If you’ve been in your fair share of meetings that go off track, you’re not alone. In an HBR survey of 182 senior managers, 71 percent of respondents said that meetings are unproductive and inefficient. And we’re having more of them than ever. Research published in MIT Sloan Management Review suggests that meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, and executives now spend an average of almost 23 hours per week in them – more than double the amount in the 1960s.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. With strong planning, you can have a productive, focused meeting – and it all starts with your agenda. Rather than just a timetable you’re obliged to fill in, an agenda is a powerful tool to make sure that all topics are relevant, that it’s clear what preparation is needed and that discussion is goal-oriented.
These can often be simple changes. For example, by opening the meeting with a two-minute agenda review, you can identify whether any items are missing up front – and redistribute time to work them in – rather than rushing to discuss and resolve them as the meeting is winding down. It’s also helpful to switch the format of your topic titles from statements to questions. It immediately shifts the focus from a broad area of discussion to what you’re specifically hoping to get out of that discussion.
Your agenda also plays a key role in ensuring the meeting itself runs smoothly. Make sure each topic has a priority level and leader assigned to it, and note realistic times for each item to help prevent discussion from running overtime.
The next time you’re planning a meeting, why not try out a few of these tips? We’re sure they’ll help focus your agenda writing so that you can get the best out of your time and your team – and the results you need.
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MacKay, B. (2017) Create a Meeting Agenda Quickly. northstarfacilitators.com
Schwarz, R. (2015) How to Design an Agenda for an Effective Meeting. hbr.org
Pate, E. (2017) How to Outline a Meeting Agenda. bizfluent.com
MIT Human Resources. (2018) How and Why to Use a Meeting Agenda. hrweb.mit.edu
Perlow, A. et al. (2017) Stop the Meeting Madness. hbr.org
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