An agenda is like a menu. It is the main tool of a meeting which directs the course and success of a gathering. Every person organizing or chairing a meeting should know how to create a meeting agenda that will be crisp, clear and focused.
There are basically three types of business meetings. Two of them are predominantly one-sided and have little or no scope for discussion or debate. The first one is for the purpose of imparting information or instruction, the second is for gathering information, while the third type is the most productive and interactive as it is a two way process for both, imparting and gathering information. Creation of a meeting agenda will depend on the type of meeting that is to be held. While the basic outline may hold good for all the three types of meetings, a few adjustments should be made to fine-tune specifics for any one given meeting style.
Typically an agenda looks like this:
• Opening note (speaker's name - duration)
• Distribution of paperwork / notes / reports
• Speaker 1 - Presentation (Duration)
• Tasks / Discussion (Duration)
• Speaker 2 - Presentation (Duration)
• Tasks / Discussion (Duration)
• Other speakers, if applicable
• Sharing of notes, ideas, reports, documents, storming, etc.
• Minutes of the meeting
• Closing note
It's all in the planning. A successful meeting is based on what the plans for the meeting are. The meeting agenda has to be clear and concise. Meetings arise as a result of projects or work that have to be done, or a follow-up of what is already done. First of all, take a few moments, if time is a grave factor, to consider whether the information may be sent out as a memo or if it is necessary for a meeting to be held. Have a set of goals outlined if it is for a meeting. Note down the participants or the departments that should attend the meeting. Meetings may be planned well in advance if information has to be gathered or meetings may also be at short notice when information or instructions are to be imparted to the participants. Outline a list of topics that have to be discussed. Make a 'to do' list.
If resources are involved (other than people), you have to plan what reports or registers are to be brought or submitted, or whether computerized data is to be generated. If a budget is part of the meet, before hand, make a note to specify the requirement and the budget stipulation. Time and venue are also part of the planning process. Be clear about the time that will be required for a successful meeting. You do not want it too short with only half work done and you do not want it too long where it will give room for idle gossip and unnecessary confrontations. Long meetings will require breaks in between. If tea / snacks are to be served, determine the time for these tea breaks.
Once the leader is set to conduct the meeting, all participants have to be informed. This may be done via the many channels of communication - email, phone, written memo, word of mouth, etc. Be specific about the scope of the meeting, that is, the reason for the meeting to be held, along with the time, venue and the name of the person(s) chairing the meeting. If it is mandatory for participants to be present that should also be specified on the invitation. If not, receive feedback in the form of an acknowledgment, email or a signature as consent for presence at the meeting. Should other participants be required to make presentations, they should be informed well in advance.
The meeting is the actual execution of the plan, of what is listed on the agenda. It is part of the agenda or the 'list of things to do' such as what has to be carried out. The team leader, moderator or manager who is chairing the meeting should open the meeting with an announcement of the scope or reason for the meeting. He / she should distribute the written agenda with names of those who are making presentations. Minutes of the meeting will have to be noted down and all participants will have to sign the attendance sheet.
The meeting might have to make room for sharing of opinions, discussions, reports to be shared (copies if necessary) or for group interactions. However, stick to the agenda as you should not carry out the meeting beyond its scope. Any matter to discussion which is above and beyond the scope of the meeting should be fixed for another agenda.
Time means ‘money’ when it translates to the business world. Unnecessary extra time should not be outlined for the meeting. The agenda should specify the time of the meeting, the duration of the meeting and also the time for each speaker / presenter or point of relevance. Be realistic when setting time frames. Practice at holding meetings will help manage time more efficiently.
Be specific about who notes down the minutes of the meeting. This should be added to the meeting summary at the end to wrap up the meeting. The person chairing the meeting has to bring the session to a close or make the closing speech, which gives an 'in-a-nut-shell' summary of the meeting. At times, a report , summary, or follow up instructions will have to be sent out to all participants as a post-meet activity, and if so, this should also be on the meeting agenda. Likewise, personnel who are accountable and responsible for the different activities discussed at the meeting, should be specified in writing. Other attendees might have to report to them.
The agenda is the most important tool of the meeting. Without a proper agenda, the meeting has no relevance and becomes a waste of time. Proper organization of a meeting agenda goes a long way in determining the success of a meeting.
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