3 Effective meeting agenda tips to maximize productivity

Schedule and run meetings like a pro with these tips and tricks to create your own agenda

We've all been in meetings that have taken up a huge chunk of our workday. While most of them have a set time limit, a lot of them are also free-flowing and never get anywhere. Everyone feels unproductive, mentally drained, and wishing they had never signed up for that meeting in the first place! The result? The participants may even be skeptical about attending a meeting organized by the same person the next time, and be less engaged! This is, unfortunately, all too common an office experience. So much so that it's made its way into Internet lore as “This meeting could have been an email!"

Jokes apart, there is also a huge cost associated with aimless meetings. Research suggests that more than $37 billion is spent on unproductive meetings, and executives even consider an eye-watering 67% of meetings to be failures. This is a sizable percentage and warrants a probe! We dug deeper into the causes of unproductive meetings and here are a few reasons why.

Here's why you should draw up a meeting plan

First and foremost, a meeting without context creates a lot of ambiguity among the attendees. When there's an air of uncertainty, participants end up relying on their assumptions for the course of the meeting. Obviously, this is not ideal. The attendees have to pretty much “assume” their role and provide inputs based on it. Setting and communicating the context prior to the meeting primes attendees for the contribution they can provide there. And this also allows them time to prepare!

A meeting without a pre-set action point is a major time drain for your team and employees. These meetings may take up the attendees' peak productive hours, leaving them unenergized and demotivated to push through the day. Whether it's brainstorming, strategizing or merely socializing—having a clear end point in mind ensures that everyone stays on track!

Finally, impromptu meetings don't get enough bad rap! Picture this: You're racing through your day, with all your tasks planned out. And totally out of left field comes a Zoom meeting link your way. “To be attended immediately!” it says. You groan. This is the easiest way to kill the day's flow and rack up unproductive hours at your company! And while the session may not last forever, remember that it takes about 23 minutes to return to your original task after an interruption. The bottomline is that you should avoid impromptu sessions, unless extremely pressing.

Maximize efficiency with a well-crafted meeting agenda. Here's the ultimate guide to creating a productive meeting agenda!

If your organization too is plagued with these issues, fret not. We have the perfect way to remedy this! It's simple, just like it's effective: Set a meeting agenda. Yes! A good meeting agenda allows your teammates to identify what is expected of them before, during, and after the conference. It sets a precursor for the goals of the meeting and provides an indication of when these goals have been met, during the assembly. A set structure allows everyone to be on the same page, and focused on the endpoints at hand.

It's easy to see that drawing up a meeting agenda is critical for successful meetings! Every course of action needs a blueprint in order for it to be successful. A well-drawn-out agenda ensures that the meeting is time well-spent for the attendees and keeps them engaged. It also encourages all teammates to prepare and participate enthusiastically. But the question now is—how do we go about creating the perfect meeting agenda?

An illustration of 8 executives in a conference room. Two are standing while the rest are seated. They're all having an animated discussion. The word cloud around them reads "Turn agenda items into questions. Allow your team to pitch in. Set time estimates"
Structure your meetings well to maximize their outcome

Three fool-proof strategies to get the best from your team at a meeting!

Alright. You're now convinced about the merits of setting an agenda for your meeting. But, where does one start? Fret not; we've got you covered. Let's look at some tips, tricks, and strategies to ace meetings at your company!

Frame the agenda items as questions

Vague agenda items are the death of any meeting and overall team productivity! These breed distractions and veer your team's interest in a million directions. Murky goals for your meetings must be avoided at all costs. An interesting way to set agendas is to frame each item on your list as a question.

As an example, an agenda item on your list may read, “New features that can be added to our product.” When framed as a question, it reads, “What new features will our users be interested in?” Put across as a query, this point piques creative thinking, and makes for a more engaging discussion, with amazing results!

Appeal to your teammates' curiosity and encourage them to be creative with ideas and solutions! A question as an agenda item is also hyper-specific, which means it becomes rather hard for the team to lose focus. Finally, when the question is suitably answered, everyone leaves the room feeling useful and energized!

Set time estimates for each agenda item

Setting a time frame for each agenda item and communicating it beforehand creates a sense of urgency in the team. Time can be allocated to each agenda item using the 80:20 rule or the Pareto principle. This principle simply means that 80% of results are an outcome of 20% of our efforts. Thus, focusing our team's efforts on these key areas can lead to exponential growth!

A simple—yet effective way—to calculate the time estimate of agenda items is to identify the number of meeting attendees and provide one minute to each attendee for an item. This estimate ensures that absolutely no time is wasted on wayward discussions and everyone stays on track.

It provides a benchmark for how much time each agenda item must take, and everyone knows when it's time to wrap the discussion up. In short, timeboxing allows the team to adapt to the set timeframe. This calculation can also give your team a gross estimate of how much a meeting will take from their day, allowing them to adjust for their tasks accordingly.

Let your team pitch in

Your teammates work day-in-day-out on your company's projects and are acutely aware of the bottlenecks they face while executing them. This puts them in an ideal position to suggest agenda items to get inputs from the team, allowing the company to achieve its goals! Oftentimes, letting your team pitch in with their thoughts can lead to actionable outcomes. And that's a win for everyone involved!

If you end up deciding against including any item suggested by your team, make sure you explain your reasons. Having an idea shot down can be a bit embarrassing, and you really don't want your teammates feeling discouraged to participate in the future. After all, the success of any meeting lies in how engaged and active the attendees are.

Giving your teammates the autonomy to suggest agenda items makes their contribution feel valued. This, in turn, has a trickle effect on positive morale and high productivity.

Get started with a meeting agenda template

A team meeting usually consists of experts from your company in varied fields like web development, content, finance, and so on. The number of required participants may vary depending on the size of your operation, and the nature of your business. However, to successfully ship products and meet the goals of your organization, these experts need to work in tandem with each other. Since these teams are so diverse in skill, it's important for the team to come together regularly, to be aware of their common goal.

This becomes even more important for remote workers, who may often feel completely isolated from the unit thanks to geographical distances. Additionally, it's important for all teammates, and not just the team leaders, to be clued into the why and wherefore of the projects they are taking on. Apart from helping them stay motivated, team meetings provide an opportunity to train younger teammates for higher roles in the future.

It truly takes a village to run a meeting successfully. From scheduling, ensuring agendas are sent out in time, arranging a meeting room, convening the meeting, and recording the key takeaways! Make sure that each of these to-dos are ticked off with an easy-to-use meeting template. Head over to Sketchnote and check out our Marketing meeting notes template to run your meetings optimally. Bonus: You can even customize this template based on your company's specific needs.

When you're working with a template, break it down into a pre-meeting checklist to ensure your arrangements are in place. Add a whiteboard to allow your team—in person, or virtually—to jam on ideas together, and keep them on one file.

And finally, once the agenda is set, it's important for the teammates to honor it as best as possible! While adding a structure to meetings is a great way to keep everyone engaged, you don't completely have to get rid of unstructured ones. Many times, great ideas even come from these impromptu meetups! So, the next step for you is to create a balance between structure and serendipity. Good luck!

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