Have you ever directed or been part of a meeting that didn’t lead anywhere? Perhaps there was no specified goal attached to it or things went off the rails when your colleagues got into a heated argument. 

To prevent these unproductive meetings from becoming the norm at work, take the time to create a purposeful meeting agenda. View this agenda as your compass, one that will steer everybody in the right direction and keep them on track. 

In the same way that an organization’s mission statement and values explain how one should act, a meeting agenda sets the tone for a productive meeting, where people can collaborate, make decisions, and solve problems. 

In this article, we will delve into the importance of a meeting agenda and explore its key elements. We will also outline the steps to create one and provide tips for facilitating meetings based on your agenda.

Introducing the meeting agenda

Imagine a situation where a team gathers for a work meeting without a well-defined agenda. The conversation starts off with one topic but quickly veers off into unrelated tangents. Participants start discussing personal anecdotes and sharing unrelated ideas — before they know it, everyone has branched off into a completely unnecessary side conversation. 

Now picture the same example but with a well-written agenda. This agenda effectively guides colleagues through the meeting, laying out what topics need to be discussed so that everybody remains focused. After all, it can be very difficult to arrange for all employees to be in the same room at the same time. It’s better to not waste any valuable time! 

Why are they necessary? 

Meeting agendas are must-haves if you want better communication and productivity at work. Let’s take a look at two scenarios where meeting agendas impact the outcome of a meeting:

  • Your team leader schedules a meeting without sharing the agenda beforehand. Although some employees may come prepared with their own ideas and data, others may be caught off guard and arrive with nothing. Because the team leader never communicated the meeting’s purpose, the staff understandably became confused and frustrated. 
    • When meeting agendas are shared in advance, employees can take the time to prepare their thoughts. Everyone will arrive ready to collaborate, knowing what is expected of them and their colleagues. 
  • It is time for a project review meeting. The agenda includes specific items like ‘Review project timeline and budget allocation’ and ‘Evaluate progress on deliverables,’ followed by a time slot for each topic. Both of these agenda items provide a clear focus for the meeting in chronological order. Employees will have an idea of what is happening and can pace themselves using the suggested time frame. 
    • When meeting agendas don’t list discussion topics with a time limit, this only leads to chaos. Your team needs to know what to talk about and for how long, or they may bring up irrelevant subjects and go on and on about them.
Person writing agenda items on paper
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Key elements of a purposeful meeting agenda

Incorporate the following key elements into your meeting agenda to make sure it goes smoothly: 

Set clear objectives 

Before crafting the agenda, clearly define the meeting’s objectives. Ask yourself:

  • What do you aim to achieve? 
  • What do you want your staff to know and bring with them for this meeting? 

Allocate appropriate time slots for each agenda item

Remember to assign time slots to every agenda item, since you don’t want the discussion to run too long or short. The goal is to maintain a steady pace while taking into account everybody’s attention spans.

  • Allow for more time if the agenda item requires an in-depth discussion and analysis. Your team will appreciate the extra time to brainstorm and then engage in meaningful dialogue. 
  • Schedule less time if the agenda item appears straightforward and only asks for a quick update. 

Incorporate participant roles and responsibilities

There are times when you’ll need to assign roles and responsibilities to participants within the agenda. When your team understands what is expected of them, they can contribute to a productive discussion. 

  • Designate someone as the notetaker. This person can record important discussion points and action items. They can also distribute them to everybody afterward. 
  • Assign the role of facilitator. This person follows the meeting agenda and guides the discussion. They make sure everybody has a chance to speak and that any potential conflicts are resolved respectfully. 

Steps to create an effective meeting agenda

A well-structured meeting agenda helps you keep your eye on the ball, so let’s pivot to the steps needed to create one: 

1. Identify the meeting’s purpose and desired outcomes

Begin by determining the ‘why’ of the meeting — whether it is to provide updates, generate ideas, or make decisions.

Let’s say your team needs to brainstorm ideas for a new marketing campaign. To prepare, create agenda items like discussing the target audience and possible messaging tactics and promotional channels. 

2. Prioritize agenda items based on importance and urgency

Next, figure out how important and urgent each agenda item is. While some need to be discussed no matter what, other topics can be postponed to a later date. Also, don’t forget to check with the appropriate teams and managers to confirm if there are any pending deadlines or time-sensitive decisions that need to be made soon. 

3. Finalize and distribute the agenda in advance

Now it’s time to put the finishing touches to your agenda. Make sure your final version is comprehensive and that its contents align with the meeting’s overall purpose and desired outcomes. 

As for distributing the agenda, ensure all attendees receive it in advance. This allows them enough time to prepare, as some employees may need to gather additional data to be able to contribute. In addition, tell your staff they are free to offer alternative topics of discussion if they deem them relevant and/or necessary.

Tips for facilitating engaging meetings 

Having a detailed, comprehensive meeting agenda is just the starting point. Here are some tips to help you run productive meetings that leave everyone feeling satisfied:

Keep the meeting focused and on track

  • Use visual aids (e.g., a whiteboard or projector) to visually represent the agenda items and keep everyone engaged. After all, a large block of text pasted on a PowerPoint will most likely bore your team. 
  • Respectfully remind employees having side conversations or going on a tangent of what the actual discussion topic is supposed to be.
  • Use a timer for each agenda item to make sure every topic gets its allotted amount of attention. You can even assign a designated timekeeper, who will monitor the clock and inform everybody when it’s time to move on to the next agenda item. 
Women writing on a whiteboard
Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Encourage participation and engagement

  • Emphasize the importance of active listening and constructive criticism. If your colleagues begin to argue and launch personal attacks, this is clearly crossing the line. 
  • Hold icebreaker activities at the beginning to create a positive atmosphere and allow everybody to become comfortable interacting with each other. Participants can simply introduce themselves or work together on a collaborative exercise. 
  • Have variety in your meeting agenda. Individual brainstorming sessions are great preparation for a group discussion, while team activities can spark creativity and problem solving. 

Discuss follow-up actions 

  • End the meeting by summarizing the key discussion points, decisions made, and actionable items. Don’t forget to send everybody a copy of the meeting minutes. 
  • Assign everybody a task, whether that be running tests or preparing a presentation on something project-related. Remember to add a deadline to everybody’s action items, so that the task is not left on the back burner. 
  • Schedule regular check-ins and ask for progress updates to monitor how everybody is doing. 

Ultimately, meeting agendas should be the spark that leads to lively, thoughtful discussions among your team. If done right, work will get done on time and your staff will get inspired. As each meeting will differ in terms of length and purpose, don’t forget to tailor each agenda accordingly.

Use Wrike to craft purposeful meetings

As discussed, crafting a memorable and productive meeting begins with a well-structured agenda. With Wrike, you can manage your meeting agendas, oversee effective communication, and drive productivity in your meetings.

Take a look at Wrike’s noteworthy features:

Tired of hearing your team groan when it’s meeting time? Let’s change the course of things and create more purposeful and positive meeting agendas. Start your free trial of Wrike today.

Note: This article was created with the assistance of an AI engine. It has been reviewed and revised by our team of experts to ensure accuracy and quality.