Did you know that meetings can cost companies between $43,008 – $56,448 USD per manager every year? That’s a lot of money spent in meetings! On top of that, research on the future of meetings has shown that Directors spend more time in meetings than any other position does.

So, you might be wondering… why aren’t more companies implementing tools and best practices to ensure that all meetings are efficient? Well, the answer is simple… they probably don’t know about the power of having a great meeting agenda (yet!). 

Why is it important to always have a meeting agenda?

We have all been in painful meetings that never seem to end. Whether they drag on for too long or spend too much time on one topic while forgetting about everything else, they are frankly a waste of time. 

Therefore, one of the most important tools to achieve a productive meeting is to create a meeting agenda. So, let’s talk about what a meeting agenda really is…

Have you ever been to the theatre and received a program outlining each performer and the times at which the performances will take place? Or have you ever been to a sibling’s dance recital where you were given a program with each dancer on it, the time they will dance at, and what style they will be dancing to?

Well, think of a meeting agenda to be like those programs. A meeting agenda is an outline of what topics will be covered throughout the meeting, typically in order with the time allotted to each topic stated.

These are created prior to the meeting to ensure that they run at a good pace and talk about the necessary points that need to be discussed. This is crucial to avoid having unproductive meetings and wasting everyone’s valuable time. 

10 Tips to build an effective meeting agenda

1 Seek input from team members

When you are creating your meeting agenda, it is important to create it for not only you but for your whole team. This means seeking input from other team members on what to include in the meeting to ensure that their points, comments, concerns, and questions are addressed. Reaching out to your team members a few days prior to the meeting will guarantee that they have an appropriate amount of time to add their own talking points and comments in the meeting note. 

It is vital that each team member feels like their points, comments, concerns, and questions are important and that they have an opportunity to share them. This will create a healthy environment that overall encourages more participation from your team members. 

2 Select topics that affect the entire team

Sitting through an entire meeting that has nothing to do with your job or job requirements is undoubtedly a waste of time. Therefore, to have a productive meeting it is important to select topics that affect the entire team. 

It is also equally as important to only invite team members that are affected by the discussion topics. Inviting team members from across each department for a meeting that is specifically related to one department makes the meeting unrelatable to most of the participants and creates a crowded meeting.  

3 Leverage a meeting management platform to write items in advance 

Using a platform like Fellow to write agenda items in advance is a great way to build a culture of preparation and accountability.

Instead of trying to track your meeting notes amongst a sea of notebooks and Docs, choosing a specific meeting agenda tool can help your team stay organized and ensure that the meeting runs smoothly without interruptions.

“It’s hard to get people to look forward to meetings, but sharing information in advance, having a clear agenda, and time-boxing the experience is a great place to start.”

– Darren Buckner, CEO of Work From

4 Make sure every talking point has an owner

As you can imagine, if nobody knows who is responsible for what, the meeting is bound to be chaotic. Therefore, assigning each point to a team member is crucial.

For starters, the meeting agenda should be created and “owned” by the meeting organizer. This means whoever is organizing the meeting must create the agenda template and then share it with the rest of the team members so that they can add their own ideas. 

Assigning specific discussion topics to each member or asking them to take on the role of meeting facilitator on a specific topic will make sure that different voices are heard during the meeting. It is important to do this prior to the meeting to ensure that everyone has time to prepare for what they will be speaking about.

“I’m a big believer in making sure everyone feels like they have ownership somewhere.”

Jack Appleby, Sr. Creative Strategist at Twitch

5 Encourage participation from different people (not just the meeting host)

Encouraging team members to participate is another very important step in achieving a productive meeting. By noticing members who are quieter in a group setting, you are making sure that they know that their thoughts are equally as valuable and substantial as everyone else’s. 

It is also imperative that you create a space where every team member feels safe to share their ideas and thoughts. This can be done through open discussion and an understanding, open-minded attitude. 

Here are some best practices used by the team at Fellow to make meetings more inclusive: 

  • “Rotating the roles of note-taker and meeting facilitator” – This is a great way to keep each team member engaged from meeting to meeting and avoid meetings feeling repetitive. 
  • “Starting the meeting with a wins/celebration section” – Starting meetings on a positive note makes team members feel appreciated for their hard work and creates a safe space for members to participate in. 
  • “Encouraging shoutouts” – Let team members know that they are doing a great job. This is important because it reaffirms that their work is meaningful and gives them recognition for their accomplishments. 

6 Share the agenda at least 24 hours in advance

It is the responsibility of the person who is organizing the meeting to share the agenda template at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. This is important because it gives the meeting participants a time frame to prepare for the different agenda topics. 

A last-minute meeting only causes stress and madness among team members, scrambling for rushed time. Therefore, the meeting invite is also important to share 24 hours prior to the meeting to ensure those meeting participants have a good amount of time to plan other work around the meeting. 

“It’s rare that an amazing conversation springs forth when nobody has a plan for what to talk about.”

Julie Zhuo, author of “The Making of a Manager”

7 Write questions and comments prior to the meeting

The worst meetings are the ones that spark no real conversation. Therefore, writing questions and comments prior to the meeting will ensure those meeting participants have time to come up with concerns or questions that they would like addressed. 

On the other hand… nothing is worse than finishing a meeting and THEN remembering your question! Providing a “questions and concerns” section on the meeting agenda is important so that meeting participants know when their chance is to ask their questions. It also makes sure that time is not forgotten for this important part of a meeting.  

8 Attach supporting documents

Attaching the documents being discussed is important so that meeting participants can have easy access to the meeting material. By simply providing the discussed documents to the meeting agenda, you are saving the time needed for participants to go retrieve these documents from their desktop… and we all know how difficult it is to quickly pull up the appropriate document at any time.

If the team member organizing the meeting is not the one with the supporting documents, it is important to reach out to the individual with those documents at least 24 hours in advance to give them time to upload the supporting documents before the meeting begins. 

9 Use the agenda to take meeting minutes

It’s almost impossible to remember everything that was said in a meeting and trying to recall specific things can be very frustrating. So, taking meeting minutes is a helpful tip to avoid those situations. 

Meeting minutes are written transcripts of the meeting, outlining conversations and decisions that were made during the meeting. These are important because they outline important things such as decisions made, deadlines made, and work assigned. 

These meeting minutes are also useful for team members who are unable to attend the meeting. Rather than trying to summarize the meeting by memory to those who could not attend, you can give them the meeting minutes transcript, thus, they can look over the material themselves. 

Things to include in your meeting minutes are:

  • Date and time
  • Team members names
  • The overall goal of the meeting
  • Agenda topics discussed 
  • Important documents discussed
  • Date and time of next meeting

After the meeting ends, you should share the meeting notes immediately so that team members have access to the meeting minutes ASAP. This also ensures you do not forget to share the notes and team members do not have to ask for them. 

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to have one source of truth for every meeting, boost transparency, and never forget what was discussed!

10 Save the agenda as a template for recurring meetings

After all your hard work goes into creating the best meeting agenda templates, don’t just throw them out, discarding all your hard work. Rather, save these templates and use them for future meeting agenda templates. 

Although the discussion topics will change meeting-to-meeting, the overall structure of the templates should remain consistent – an overall topic/purpose, discussion points, etc. 

You can also save different templates for different kinds of meetings. For example, group meetings, weekly meetings, one-on-one meetings, etc. Being prepared in advance will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Parting advice

If you want a cost-efficient, productive meeting, Fellow can provide you with the necessary steps to achieve this. Build your meeting agenda template by following the above advice of what the agenda includes, share it at least 24-hours in advance, and enjoy the perks of having more time back on your day (thanks to more productive meetings)!  

“To me, productivity is really all about being EFFICIENT + EFFECTIVE so you can spend less time doing what you HAVE to do, and more time doing what you WANT to do. I have always paid attention to my productivity, but I become completely obsessed with it after experiencing burnout and realizing that true productivity is about MORE than just getting lots done.”

– Elena Hartung, Lifestyle Design and Mindset Coach

Using Fellow to collaborate with team members and host a virtual productive meeting will prevent costly meetings that drag on forever and come to an insufficient conclusion.