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7 Effective Tips for Co-creating a Meeting Agenda

Involve your team in the agenda-creation process and watch meeting engagement soar. Learn 7 effective tips for co-creating a meeting agenda.

By Tegan Samija  •   July 11, 2023  •   8 min read

A meeting where everyone’s actively participating, discussing team challenges, and brainstorming solutions together can be inspiring for the whole team. With every item ticked off the agenda, people feel like a decision was made and clear next steps were outlined. However, all too often meetings consist of a manager talking for the majority of the hour and everyone else just waiting for the meeting to be over.

Luckily, there’s a simple but underused solution to low meeting engagement: co-creating meeting agendas. Co-created agendas are the secret to getting everyone involved in the planning and execution of meetings and turning passive attendees into active participants. Read on to find out how to co-create your next meeting agenda and watch your meetings come to life.

What is a co-created meeting agenda?

A co-created meeting agenda is an agenda made up of a list of topics, talking points, and action items your team members put forward to discuss during the meeting. Before the meeting, participants receive a copy of the agenda so they can add items or ask that certain topics get more or less time. While the meeting organizer is still the owner of the agenda, participants share responsibility for reviewing and contributing to it ahead of time.

Roger Schwarz, Harvard Business Review contributor, highlights the importance of co-creating your meeting agendas: 

“If you want your team to be engaged in meetings, make sure the agenda includes items that reflect their needs. Ask team members to suggest agenda items along with a reason why each item needs to be addressed in a team setting. If you ultimately decide not to include an item, be accountable—explain your reasoning to the team member who suggested it.”

Benefits of co-creating meeting agendas

1Encourages participation

Co-creating agendas will ensure all of your teammates have a voice and can fully participate in meetings. When people have the chance to contribute to the meeting agenda and prepare ahead of time, they feel more engaged and included in the conversation. By promoting shared ownership over the agenda, participants will be less likely to passively sit through meetings because they can directly shape the meeting and provide feedback.

Co-created agendas can be especially helpful if some members of your team are naturally less talkative than others. You can even consider assigning specific owners to each section of your meeting template to ensure everyone is actively participating.

2Gathers input from all sides

If only the meeting organizer takes the time to add talking points, it will be a very one-sided meeting. Encouraging your teammates to contribute to the agenda will enable everyone to weigh in and add feedback. Instead of planning the entire meeting without a second set of eyes, you can create a meeting structure that’s hyper-relevant to what your team is working on and reflects your team’s needs. Gathering input first makes the meeting a more productive use of everyone’s time while also improving your team’s meeting experience.

3Increases meeting productivity

In a Harvard Business Review survey, only 17% of executives felt that their meetings were productive uses of time. This means there’s vast potential to improve meeting effectiveness across teams. Co-creating agendas is a game-changer for meeting productivity because it ensures all of the essentials—and nothing else—are present on the agenda. Instead of the meeting organizer having to guess what’s important, participants can share what has to be discussed for them to move forward with their work. In addition to contributing talking points and action items, people can suggest allocating less time to certain agenda items or removing them altogether if they won’t be a constructive use of time.

Meetings worth showing up to

Level up your meeting habits to boost engagement and productivity with a collaborative meeting agenda. Try a tool like Fellow!

4Fosters a balanced agenda

There can be a lot to cover in a successful meeting! For example, you’ll need enough time to discuss relevant topics, make decisions, agree on the next steps, assign action items, and complete a final review. Co-creating the agenda lets participants agree on how these elements are balanced throughout the meeting and ensures there’s enough time for everything. Your agenda should include an estimated time allotment for each topic so people can see how long things will take and add or subtract items from the agenda as a result. 

Collaborative agendas are particularly important when numerous stakeholders are in attendance. A balanced meeting is one in which everyone’s priorities are addressed so people can leave the meeting with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose.

7 effective tips for co-creating a meeting agenda

1Use a collaborative meeting agenda

First, it’s essential to use a collaborative meeting agenda so attendees have a way to contribute ahead of time. You can have people add items wherever you record your meeting agendas; however, it can be extremely helpful to use a dedicated tool for managing multiple contributions.

With Fellow, you can create collaborative meeting agendas that will help your team thrive before, during, and after each meeting. All team members can easily add talking points and action items with our easy-to-use agenda builder. You can also collaborate on notes, record action items, and send meeting notes by email or Slack after the meeting ends. 

“As a people leader, I have given my team the ability to structure their 1:1s in a way that helps them make the most of our time each week. EVERYONE has used a different template. If that’s not a shining example of how this tool just made my work life more clear and easy, I don’t know what is. Co-creating agendas, action items, the Asana integration (!), it’s all been a wonderful and welcome addition to working more efficiently.”

Fellow review on G2

2Keep track of who contributed to each point

When different attendees are contributing multiple points, your meeting agenda, if not properly organized, can quickly become chaotic. You’ll want to keep track of who owns each agenda item for smooth transitions between topics on meeting day. That way, people also know where to direct any comments or questions about the agenda items before the meeting.

Fellow makes it easy to manage multiple contributions for an organized agenda. When someone adds a talking point, it will automatically be assigned to them. They can also update whom the talking point is for if they created it for another team member.

3Prepare for the meeting

Preparation is the secret to every effective meeting, and this is especially true for meetings with co-created agendas. To give people enough time to contribute, you’ll need to share the meeting agenda at least 24 hours ahead of time. You may want to leave even more time to make sure nothing’s missed. Once everyone has added their topics, the meeting organizer will need to review the list and make sure there’s enough time to cover everything or determine if some items will need to be discussed during a separate meeting.

Think you might forget to share the agenda ahead of time? Agendas in Fellow are automatically shared with attendees before the meeting, so you don’t have to worry about remembering.

4Establish a purpose for the meeting

You’ll also want to define a clear purpose for the meeting. We’ve all experienced how easy it is to get off topic or sidetracked during a meeting and then realize there’s no more time left. The number one way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to establish a clear purpose on which everyone agrees ahead of time. Sharing this purpose with attendees in advance is essential so they know which items should be added to the agenda and which would be better saved for another meeting. If you’re struggling to come up with a good purpose for a meeting, then cancel it!

5Assign action items

One of the most important parts of every meeting agenda is assigning action items before the meeting’s over. Make sure to dedicate the last section of your meeting to deciding on the next steps and recording the tasks, to whom they’re assigned, and when they’re due. 

You may need to assign an action item to multiple attendees if it either needs to be done by everyone individually or needs to be completed by more than one person. For effective meetings, attendees need to share responsibility not just for building the agenda but for following through on the action items that result from it.

6Provide timeframes for talking points

Specifying how much time is allotted to each agenda item is critical for keeping your meeting on schedule. The amount of time you give each point will indicate its importance and help guide participants as they contribute to the discussion. Make sure to outline this ahead of time so attendees can give feedback if they feel a topic needs more or less time.

In Fellow, you can assign timeframes for each section of the agenda to ensure the meeting doesn’t run over the allotted time. For example, Fellow’s free weekly town hall meeting template has a time attached to each heading to keep discussions on track.

7Use a meeting agenda template

Run better meetings faster by using a template for your agendas. To encourage participation with a co-created meeting agenda, the format must work for everyone who’s contributing. When you’re testing out a new template, make sure to ask for feedback at the end of the meeting on whether the meeting agenda template feels like the right fit.

Fellow’s library of 500+ templates lets you choose meeting agenda templates for standard meetings, remote meetings, and one-on-one chats and even has expert-approved templates to take your meetings to the next level.

Parting advice

It’s key to remember that the responsibility of crafting meeting agendas doesn’t have to fall solely on the meeting organizer! Co-creating agendas is a great way to increase transparency around meetings, incorporate regular feedback, and make meetings enjoyable for your team. You’ll also help your team improve their leadership skills and take more responsibility for the strategy that goes into planning each meeting. 

Need a great tool to help you co-create agendas? Use Fellow to create collaborative meeting agendas that inspire everyone to contribute.

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