Tips for Developing an Agenda | Meeting Facilitation Training

Developing an Agenda…the Right Way

The Problem:

We all know that we should develop an agenda for our meetings to help them run more smoothly, but who has the time???  Do they really help anyway?  Too often agendas are sent out prior to the meeting, and the meeting is still a train wreck!  Exactly how do you develop an agenda the right way?

Consider these suggestions….

  • Identify the timing, agenda topic, and discussion leader for each agenda item
  • Contact anyone identified as a discussion leader prior to the meeting to ensure they are comfortable leading their section of the meeting
  • Instead of determining the meeting length first then developing an agenda, try developing the agenda and adding up anticipated lengths for each topic to determine the appropriate meeting length. This often yields a more realistic estimate and minimizes the likelihood of running over the allotted time.
  • For the facilitator’s agenda, document the facilitation method/process to be used for each agenda item. Most meeting leaders will document “what” they plan to cover, but few will consider and document “how” they plan to accomplish that.
  • Start each agenda item with a verb to encourage specificity on the action required (g. Prioritize functional requirements)
  • Ensure you include a break at least every 90 minutes if you’re planning a longer meeting
  • Consider both “task” and “relationship” for agendas with established teams. Remember to incorporate some emphasis on relationship by including agenda items or methods that encourage team interaction and bonding (e.g. creative introductions or small group discussions)
  • Ensure the agenda is physically posted in the meeting room (instead of just emailed out prior to the session). If you have the agenda written on a flip chart or whiteboard, you can easily point to it or check off items as the session progresses.  This creates a much more powerful facilitation tool for the meeting leader.
  • Develop realistic timings for each section of the agenda. It’s tempting to only designate 5 minutes for “Introductions”, but if you’ve got 15 attendees and each person takes 90 seconds, that section alone will consume 22 minutes…yikes!  You can obviously try to limit time per introduction, but start with a realistic estimate.
  • For regularly scheduled meetings, consider including a section for “Open Issues” at the end of the agenda. This can act as a placeholder for off topic or Parking Lot issues that may arise during the session.

If you’re developing an agenda for a team retreat, consider these best practices…