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Creating a Practical Meeting Agenda

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  • 0:03 An Effective Agenda is…
  • 1:31 Elements of an Agenda
  • 2:52 Other Important Details
  • 3:59 Impromptu Items
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara Schofield
A meeting without an agenda can be disorganized, run long, and be very frustrating. A meeting with an agenda can be effective, resolve pressing issues, and cover all needed topics.

An Effective Agenda Is Essential

If you are responsible for a meeting, creating a practical meeting agenda, which outlines the meeting's goals, can make the meeting go smoother and keep everyone on task. When you have many people from different departments, it is easy for a meeting to get derailed and lose focus. With an agenda, a meeting can be more effective, and you can ensure all needed topics are covered.

For instance, if you are preparing for the weekly management meeting, there will be many topics from multiple departments that need to be discussed. By asking each participant if they have a topic that needs to be added to the agenda ahead of time, you can have a good idea of what the meeting will cover and how long to schedule for each topic. This helps keep the meeting moving and prevents the group getting stuck on a discussion on a topic that lasts longer than necessary.

Providing agenda items to the meeting organizer several days before the meeting will help ensure the agenda has all of the necessary topics. This requires you thinking ahead and determining if you need to add anything to the discussion. The agenda should be distributed to all participants at least one, if not two, days before the meeting. This allows each person time to review the agenda, prepare for issues that will be addressed, and bring the appropriate information that may be needed. Being an active participant requires being ready with the right data, input, and insights. You can only be ready if you have enough time before the meeting to gather your thoughts and facts.

Elements of an Agenda

A business agenda needs to have several sections.

1. Attendees: This lists everyone who is expected to be in attendance. This can be very important when decisions are being made that affect multiple departments. If one department is not represented, the topic may need to be discussed at a later time when all of the necessary parties are in attendance.

2. Pending items: These are action items or discussion topics that were not completed in the last meeting and need further review. It may be as brief as checking to see if the item is completed or if progress has been made. Let's imagine you are on the holiday party committee. One action item may be 'Find a location.' In the next meeting, one of the committee members announces a location has been selected, and so this action item is complete. This item is very important to the success of the party and was on the action item list until it was finalized.

3. New items: These items are new projects, problems that need to be remedied, or fresh issues that need to be discussed with the team. Returning to our holiday party-planning example, let's say your committee meeting is scheduled for next week, and you ask the meeting organizer to add 'Select a Menu' to the agenda. This means you will discuss what types of foods will served and finalize the menu for the party.

Other Important Details

An effective agenda provides additional information to keep the meeting on track. This includes how long each topic is expected to take. For instance, the menu selection for our holiday party example may have 10 minutes allotted to the discussion. The meeting organizer is responsible for keeping everyone on track and keeping the conversation moving towards a decision within the scheduled time frame. If someone is not managing the time, a simple conversation about food could end up taking 45 minutes or more. Having a targeted time limit helps keep the meeting on track.

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