended meetings from hell?  Was the lack of an agenda the problem, or was it something else?

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