Designing an Agenda for a More Effective Meeting

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No one enjoys when meetings run long and yet still somehow end up being unproductive. Every meeting needs a schedule, or agenda, to help everyone be prepared, utilize time wisely, and to keep them on task during the meeting.

To make your meeting run as effectively as possible, you need to have a clear outline of the topics that need to be discussed, as well as an allotted time scheduled for each item, prepared well before the meeting begins. Sticking to the items on (and timeline of) your agenda will help prevent your team from getting sidetracked or too bogged down on a particular topic.

Encouraging Your Team to Give Input at Meetings

The purpose of holding a meeting isn’t to just for you to give information to your team.  That could easily be done in a mass email.  There should be items on the schedule that allow you get feedback and ideas from the members of your team.

One of the best ways to get a topic discussed at your meeting is to pose it as a question. This will encourage input from your employees, which is, after all, the point of the meeting. Different team members have different information and ideas to contribute. Everyone can share their specific areas of expertise as they then collectively go about figuring out what the best steps to take moving forward will be.

Scheduling in specific times for this purpose during meetings will help get the topic discussed and the problems solved within an appropriate time frame, keeping the pace of your meeting on track.

Have a Clear Purpose for Each Item on the Agenda

On the schedule it should be made clear what the purpose of each topic will be. The topics on your agenda’s outline will generally fall under one of three categories.

Sharing Information

If the goal of an agenda item is to share information with the team, it should be stated in a timely manner. The team should be asked if there are any questions on that topic. Once covered sufficiently, it’s time to move on to the next item on the agenda.

Seeking Information

When an item on your meeting’s schedule pertains to gathering information, the team members can be asked if they have any input on a specific situation.  Once the information has been shared and discussed, keep the momentum going and move on to the next topic on your meeting’s agenda.

Solving a Problem

If the purpose is to solve a problem, the problem should be presented to the team clearly. The goal is for the subject to be solved with everyone in agreement on the matter.

Calculating Time for Each Topic on Your Meeting’s Agenda

Each topic should have a time allotted, allowing for ample time to communicate the topic at hand and to make a decision or to have a discussion so that the meeting will not run over.  It should be clearly communicated on the schedule how much time has been given for each item on the agenda.

The schedule should be dispensed out in plenty of time before the meeting so that everyone can research the topic and be prepared to give their input. There are lots of online collaboration tools that can help with this task.

The first topic on the schedule should be for everyone to look over the agenda and make any necessary changes before moving forward.

Presenting Each Topic

The agenda should state which team member is responsible for leading each topic up for discussion. It will be up to them to keep their portion of the meeting within the allotted time slot. Remind each leader when presenting their topic that they need to allow time for the team to give feedback and ask questions.

Running Out of Time

So what happens when you’ve moved well past your allotted time for a particular topic but still haven’t reached a conclusion or a consensus? Push it back. Clearly the team isn’t yet prepared to tackle this issue.

It could simply be that they need more information before they can reach their conclusion. Give them the time they need to get it. Push back the issue until the next meeting, whether it is in an hour, a day, or a week.

When Your Team Can’t Reach an Agreement

In an ideal world, your team would always be able to reach a consensus. Here on Earth, sometimes you’ll just have to put things to a vote.

How to End a Meeting

Leave time on your agenda to close your meeting.  There should be a quick discussion on how well (or not) the meeting went and suggestions for changes to help things move more smoothly during the next one. Preparing and sticking to your agenda should help to keep your meeting moving smoothly and ending on time.

Contact Othniel Edwards today for your consulting needs or for customized tips on effective team management within your organization.

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