How often have you heard, “Oh, it’s a brief meeting, no need for an agenda!” What so many people miss is the fact that agendas help you navigate the muddy waters. To ensure that a meeting is heading north and not south, east and then west, an agenda, even a brief one, is critical for success. Even if you have a 30-minute meeting, an agenda should be established within the first few minutes of the meeting. When the group gets off track, it’s easy to say, “Based on our agenda, we have to move to the next topic” or “we allocated X number of minutes to this topic” or “I think this is an important topic, let’s amend the agenda.” Without a compass, how do you know what direction you are leading to meet your meeting goals?
So how do you prepare an agenda? Ask yourself, “What is/are the ultimate goal(s) of this meeting?” Often, meeting managers stop at this high-level question, but keep drilling! Ask yourself, how will we get there? Make your plan known and actionable so meeting participants know why they have been included and what is expected.
If you’re one of those people who just read above and cynically asked yourself, “what do you do when your objectives are high-level or you are unsure of your ultimate goals?” The answer to that question is easy – don’t have the meeting in the first place! If you find yourself unable to articulate clear objectives or outcomes for a meeting, it is better not to have the meeting and waste time. Participants may not tell you directly, but most people get frustrated when they don’t know where they going. Often meeting managers miss the important principle that agendas not only set the course, they let everyone know when you have arrived. Chart an agenda, buy a compass and be the captain.