An agenda is your most powerful weapon to fight poor meetings.
It should be provided well ahead of the meeting, so that attendees can ensure that it is valuable for them to attend and properly prepare.
A truly formidable agenda should include:
- A crystal clear purpose statement that includes what decisions are to be made and what outcomes are being sought. Begin with the end in mind. Think carefully through what wild success looks like, and match your purpose statement against that vision.
- All action items to be completed before and after the meeting. Stated as who will do what by when. Be clear. Accountability comes from crystal clear expectations.
- Topics to be discussed should be listed- They must be stated clearly. Consider using questions for this purpose (who, what, when, where, and why). Stating an item as a question invites attendees to treat the topic as their own.
- All decisions that must be made. Avoid stating decisions to be made as binary i.e. should we do this or not. Most decisions have a broad spectrum of possible paths.
Thoughtfully decide how you will distribute your agenda during the meeting. Hard copy, displayed on a screen, and written on a white board each have strengths and weaknesses.
- Hard copies give attendees a space to note their thoughts, the decisions and action items. Plus it can be taken with them as a reference. However, it also draws their attention down toward the table, instead of up to the meeting leader or the discussion.
- Displayed agendas draw attendee attention up to the meeting leader and can be changed on the fly to reflect the status of the conversation. Meeting minutes can be taken on the fly i.e. decisions made, action items given. The agenda can be shared with attendees immediately / dynamically.
- White board agendas draw attendee attention up to the meeting leader. It invites collaboration as the markers are passed from attendee to attendee to add their thoughts. Meeting minutes can be taken on the fly i.e. decisions made, action items given. A photo can be taken and sent to attendees as meeting minutes.
With a solid agenda, it becomes your responsibility as the facilitator to stick to the agenda. It is so important not to allow the meeting to stray from the agenda. There is no problem changing the agenda to allow it to explore new directions. Sticking to a changed agenda is still sticking to the agenda.
Sticking to a solid agenda will keep the quality of your meetings consistently high. Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.
Just my opinion. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
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