Meetings That Don’t Suck: The Agenda

Meetings That Don’t Suck: The Agenda

Leading Meetings that Don't Suck Part 1 - The Agenda

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Most Meetings Suck!

Effective meetings. There are two words you don't often hear in that order. Yes, they do exist. Unfortunately they are the exception not the rule. We have all come to loathe meetings for our own reasons. For you it may be their eternal nature or maybe how meetings just seem to become the end product versus a means to an end.

Whatever your concerns with meetings, today you will learn how to lead meetings that don't suck. Most meetings suck. If we are honest we have led meetings that sucked.  Meetings that suck are loose, unfocused, time-wasters that are a blight on the corporate landscape.

How can we move past our disdain for meetings to making these necessary team moment effective and engaging? How can you lead more effective meetings that get your team on the same page, clarify expectations, include accountability, and set everyone up to succeed? Easy, follow the process I will share in the next 4 posts. If you are looking for additional tips on leading your team more effectively, check out this post.

You can lead effective meetings.

Challenge & Promise

Here's the Challenge: over the next 4 posts you will receive 4 meeting hacks that will help you to lead meetings that don't suck. After this short series you will have the tools you need to lead meetings that are effective and engaging and get results.

The Agenda?

Effective meetings begin with the agendaIt sounds so basic, have an agenda, but it's because it's so basic that you can neglect it.  If you are running the meeting, you control the agenda. An unconsidered agenda is a quick trip to a sucky meeting. 

When it comes to agendas there are a few rules that will keep your meeting running smoothly. 

Ask for input from your team

Ask if there are any items that need to be on the agenda. As you receive responses from your team you can decide which items should be discussed in this meeting or maybe require their own meetings.

You've been there. The meetings that get swallowed by an agenda item that is only of interest to a few people. But the rest of your team must suffer through a private meeting being handled publicly. Avoid that. Your default answer to agenda requests should be "how does this affect the whole team." By using that filter you can avoid those side meetings that end up dominating the whole meeting. 

Ask for this input with time for them to respond, preferably a week prior to scheduled meetings. This way you have time to review and inquire about their agenda items and if someone's big project doesn't make the cut, you have time to explain and plan a separate meeting, if needed.

Send the agenda out ahead of the meeting

This may seem like another really obvious point, but it can be so obvious that you neglected it. Sending the agenda out ahead of time, maybe a day before serves a few purposes:

  1. People expected to attend the meeting know that you are prepared
  2. You can put the agenda to bed and move on to other work
  3. Attendees can decide if they need to attend based on the agenda
    Meetings That Don’t Suck: The Agenda
    Effective meetings begin with the agenda
  4. Attendees can prepare if they see their name by an agenda item
  5. Attendees can see that the meeting has a fixed timeframe and expectations

What needs to be on the agenda

  1. Timed and Relevant items
  2. Timeframe
  3. Meeting Purpose 
  4. Followups
  5. Next steps
  6. Required and Expected Attendees

Never Ever Add "Other Business"

"Other business" is the kiss of death. Don't do it. Avoid. Danger Will Robinson, danger! When you have done your job of requesting the right information and preparing your agenda, "other business" is unnecessary. You've already handled the other business outside of the meeting. This catchall agenda item will do nothing but frustrate your team, prolong your meeting and undermine morale. If I wasn't clear enough before, don't do it.

Using this framework you can set up and agenda that fosters confidence and won't suck.

I would love to hear what you have to say. Drop your comment below and don't forget to share this post if you got something out of it.

About the author 

Dr. David Arrington

David a husband, father and the principal of Arrington Coaching. He and his team work with leaders, teams, organizations, and entrepreneurs. He regularly speaks and writes on leadership development, team alignment, and peak performance.

  • I agree . An agenda is a guideline to the meeting. But one question, if the meeting is a Professional Development meeting , how do you immediately engage the audience?

    • Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for commenting. How do you immediately engage an audience? Sounds like this is a presentation. You could tell a story or ask a question. Those are classic immediate engagement techniques. But remember that story or question has to be directly related to what you are about to present. And if it’s a story make sure you know it cold and know where you are going with it.

      Hope that helps,

  • I thought it was really good. I like how you highlighted the impact an agenda can have as a tool for creating purposeful meetings. I think many people rely heavily on creating group consensus during team meetings, and while on the surface this seems like a value-added position, in practice this can create unsuccessful meeting environments. Approaching meetings strategically from a place of engaged communication, instead of a lecturing environment seems innovative and smart.

    • Michelle,

      Wow. Great insights. Thanks for that observation. And you are right. Meetings without clear direction, for any reason are doomed to failure.

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