How to Write Meeting Agendas: Tips, templates & examples

A well-structured meeting agenda is a critical tool for effective communication. It makes efficient use of time and results in productive meetings.

A good meeting agenda is a roadmap that directs the meeting, ensuring that it covers and discusses all important topics. This guide will provide you with tips and strategies for writing a meeting agenda. We will also explore some meeting agenda examples to help you master this essential skill.

  • Understanding the importance of a well-planned meeting agenda
  • How to write effective meeting agendas: A step-by-step guide
  • Real-world meeting agenda examples
  • Meeting agenda templates
  • Conclusion: The art of facilitating effective meetings
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Understanding the importance of a well-planned meeting agenda

A well-planned meeting agenda sets clear expectations for what will occur during the meeting. This allows participants to prepare ahead and contribute effectively to your meetings.

It provides focus and direction so that the meeting stays on track and covers relevant topics. It also facilitates efficiency. It saves valuable time and avoids unproductive discussions.

What is a meeting agenda?

A well-planned meeting agenda serves as a guide for the team meeting. It outlines the discussion of topics, the order in which they are tackled, and the time allocated for each. The agenda provides a clear and focused direction for the meeting.

Without a well-planned agenda, meetings can become disorganised and unproductive. Participants may go off-topic or spend too much time on one issue at the expense of others. In contrast, an effective meeting agenda ensures that discussions remain relevant and time-efficient.

Moreover, a meeting agenda can improve participant engagement. When attendees know what to expect in your meetings, they can prepare in advance. This results in more insightful discussions and more informed decisions. This sense of structure and purpose can also boost confidence among participants. They’re more likely to contribute to the conversation.

Defining a meeting agenda: What it is and its purpose

Colleagues having productive meeting agenda

As defined above, a meeting agenda is a planning tool that outlines the structure of a meeting. It serves several important purposes:

  • Focus: By outlining the topics, a meeting agenda helps keep the conversation focused. This ensures that the meeting stays on track and covers all relevant points.
  • Efficiency: A well-structured agenda allocates time for each item. This promotes efficient use of meeting time. It also helps avoid long meetings that can drain energy and decrease productivity.
  • Preparation: By providing participants with the agenda in advance, they have the chance to prepare their thoughts, questions, or materials on the topics to be discussed. This can lead to more productive discussions and better decision-making in your meetings.
  • Record: An agenda also serves as a record of the discussions and plans. You can use this to track progress. You can then follow up on action items, or brief anyone who couldn’t attend the meeting.

The purpose of a meeting agenda is to improve the effectiveness of meetings. By providing structure and clarity, it helps ensure that meetings are productive, efficient, and valuable for all participants.

How to write effective meeting agendas: A step-by-step guide

Writing an effective meeting agenda involves several key steps. It includes defining the meeting’s objective, identifying the participants, determining the agenda structure, creating the content, and communicating the agenda.

Step 1: Define the meeting objective

Every meeting should have a clear purpose. Before creating your agenda, ask yourself: What do we need to accomplish by the end of this meeting? Your meeting goal could be to make a decision or to brainstorm ideas. It could be to update the team on a project’s progress, or to address a specific issue.

Your meeting’s purpose will guide the topics you need to discuss. If your objective is to brainstorm ideas for a new marketing campaign, your discussion items might include reviewing past campaign results. You can discuss competitors’ marketing strategies, and you can brainstorm ideas during these meetings.

Make sure you have a clear and concise objective, and share it with the meeting attendees. This helps to set expectations and allows participants to prepare effectively.

Step 2: Identify the participants

Identifying the right participants is essential for a productive meeting. Consider who has the knowledge, skills, or interest necessary to contribute to the meeting’s objective. Who will be responsible for carrying out any key decisions made during the meeting? These will also determine whether you will craft a formal agenda or a simple meeting agenda.

Also, consider who might be impacted by the meeting’s outcome. These stakeholders should be represented in the meeting, either directly or indirectly. However, be cautious about inviting too many people. Large meetings can be harder to manage. Not everyone may get a chance to contribute meaningfully.

Step 3: Determine the agenda structure

Your agenda’s structure will depend on the meeting’s objective, the topics to discuss, and your team’s meeting culture. Many meetings follow a chronological format, with items listed in the order they’ll be addressed.

When you create a meeting agenda, each item should have an allotted time based on its importance and complexity. This helps to keep the meeting on track and ensure that it covers all items. You can be flexible. Some topics may require more time than anticipated, while others may take less.

Step 4: Create the agenda content

List all the topics that you need to discuss to achieve the meeting’s objective. Rank these items based on their urgency and importance.

Each agenda item should include the topic and the person leading the discussion. You should include the goal of the discussion and any pre-work or materials participants should review before the meeting. All these will help participants prepare effectively. They also ensure a more productive meeting.

Step 5: Communicate the agenda

After finalising your agenda, distribute it to all participants. Use a method that’s common in your organisation, such as email or a shared calendar invite. Include all relevant information, such as the date, time, and location (or link for virtual meetings). Make it clear what participants should prepare.

Be sure to send the agenda well in advance – at least a few days before the meeting. Give participants enough time to review the agenda. They might need to prepare any necessary materials and think about the topics. Encourage participants to contact you if they have any questions. They could let you know if there’s anything they’d like to add to the agenda. This promotes engagement and ensures that all relevant topics are covered during meetings.

Real-world meeting agenda examples

Let’s look at some meeting agenda examples that you can use as guides in crafting your own:

Example 1: A well-structured team meeting agenda

A sample meeting agenda for your team might be structured as follows:

  • Welcome and introductions (5 mins): This provides a warm start to the meeting and allows for the introduction of any new members to the team.
  • Review of last meeting’s action items (10 mins): This section allows the team to follow up on tasks or decisions made during the last meeting, ensuring accountability and progress.
  • Project updates (30 mins): Each team member can provide updates and key metrics on their current projects. This keeps everyone informed about what others are working on and enables collaboration and support.
  • Discussion on upcoming projects (15 mins): The team can brainstorm or plan for future projects. This forward-looking discussion helps ensure everyone is on the same page and can plan their workload accordingly.
  • Open forum (10 mins): This is a chance for team members to bring up any other business, ask questions, or share ideas. It encourages open communication and team participation.
  • Closing and action items (5 mins): Wrap up the meeting by summarising key points, noting any decisions made, and assigning any new action items. Provide a clear takeaway from the meeting and set up the team for their next tasks.

Example 2: A comprehensive board meeting agenda

A board meeting agenda might look like this:

  • Call to order and introductions (5 mins): The chairperson officially begins the meeting and introduces any new members or guests.
  • Approval of previous meeting minutes (10 mins): The board reviews the minutes from their last meeting for accuracy and completeness. This ensures a correct record of board actions and decisions.
  • CEO’s report (20 mins): The CEO provides an update on the organisation’s performance, progress toward goals, and any significant issues.
  • Financial report (20 mins): The treasurer or CFO presents the organisation’s current financial situation, including revenue, expenses, and forecasts.
  • Committee reports (30 mins): The chairs of various committees provide updates on their committee’s work.
  • Old business (15 mins): The board discusses ongoing issues or follows up on past decisions.
  • New business (15 mins): The board discusses new topics and makes decisions or plans for the future.
  • Open discussion (15 mins): This is an opportunity for board members to discuss items not on the agenda, ask questions, or share ideas.
  • The setting of the next meeting date and time (5 mins): The board agrees on the date and time of their next meeting.
  • Adjournment: The chairperson officially ends the meeting.

Example 3: An effective project meeting agenda

A project meeting agenda could be structured in the following way:

  • Introduction and objectives of the meeting (5 mins): The project manager outlines the meeting’s purpose and what they hope to achieve by the end of the meeting.
  • Review of project milestones (10 mins): The team reviews progress towards project milestones, discusses any delays, and plans for the next stages of the project.
  • Updates from each team member (20 mins): Each team member provides a brief update on their work and any challenges they’re facing. This helps the team coordinate their work and support each other.
  • Risk and issue discussion (15 mins): The team discusses any risks or issues that could affect the project, and agrees on actions to mitigate them.
  • Confirmation of next steps and responsibilities (10 mins): The project manager summarises the meeting, confirms what needs to be done next, and assigns responsibilities.
  • Open discussion and questions (10 mins): Team members can ask questions, provide feedback, or discuss topics not covered in the meeting.
  • Meeting wrap-up (5 mins): The project manager wraps up the meeting, thanks everyone for their time, and reminds them of the next meeting’s date and time.

Meeting agenda templates

Use these templates as a starting point to craft your agendas for your meetings.

The basic meeting agenda template

A basic meeting agenda is suitable for simple, routine meetings. This is preferable when you’re just starting to implement meeting agendas in your organisation. It’s easy to follow:

  • Meeting objectives: Start by clearly stating the purpose of the meeting or what you hope to achieve by the end. You can set the direction for the meeting.
  • Review of previous meeting’s action items: Discuss the progress of action items from the last meeting to ensure accountability and follow-through from meeting participants.
  • Discussion topics (with time allocated for each): List the topics to discuss to accomplish the meeting’s objectives. Indicate the person leading each topic and allocate a specific time for discussion.
  • Conclusion and action items: Conclude the meeting by summarising key points, noting any decisions made, and outlining the next steps, including who is responsible for each action item.

The team meeting agenda template

For regular team meetings, you might use an agenda like this:

  • Welcome and introductions: Start on a positive note and introduce any new members or visitors.
  • Updates from team members: Give each meeting participant a chance to share updates on their work.
  • Review of team metrics or KPIs: Look at your team’s performance data to identify areas of success and opportunities for improvement.
  • Discussion on upcoming projects or initiatives: Allow time to plan and coordinate future work.
  • Open forum: Encourage team members to bring up other business or ideas.
  • Next steps and action items: Summarise the meeting, clarify any action items, and remind the team of the next meeting.

The one-on-one meeting agenda template

For one-on-one meetings, such as with a direct report, an agenda might look like this:

  • Updates since the last meeting: Allow each person to share updates on their work and any challenges they encounter.
  • Discussion on current projects and performance: Discuss the individual’s current work and provide feedback on their performance.
  • Feedback and suggestions: Provide time for both parties to give and receive feedback, and discuss ideas for improvement or future projects.
  • Goals and objectives for the next period: Set clear goals and expectations for the period until the next one-on-one meeting.
  • Next steps and action items: End with a clear plan for what will happen next, including any tasks that need doing or issues that need following up.

The board meeting agenda template

For board meetings, the agenda may be more formal:

  • Call to order and introductions: The chairperson starts the meeting and introduces any new board members or guests.
  • Approval of previous meeting minutes: The board reviews and approves the minutes of the last meeting.
  • Reports (e.g., CEO’s report, financial report, committee reports): Key individuals or committees share updates and important information.
  • Old business: Follow up on ongoing issues or items from previous meetings.
  • New business: Introduce and discuss new topics or decisions.
  • Open discussion: Allow time for members to bring up other topics or questions.
  • The setting of the next meeting’s date and time: Decide on the next board meeting.
  • Adjournment: The chairperson officially ends the meeting.

The project meeting agenda template

For project meetings, an agenda could look like this:

  • Introduction and objectives of the meeting: The project manager introduces the meeting and its objectives.
  • Review of project milestones and progress: The team reviews progress towards the project’s goals and discusses any issues or challenges.
  • Updates from team members: Each team member shares updates on their work.
  • Risk and issue discussion: Discuss any risks or issues affecting the project, and agree on mitigation strategies.
  • Confirmation of next steps and responsibilities: Clarify what needs to be done next and who is responsible for each task.
  • Open discussion and questions: Allow time for team members to discuss other topics or ask questions.
  • Meeting wrap-up: The project manager wraps up the meeting and sets the date and time for the next one.

Conclusion: The art of facilitating effective meetings

Writing effective meeting agendas is a crucial skill for facilitating successful meetings. A well-planned agenda can turn a chaotic, time-wasting meeting into a productive and efficient one.

By following the steps and using the templates of meeting agenda examples provided in this guide, you can ensure your meetings are focused, purposeful, and achieve their objectives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. When should the meeting agenda be distributed?
    ⁠⁠The meeting agenda should be distributed well in advance, ideally a few days before the meeting. This gives participants enough time to prepare for the discussion topics.
  2. How can I ensure all agenda items are addressed during the meeting?
    ⁠By allocating specific timeframes to each agenda item, you can manage the meeting time effectively and ensure all items are discussed. If time runs short, prioritise the remaining topics and address the less critical ones in a follow-up meeting or email. Use the meeting agenda examples above as your guide.
  3. What if an urgent topic comes up that is not on the agenda?
    ⁠If an urgent topic comes up, evaluate its importance against other agenda items. If it’s critical, adjust the agenda as necessary, but be mindful of the meeting’s time constraints and participants’ schedules.
  4. How can meeting agendas be adapted for remote or virtual meetings?
    ⁠For remote meetings, consider using collaborative tools to create and share the agenda. You might also need to allocate extra time for technology set-up and include online etiquette guidelines in the agenda.
  5. What steps can be taken if the meeting is running over the allocated time?
    ⁠If the meeting is running over the allocated time, the facilitator can intervene to steer the conversation back on track. If necessary, non-urgent topics can be moved to a follow-up meeting or email.

    ⁠It’s also important to promote effective time management practices, such as starting and ending the meeting on time, keeping discussions focused, and avoiding unnecessary tangents.

Source – Jobstreet