Creating a dynamic agenda is about more than creating a last minute list of items that come to your mind. Meetings aren’t for information regurgitation. You can do that via technology. Meetings are for collaboration, idea generating, brainstorming and critical question exploration.
Agendas allow attendees to know the purpose of the meeting and to come fully prepared to contribute. Agendas show that leaders value attendees’ time. If appropriate, make sure attendees have an opportunity to contribute to the agenda. Your team has valuable insight, use it.
We talked before about the importance of Leading a Great Meeting. Every great meeting starts with a dynamic agenda.
What is the objective of the meeting?
Be sure you know why you are meeting. If the organizer doesn’t fully understand what meeting success looks like, no one else will either. Success isn’t about getting the answer and solutions you want, but getting answers and solutions to the problems and/or questions that need answers and solutions. Agendas should clearly define the objective of the meeting.
Who is invited to the meeting?
Only invite those that will help you accomplish the purpose of the meeting. Period. Having too many folks present only complicates the logistics and the conversations, especially if they aren’t essentially connected to the work. They will try to contribute, but will likely distract from the deep work since they may not understand how they should best contribute. If you need broad stakeholder input, then have a stakeholder input meeting and invite those needed. Think about the purpose and the desired outcome – then decide who needs to come. Agendas will show invited folks that his/her attendance is important.
Do they have plenty of advance notice?
You can’t expect folks to come if they don’t have enough notice. And, you definitely can’t expect them to come prepared. If your team meets often, the meeting should be reoccurring, on everyone’s calendar and agendas should be sent at the same time with plenty of time for attendees to view it and prepare. The amount of time wasted with polls and emails trying to decide when everyone is available is ridiculous.
I like to send agendas out about 5-7 days ahead of the meeting. Sending them too much ahead of 7 days will mean that the agenda may be out of date by the time the meeting comes around. But, folks need at least 5-7 days to prepare. This doesn’t mean that you wait 5-7 days to give a meeting notice. Agendas sent with plenty of time, give attendees time to prepare for a great meeting.
Is it appropriate to solicit agenda input?
Only you as the leader know whether your meetings would benefit from attendees contributing to the agenda. I would argue that in almost all cases, it is important. If doing so, allow plenty of time for attendees to get the request for agenda items and to thoughtfully contribute. Agendas should be a reflection of the team.
Separate report time and discussion time.
Report time is information sharing. Facts. No discussion necessary, except maybe a clarifying question here and there. I recommend folks send reports ahead of time. This allows everyone to read them and come to the meeting prepared. There is no need for meetings to be consumed with attendees reading a list of all that they have done in exchange for their paycheck. Attendees should read the reports (containing useful information) before the meeting and when they get to the meeting, they can ask clarifying questions of each other if needed. This keeps report time quick and the majority of the meeting can be spent in discussion time. This is not the time for, “you know, I think…”.
Discussion time is the real reason we should have meetings. For collaboration, idea generating, brainstorming, and critical question exploration. Don’t overschedule here! The groups capacity for great thinking isn’t unlimited. Use different techniques each meeting to accommodate the learning styles of attendees. Small group discussion then sharing to large group, sticky notes and chart paper on the wall, etc. – mix it up!
List times on agenda.
Don’t just list start and end times, but times for each section. This keeps everyone on time and aware of how much time is allotted for each section on the agenda. When attendees ramble, you can move them along by blaming it on the agenda.
A Few Additional Tips
Link important and relevant information to sections of the agenda.
List upcoming dates on the bottom of the agenda.
Place your mission on every agenda.
Lastly, have fun and make life enjoyable for others.
Hopefully these tips for creating a dynamic agenda will help you have a real power meeting!