Think back to a time when a big meeting you attended went awry. Was there an agenda at the center of it? If you don’t remember receiving an agenda from a meeting facilitator, that could very well be why the meeting didn’t go as planned.

Writing an agenda for every meeting shows your team members and other attendees that you have carefully considered the purpose of the meeting and honor their time by clearly communicating what to expect. Here are some reasons why you should create an agenda for each meeting, as well as tips on how to write an agenda for your next meeting.

What is a meeting agenda? 

A meeting agenda is a list of topics, talking points, action items, and, over goals for a meeting. Some agendas may be highly detailed and include strict time blocks for discussing each topic. Other meeting agendas may provide more of a loose, basic outline of what the team should cover. In either case, a meeting agenda should have a clear purpose and offer all meeting participants direction for the future. 

Why is it important to have an agenda?

An agenda is an essential, important part of your meeting because:

  • Allows you to manage time. By creating a schedule, you can see how long each topic will take to discuss. This way, you can schedule your meetings appropriately, and most importantly, don’t go over that allotted time.
  • Ensures all essential topics are covered. When writing your meeting agenda, it’s perfectly okay to ask team members what they would like covered, or any topics on which they need to ask questions. This ensures that everyone is taking something valuable out of your meeting. 
  • It clarifies expectations and responsibilities. If you aren’t the only leader in the meeting, your agenda can indicate when it’s the other person’s turn to take over. This leaves out confusion while improving the meeting flow.
  • It reduces wasted time. Without an agenda to centralize your meeting and dictate its flow, the meeting can quickly get off-track. By laying out an agenda before your meeting, you have a “north star” to refer back to when things get a little muddy. 
  • Prepares participants adequately and encourages discussion. By showing your team the plan behind your meeting, they can do their homework, write down notes and come prepared with questions that they can ask for a very productive meeting. 

What should you include in a meeting agenda?

A meeting agenda should include the below elements:

  • The main themes of your discussion. These themes will clearly communicate the purpose of the meeting with everyone attending.
  • Goals. Your goals should describe what you would like your team members to accomplish at the meeting. As you structure your goals, consider framing them as SMART goals that simultaneously serve as an action plan.
  • An outline of the topics you want to discuss.  The outline should be brief, yet clear, allowing enough information for participants to prepare without overwhelming them with an exhaustive list of options.
  • Support documents. Whether links to specific websites, graphs, charts, or pictures, support documents give attendees the information they need for productive discussion at their fingertips.
  • A discussion period. Toward the end of the team meeting, you should leave several minutes to allow everyone in attendance to ask questions and share their perspective. This can uncover important points that you may have missed. It also keeps your team engaged, as opportunities for participation are more engaging than simply watching a conversation.
  • An estimated time allotment for each topic. This can indicate importance for a topic and help guide participants as they contribute their points of view.
  • A final review. Ask everyone present what they think went well and what can be improved for future meetings. Additionally, during your final review, your team will get a refresher on each topic discussed in case they were late or absent for any part of the meeting.

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to have a detailed meeting agenda that your team can contribute to and have productive work sessions!

6 tips for writing a good meeting agenda

To write a meeting agenda that proves powerful for both you and your team, take the following steps:

1 Identify your meeting’s goal 

Knowing what you really want (or need) out of your meeting may seem like an obvious step, but it’s perhaps the most important one. A clear goal communicates to your attendees why the meeting is being held and what you ultimately hope to accomplish by gathering a bunch of people in a conference room. Plus, this demonstrates that you’re respecting the time and effort of everyone involved.

2 Ask your team members for input  

For your meeting to be successful for everyone present, it’s important to ask your team for their input prior to the meeting. (It’s good to do so during the meeting too, though that’s not quite relevant for writing an agenda.) This way, you’re ensuring that everything your team actually needs makes its way onto the discussion items, resulting in a more productive meeting overall.

3 Be clear about the meeting’s point

It can be easy to cross lines and talk about other (but still relevant) topics when you’re in the midst of your meeting. That’s why stating the point of your meeting at the top of your agenda is so important. If you find yourself or a team member wandering off, circle back to the main point of the meeting and refocus your conversation.

4 Double check that your topics are relevant to the whole team

If you’re scheduling a meeting with several participants, make sure that what you’re discussing pertains to everyone present. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to discuss with a single member of your team, strike it from your agenda and save it for a 1:1 meeting. This way, you won’t be wasting the other attendees’ time. 

5 Identify beforehand who will lead the discussion on each topic 

In some cases, someone who isn’t you or your facilitator might lead a discussion on one of the topics. For example, if you’ve convened a meeting to discuss how data from a previous product rollout might affect your next one, maybe your quality assurance (QA) lead should guide that discussion. If you do need someone else to lead part of your discussion, then name that person under their topic in the agenda. This way, the meeting will run more smoothly, without confusion. 

6 Leave room for questions at the end 

To keep the meeting on track and organized, it’s best to ask attendees not to ask questions or otherwise interrupt during the meeting. Doing so, though, makes it crucial to leave time for questions at the end. This way, the inevitable concerns that team members will have during your meeting are discussed in an organized fashion and the meeting can proceed exactly as you planned. 

Agenda Example

At Fellow, we’re experts on all things meetings, and as the backbone of your meeting, an agenda is essential to us as air or water. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to develop the below sample agenda that you can take and customize for your next meeting.

Meeting Title: Weekly Team Meeting

Date: August 21st, 2021

Place and Time: Conference Room 001

Meeting lead: Sally B.

Members: Sophie R., Ben F., Robert C., and Callie S.

Meeting goal: To discuss progress updates, goals for the week, and new assignments team members can expect that week.

Progress updates (10 mins)

  • Go around the room and each person gets 2 minutes to share progress updates on their current projects

Goal for the week ahead (10 mins) 

  • Finish two projects 10% faster by identifying and eliminating two repetitive tasks in each
  • Add your own goals as your meeting calls for!

New business and assignments for this upcoming week (15 mins) 

  • Onboarding new customer service associate
  • Schedule three meetings with new sales prospects

Review (10 mins) 

  • Leave time for questions about anything on the agenda
  • Input and thoughts from team members 
  • Discuss next week’s meeting time and place

Now get to writing!

Now that you’ve learned the essentials of writing an effective meeting agenda, you’re ready to create your own. Doing so can be even easier with Fellow. Our collaborative meeting agenda helps you write your agenda, create action items as you move through your agenda during a meeting, and solicit team feedback. With Fellow, writing an agenda, sticking to it, and fully including your team are all goals you can easily check off your list.