The importance of setting agendas for meetings

How many times have you sat in a meeting, frustrated at the lack of organization and constant back and forth of different topics? Well, you’re not alone. According to Insider, $37 billion is lost in America every year due to unproductive meetings. That accounts for around a third or 3.6 million each day. 

The crazy thing is…it doesn’t have to be this way. CEOs, business leaders and entrepreneurs already have a high demand for their time, so it’s silly for them not to manage their time effectively with an agenda. Setting one, can ensure meetings focus on what’s important, stay on track, help inform better decisions and are productive.

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The benefits of setting an agenda

One of the best things about having an agenda for meetings is increased productivity. When you have a clear plan in place, it helps everyone stay focused and on track. This means less time is wasted on jumping around different topics erratically and more is dedicated to achieving the goals of the meeting.

But increased productivity isn't the only benefit because an agenda also helps with time management. By outlining the items that need to be discussed and the time allotted for each, you can ensure that the meeting stays within the designated time frame. This can be especially important for busy business leaders and entrepreneurs who have a lot on their plate and can't afford to spend hours in meetings. Time management can also benefit from a scheduling tool like Doodle. When you make a poll, you can get people together in minutes without lots of emailing back and forth.

You should also find that setting an agenda can enhance focus and clarity. With a clear outline of the topics to be covered, everyone can prepare and come to the meeting ready to discuss and contribute. Very important when making sure vital issues aren't overlooked.

Ineffective communication can often be the root of many problems that arise in meetings, but with a clear agenda, you’ll find this can be overcome. Having topics listed and in the order in which they will be covered, you can help ensure everyone is on the same page. CEOs will find this especially helpful when holding large meetings or for teams working remotely.

How to create an effective agenda? 

So, you've decided to start setting agendas for your meetings. Great. But where do you start? Here are a few tips to get you going:

Determine the purpose and goals of the meeting. Before you can start putting together a meeting agenda, you need to know what you want to accomplish. Consider what needs to be discussed and what decisions need to be made. Remember, not everything needs to be decided there and then. This will help you determine which items to include and how much time to allocate for each.

Invite the necessary attendees. Make sure to include anyone who needs to be a part of the discussion or who will be affected by the decisions made. It's also a good idea to send the agenda to all attendees in advance so they can come prepared.

Determine the length of the meeting. Be realistic about how much time you'll need to cover all of the items on the agenda. If you have a lot to discuss, you may want to consider scheduling a longer meeting or breaking it up into multiple sessions. A tool like Doodle will help you find a time that works for everyone. 

Order items by priority. This will help you ensure that the most important topics are discussed first in case you run out of time. You may also want to consider grouping similar items together in case you can knock out things of lower priority at the same time and make the meeting more cohesive.

Include breaks and allow for flexibility. It's important to give people a chance to stretch their legs and refocus, so consider including breaks in your agenda. Additionally, it's a good idea to leave some flexibility in the schedule in case something important comes up that needs to be discussed.

On top of all of these tips, remember to be open to adjusting the agenda as needed. And don't forget to review and update your agendas regularly to ensure they continue to meet the needs of your team. If you’re a CEO or entrepreneur time is precious and you don’t want to waste it with out-of-date agendas. 

How do you stick to it?

You have your agenda and feel confident about the meeting, but how do you ensure people stick to it? 

Assign a facilitator. Consider appointing someone who can moderate the meeting. This person can help to keep the conversation on track, stop unnecessary side conversations and ensure all items on the agenda get covered.

Encourage participation and discussion, but keep it focused. It's important to allow people to express their thoughts, but it's also vital to stick to the topic at hand. Encourage everyone to have their say and avoid allowing one person to dominate the conversation. A variety of voices is going to help business leaders and entrepreneurs make better decisions when one needs to be made.

Use a timer. To help keep track of time, consider using a timer or setting alarms on your phone to let you know when it's time to move on to the next item on the agenda.

Be flexible. While it's important to stick to the agenda as much as possible, too much rigidity is going to frustrate productivity. Be flexible and open to adjusting the agenda as needed. If an important issue comes up that needs to be addressed, don't be afraid to deviate from the plan.

The goal of an agenda is to help guide the conversation, not to dictate it. So be open to input and feedback from your team. If it’s a recurring meeting this will help subsequent gatherings to be more efficient. 

Don’t let your meeting join the millions of others that leave participants feeling frustrated and unsure of the next steps. Consider creating an agenda as part of your planning and have more efficient and effective meetings.

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