Meetings are the bedrock of most businesses’ day-to-day running, yet they’re often woefully mismanaged. There’s no doubt that collaboration and communication matter. So why are meetings frequently disorganised and poorly planned? Many people dread meetings like they do conference calls, thinking they’re just a waste of time. That can – and should – change though! With proper preparation, you can plan the perfect meeting. To get started, we’re helping you create the perfect template for your business meeting agenda.
Your business meeting agenda should come from a definable need
Before you even think about sketching a business meeting agenda, ask yourself: what’s the point? No, not in a fatigued or existential sense. But you do need to question why you are planning a meeting. What has made you think a meeting needs to take place?
By identifying this need, you’ve taken the first and most crucial step toward a business meeting agenda. That is having a clear objective. It sounds obvious, and it’s easy to skip. You might wearily think ‘because we have monthly recaps’. That’s not good enough, though. Without a defined goal, you can’t create a focused and effective business meeting agenda. Instead, it will be haphazard and purposeless, confirming everyone’s ideas that meetings eat into productivity.
A good meeting objective is no more than two sentences. The more concise, the more focused your meeting will be. It might sound silly or redundant, but do define your objective. And write it down! It’s a small thing, but just jotting down a snappy title and short objective can really organise your thoughts as you start your business meeting agenda.
What’s standing between the present situation and the objective?
You’re at Point A. You’re looking at a piece of paper with Point Z written on it. So what steps do you need to take to get from A to Z? What does the rest of the alphabet represent? Let us be clear though – we aren’t suggesting an agenda of twenty-four tasks! In fact, typically, business meeting agendas should be limited to around 5 key topics or tasks.
These will obviously vary for every meeting. What everyone should do, though, is break each point down into the simplest possible components. Things as straightforward as ‘Steve would need to know how many visitors we have in the average month’, ‘we’ll need a colour scheme for the billboard ad’ or ‘we would need to find a paper supplier to print the flyers’.
Once you have the list of tasks you need to achieve to get to Point Z, it’s time to put them in order. There are different factors that will come into play. Obviously, time-scale is important. Some things will have a tighter deadline than others. That might bump them up the list. Others might just be less vital. Ultimately, you’ll know what you absolutely have to address in this meeting, and what could – in the worst case – be picked up in the next meeting, or maybe discussed without the entire team present.
Order your list, and you already have a vague business meeting agenda. See, it’s all intuitive!
Decide on the practicalities for your meeting
Before you can flesh out your business meeting agenda, you need to think of some specifics. A good business meeting agenda is propped up by logistical thought.
You have your objective, and the points you need to hit to get there. Now you’re ready to nail down who needs to be there.
This is a really important part of planning a good business meeting. It’s often overlooked. There are so many shortcuts available. People might think to simply ask a whole team to be there, for example. Or they might want one representative from each department.
Instead, think carefully about every person on the list, and every ‘letter’ in our proverbial alphabet. Match each person to at least one letter. If there’s anybody who won’t make a direct contribution to at least one of the stepping stones to your objective, get them off the list! That isn’t to be exclusive or to shun them. You’re actually doing them a favour. It’s making people sit in meetings they can’t contribute to that makes them so resent meetings as a waste of their time. It can also just make them feel useless, and leave the meeting feeling dejected. That’s never conducive to productivity!
It’s usually a good idea to decide who before when, as you can then plan with attendees’ schedules in mind. Special thought is needed if you have remote staff – and being a good employer to remote workers has its own requirements! As we move more toward flexible working, juggling different people’s schedules and locations might get trickier. Which is why it’s so great to always have conference calls as a great alternative!Create a FREE Teleconference
There have been plenty of studies into the best time to plan a meeting. Unsurprisingly, they often yield contradictory results. Ultimately, it’s yet another factor that will depend on each team and company. Let common sense guide you. Unless you’re providing food, it can be wise to avoid lunch time. Nobody wants to stay late on a Friday evening. First thing on a Monday morning, a lot of us like to have time to get settled and sorted for the week ahead.
For some people, there are very obvious answers. ‘In the conference room’, might leap to mind. But if your company does do a lot of work remotely, it can be trickier. You might not have a traditional office space. Hiring a boardroom can be really expensive. If you want to save money, conference calling can be a brilliant option – especially with genuinely free conference calls. If being face to face is vital (say you’re collaborating on sketches of an architectural plan, for example), you don’t need to shell out. There are many lovely free and cheap meeting locations!
Get your attendees’ input on your business meeting agenda so far
You’ve got a skeleton agenda and an idea of the time and location. A lot of people would consider the job done, and send out the business meeting agenda. But that’s kind of missing the collaborative point of any meeting. At this point, reach out to the people on your list and get their input.
Send them what you have so far, but not as a finished document. Instead, ask what else they’d like included. They’ll be in charge of and involved in much of what’s going to be spoken about during and completed after the meeting. They have insights and perspectives that you don’t. Let them be a part of planning the meeting they’re going to participate in!
It’s also a good moment to check that the timing and venue work for everybody. If not, you can reschedule, or give the option for people to conference call in.Create a FREE Teleconference
Finalise your business meeting agenda with times and leaders
Now you have a full list of topics and tasks to cover. Hopefully, people have also given you an idea of how important each point is to them. That should help you confirm the order of each point. You should also use people’s reactions and ideas to sketch out a timeline.
This is a really important point. Your meeting obviously needs a start time, and should absolutely have a clearly defined finish time. But you should also mark up your agenda with how much time will be spent on each different issue. This will totally depend on how important and complicated the topic in question is!
As well as the duration of each topic, you should indicate who will be leading it. Most meetings might have a general leader or chairperson, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t delegate. In a team, different people will tend to be responsible for or knowledgeable about different aspects. Let them take the floor and explain what they’ve been working on, or what needs doing.
By putting that information on the business meeting agenda, you’re making it easier for people to prepare properly. If they know they will speak for 7 minutes about x topic, they can get stats and notes in order and know what they’ll be saying. That makes for less nervous or surprised participants, and an overall more productive meeting.
Once it’s all put together, make sure you circulate it! Be sure to give at least a couple of days’ notice.
A rough business meeting agenda template
Every industry, company, team, meeting has different requirements and objectives. There is absolutely no one-size-fits-all meeting agenda template. Even within one team working on one project, your meetings will likely differ in length, purpose, focus and even participants. But we can give a general idea of the kinds of things most meetings should include, and the order they tend to work best in.
1. Greetings and welcomes
This can often feel cheesy, uncomfortable or superfluous. But even amongst groups who know each other well, it’s a good idea. It gives the chance for people to settle. It can be an opportunity to make clear people’s positions and how they relate to the project or topic at hand. It’s also important to break the ice if there are people who don’t know each other.
2. Review and modify the business meeting agenda
Once you’ve established who’s there and why, it can make sense to ask if any of them would like to alter the agenda. Briefly outline what will be covered, and ask if anybody has any changes to propose. That can mean adding something that has changed or happened since creating the agenda. It might also be that they think a different order would be more coherent. Or there might be something that doesn’t need to be covered in the meeting.
3. Review and update
Take time to review the past meeting minutes. It’s good to remind everybody of what they should have done between then and now, and to clearly mark out the trajectory the project should take.
Then go through what’s been going on with the project from everyone’s point of view. If they have any development or progress to share, this is the time. The first section of most meetings is purely informational, and that’s okay. You can’t move forward together if you’re starting from different points.
4. New topics and tasks
This will likely take up the bulk of the meeting. It’s that list of letters/steps to take to get you to the meeting objective. Go through each one methodically, deferring to the appropriate leader for each point. Make sure the end goal of every point is clear, and what each person needs to do for the team to achieve it.
5. Start thinking about the next business meeting agenda
Think about how much you can and should achieve before meeting again. Keeping communication channels open is important, but that doesn’t have to mean official meetings with the whole team. That means it really is worth thinking about the things it makes sense to have done before next convening. Then you’ll have an idea of what you will have to talk about next time, and a rough business meeting agenda will materialise without you even realising!
6. Review the business meeting agenda and how much has been accomplished
Take a moment to go back through the agenda and see how everybody feels about each point. Does anybody think some of it needs revisiting? Did you have to postpone a topic because you ran out of time? Does somebody need to check certain updates before reaching a firm conclusion? Go through and mark up what can be decidedly ticked off, and what you might be coming back to. Make sure everybody know the next steps they need to take.
7. Get feedback from your participants
This links to the agenda review. Check in with people about how successful they feel the meeting was. Did the agenda serve its purpose? Did you meet the objective? You can’t know this entirely for yourself, so actively ask for feedback! Questions you might like to ask include:
- Did people receive the agenda with plenty of time to prepare?
- What steps did they take to prepare for the meeting?
- Did they feel the agenda made sense in terms of contents and order?
- Did they get the opportunity to say everything they wanted?
- Were the estimated durations for each topic appropriate?
- Did the meeting stay focused, or did it move off-topic?
- If it moved away from the agenda, was that because the agenda was poorly planned, or because members got distracted?
- Did everybody know why they were there, and did they feel they could contribute?
- What could be different for a more productive meeting?
8) Share the meeting minutes
Once the work is done, make sure you share it! People might make notes, and they’ll certainly have some memory of the meeting. But giving them full minutes makes it easier to remember exactly what they need to be doing next, and why. It means they know who to get in touch with in relation to tasks they might not be so directly responsible for, too. If you’ve held a conference call, sharing meeting minutes can be as easy as making the call recording available. You can also make use of transcribing software that will turn your recording into written minutes!
Could you achieve your business meeting agenda with a conference call?
Next time you’re planning a business meeting agenda, consider whether you could hold a conference call instead. It can save your business a great deal of money. Reducing commuting also means teleconferencing is better for the environment.
Plus, with amazing features like moderator controls, call recording and reservationless conference calls, a teleconference can often be more convenient and more efficient than a physical meeting. If you need to have a discussion at the drop of a hat, or your team is spread across the country or even the globe, a conference call can be quicker and easier!Create a FREE Teleconference