While this might be seen as a very simple skill, some leaders have never learned the practical tips for creating agendas that make a meeting more successful.
- To demonstrate how to create a useful agenda.
- To identify the value of creating and using agendas.
- To practice creating an agenda.
- Case study
- Sample Agenda
- Flipcharts (one per small group)
- Self-sticking notes
Space for a table, chairs, and flipchart for each small group
It is important to develop and distribute an agenda before a scheduled meeting because it gives people time to gather information about important issues. It also ensures that the most important topics will be discussed at the meeting.
Step By Step Instructions
- Introduce the topic with these remarks:
“If we look back at meetings we’ve attended or conducted that have not been too successful, we are likely to conclude that not having an agenda or having only a poorly planned one was a major reason why the meeting was a flop. The focus of this next activity is on how to
prepare a good agenda. In this activity, we will also review why it’s important to have an
agenda. You will have an opportunity to work in small groups to prepare one agenda together.”
- Discuss the importance of having an agenda for every scheduled meeting. List participants’ ideas on the flipchart. Make sure they realize that agendas:
Clarify which tasks and issues need discussion.
Put items into an order for discussion.
Help to identify how much time will be needed for a meeting.
Provide a way to measure the accomplishment of tasks.
Provide an outline for writing a report after the meeting.
State how to prepare an agenda. Discuss and record on the flipchart the pros and cons of preparing the agenda before the meeting:
It saves time at the meeting.
Items can be put in a logical order.
Group members can prepare and bring resource materials to support items on the agenda. 2. Cons: It reduces spontaneity.
Participants cannot decide whether or not all of the items are important for a particular meeting.
- Tell participants that the next 45 minutes will be spent putting together a sample agenda. Then present the challenge: To set up an agenda for a two-hour problem-solving session. Here’s the scenario: “You work in a manufacturing setting. It has come to your attention from several sources that the sales department makes promises to customers that cannot be kept under the current production schedule. You are calling a meeting with key people from sales, production, shipping, information technology, and sales support departments. Your goal is to solve the problem of scheduling so your company can keep its promises to customers.”
Distribute the Sample Agenda attached, and go over the parts of an agenda:
Date and time of the meeting
Names of those serving as team leader, facilitator, and recorder
Goals and objectives for the meeting
Topics, issues, and or activities
Processes to be used
Name of person responsible for each part of the agenda
Time allotted for each item on the agenda
- Divide participants into teams of three, and give each trio one large sheet of chart paper and a pad of 3” x 3” self-sticking notes. At the top, they must write the goal of the meeting, as well as starting and ending times. Demonstrate how to use the chart paper to sketch out the agenda’s skeleton. Use one sticky note for each component of the agenda. Start with the normal items included in an agenda, such as Introductions, Administrative details, Breaks, and Closure. Each team should use the self-sticking notes for these items, and place them on the paper. Show them on the flipchart how this is done: Each team should first brainstorm all of the parts of this two-hour meeting. For each topic or issue, they should prepare a separate sticky note, which is physically placed on the large agenda sheet they are designing. Encourage people to move items around until they get a flow that makes sense and that provides some variety to the agenda, while still accomplishing their goal. Tell them those agenda items are commonly listed down the left of the page, in one column.
- When all the teams finish, post the agendas where everyone can see and discuss each design. You are likely to see different designs that can achieve the same goal. Praise creativity and variety of methods used in the design.
- Review agenda basics, and be sure you include these tips:
Stick to your agenda as much as you can. Periodically review what you think has been accomplished, and preview which items are left. Make adjustments as needed, using group consensus. Make sure you keep to the announced times for breaks and adjournment.
It is very common to end up with too many items on an agenda, so don’t be surprised when everything isn’t covered. Summarize those items that weren’t covered, and decide with the group whether they can be accomplished by an individual or a sub-group, or held until the next meeting. Make a record of this decision, so individuals or sub-groups can give reports at the next meeting. Also, note the items that will be incorporated into the next agenda.
The agenda can be used as an outline for preparing the minutes of the meeting or a similar report.
- Summarize the importance of having a well-planned agenda with the following words:
“Remember: An agenda is a roadmap you need to reach your chosen destination.”
Take a moment shortly after conducting this activity to reflect on how it went, how engaged
the participants were, and what questions they raised. Write down some notes that include
how much time you actually spent on the activity.