One of the most important management skills that you can master is how to make an agenda for a meeting. While you take time to prepare for your meeting agenda, be sure to think about the purpose of the meeting, each agenda topic, if you’re going to use meeting agenda templates, action items and the amount of time you have to work with. In a recent article by the Harvard Business Review, they share the purpose and importance of a meeting agenda:

“An effective agenda sets clear expectations for what needs to occur before and during a meeting. It helps team members prepare, allocates time wisely, quickly gets everyone on the same topic, and identifies when the discussion is complete. If problems still occur during the meeting, a well-designed agenda increases the team’s ability to effectively and quickly address them.”

If you’ve been a meeting leader, you know how important agendas are for any business meeting. Productive meetings start with a meeting agenda and for that reason, Fellow is covering exactly how to make an agenda for any meeting in this article.

What is a meeting agenda?

A meeting agenda is made up of a list of topics, talking points, action items, and any activities you’re looking to discuss during the meeting. It includes a clear and comprehensive outline of what should happen over the course of the meeting, who the owner of each item is, and how long each discussion point or task should take.

It’s essential to the success of your team meeting that this information is shared with all of the meeting participants in advance of the meeting. Then, while the meeting is taking place, you can dive deeper into the content for the best chance to achieve maximum meeting productivity.

How to make a meeting agenda

1 Define the meeting goal and write it in the note

Meeting goals are the results that you want to obtain by the end of your meeting. Depending on the nature of the project that you and your team are working on, you can have many smaller meeting objectives or a major overarching goal. Your meeting goals should be fully laid out in your agenda so that you can build all of the necessary steps to work towards achieving one or multiple goals by the end of your team meeting. The Harvard Business Review, further articulate the importance of meeting goals:

“Note whether the purpose of the topic is to share information, seek input for a decision, or make a decision. It’s difficult for team members to participate effectively if they don’t know whether to simply listen, give their input, or be part of the decision-making process.”

2 Build a template with specific sections and topics

Building specific templates for each meeting with specific sections and topics for each is going to help keep you organized, on topic, and prepared to achieve the goal of the meeting. Meeting templates help keep you and your team organized and they also give you the ability to collaborate on the content of the meeting, so that everyone’s voice is heard. Once you have a library of specific agenda templates, you can re-use them and modify them as you go, which will save you time and boost your overall productivity.

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to receive access to a gallery of ready-to-use templates or easily customize and build your very own!

3 Ask participants for their input

In the same Harvard Business Review article, they highlight why it’s important to ask participants for their input. They share:

“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.”

Be sure to ask participants for their input with enough time before the meeting so that you can collect different team members’ inputs and consider adding discussion points to the meeting agenda.

4 Estimate time slots for each section

Time management is important when it comes to creating a meeting agenda, so be sure to allocate a specific amount of time to each agenda item. Start by thinking about the purpose of the meeting and which agenda items may require more time than others, based on discussions, brainstorming, and different team members’ input. Typically, the most important agenda items require more time than others. By giving time slots to your meeting agenda, you are holding you and your team accountable to be productive and on time so that you can cover everything that was planned.

5 Use the agenda to write notes and key decisions

The agenda is a great outline for you and your team to write notes and key decisions. Under each agenda item, you can write notes that relate to it so that you keep organized. You can also jot down any questions that you have throughout the meeting so that at the end of the meeting, your questions and comments are organized accordingly. By using the meeting agenda as a template to write notes and decisions, you add context to your notes which will be valuable in the future, when you review the content of the meeting.

6 Leave a section for action items

Make sure that you leave a section of your meeting agenda for action items. It’s a good idea to review your action items from the previous meeting at the beginning of your meeting so that you can update their status. That way, as new action items arise from the current meeting, you can add them to the already existing action items. It’s important that your action items are assigned to a specific person with a specific deadline so that you can hold one another accountable. Action items hold team members responsible for their tasks and provide a way to share status updates at each meeting, which keeps everyone in the know.

7 Ask for feedback to improve the agenda

It’s important that you ask your team for feedback so that you can improve your future meeting agendas. In an article by the Harvard Business Review, they recommend asking your team to give a plus and a delta so that you understand how everyone felt about the meeting:

“End the meeting with a plus/delta. If your team meets regularly, two questions form a simple continuous improvement process: What did we do well? What do we want to do differently for the next meeting? Investing five or ten minutes will enable the team to improve performance, working relationships, and team member satisfaction.”

Bonus: Connect your meeting agenda to the calendar event

If you want to take it one step further, consider connecting your meeting agenda to your calendar event. Fellow enables you to use these kinds of functions so that you can actually see your meeting notes and calendar events side by side. Having all of your information synchronized is going to make sure that you are well prepared and organized for each meeting that you attend.

What to include in a meeting agenda?

1 Discussion items:

Anything that you want to discuss in your meeting can be organized into themes or different agenda items. Discussion topics are created by jotting down anything that comes to mind and then beginning to organize which items need the most time and attention.

2 Supporting documents:

Supporting documents are helpful when they’re sent out prior to the meeting so that meeting participants can brief themselves and prepare to participate in the meeting. This allows your team members to come up with questions, comments, and any input they’d like to offer. It’s also helpful to have these supporting documents at the meeting to reinforce what is being spoken about.

3 Comments and questions:

Make sure to leave a section of your meeting agenda for comments and questions. It’s important to do so because if you don’t set this specific time aside, you’re going to run overtime. What’s worse, your team members are not going to want to contribute to the conversation if you tell them that there’s no time for them to share their ideas, insights, and opinions.

4 Meeting minutes:

Your team meeting agenda should have a dedicated section to write meeting minutes. It’s also a great idea to attach the meeting minutes from the previous meeting (when you’re attending a recurring meeting) to reference in the calendar invite or as supporting documents to provide in the actual meeting. We recommend assigning someone to take meeting minutes so that you have full confidence that all of the important information is recorded effectively.

5 Key decisions:

Key decisions are typically made throughout the meeting and are something that meeting participants should keep their eye on. Add a section to your meeting agenda for key decisions so that you can see which business objectives were attained and to keep track of decisions that will shape the work being done from now until your next meeting.

6 Next steps:

You should also dedicate a section for next steps, dedicated to recording what work needs to be done to achieve the goals of the meeting and the larger, overarching goals of the organization. Next steps can take the form of action items, so long as there is a section of the meeting agenda which documents what needs to be done before the next meeting.

Meeting agenda examples

Here are some common meetings, who’s productivity can be significantly enhanced by using a dedicated meeting agenda template. Check out these sample meeting agendas below to see how your team can optimize their time and efforts to achieve more:

1 Project kickoff meeting agenda

2 First team meeting agenda

3 Sales meeting agenda

Parting advice

Any productive and successful meeting begins with a meeting agenda template that is crafted to specifically fulfill the purpose of the meeting. That’s why it’s so important to know how to make an agenda for a meeting. Each agenda topic should be created thoughtfully, with the meeting goals in mind. Any kind of meeting including formal board meetings or informal discussions are made more effective and more productive with an agenda. It’s a good idea then, to get in the habit of creating or using sample templates to keep you on the ball at all times.