You may have wondered, “what is the purpose of creating a meeting agenda?” The most successful meetings have an agenda written in advance. As a matter of fact, all meetings benefit greatly from creating a meeting agenda that is well-structured. Whether its a casual or formal meeting, a meeting agenda can help guide discussions during meetings, while being efficient with time, and keeping attendees focused and engaged. Including agenda items can help you make your meeting agenda more detailed and descriptive.

Include these seven elements to create a more effective, powerful meeting agenda.

1. Specify the meeting’s goal.

This is the first and most important step and one of the most essential out of all of the agenda items. Everyone must know what kind of results you expect to get from the meeting. Participants who understand this will be more actively involved in the discussion. In addition, goal defining helps you and everyone else stay on track, should anyone go off-topic.

2. Create an outline of topics to discuss.

Create a list of agenda topics with enough detail to help participants reach the goal of the meeting. When you write out your topics list, concentrate on being brief, yet clear. One of the best ways to start a discussion topic list is to turn a topic into a question. This way, it will inspire thoughtful answers as opposed to just giving “yes” or “no” responses.

3. Assign a team member to each topic.

To ensure that participants are accountable, set a time limit for each topic discussion. Making topic assignments helps keep meetings moving right along. Long meetings can zap energy from the meeting attendees. It’s common for participants to become anxious when meetings last longer than 30 minutes.

4. Specify who should attend the meeting.

You’ve determined the goals of your meeting and matched team members to topics. You’ve identified the minimum participants who should attend. All of these are vital elements of a meeting agenda. Now you can concentrate on inviting only who is necessary to meet your meeting’s goals.

Ask these three questions before you invite anyone else:

  • Can we accomplish the meeting’s goal without this person?
  • Does this person possess expert knowledge that would benefit the meeting’s outcome?
  • Will this person be affected when we reach the goal of the meeting?

If you’re uncertain, make it optional for them to attend. Alternatively, ask if they would like to have a transcript or summary of the meeting notes later. This will free up their time.

5. Provide a note section on the agenda.

Among the meeting agenda items to discuss is note-taking. Leave space at the bottom portion of the agenda so participants can take notes. This is great if they have an idea that is off-top during the meeting. You can ask that they write it down in the “Parking Lot” section for follow-up later on.

Also regarding notes, it’s extremely important to keep track of all decisions made during the meeting including who will be handling relevant action items.

6. Confirm the time and place of the meeting.

Verify when and where the meeting will take place. If you’re inviting remote attendees in different time zones, provide to them what they need to attend. For example, meeting room links, access codes, or dial-in numbers for conference calls are common for remote access.

7. Distribute the agenda to participants at least two days in advance.

Last, but not least of the agenda items is delivering the agenda in plenty of time prior to the meeting. At the very least, two days is the minimum amount of time that you should send an agenda to participants. However, a week in advance is even better. Doing this after creating a meeting agenda is a nice consideration; it helps attendees prepare meaningful answers to your topics.

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