The Rule of Thirds: Incorporate the Past, Present & Future into Your Meeting Agenda

None of us enjoy pointless meetings that go nowhere. Meetings should really only last as long as they need to in order to accomplish the specified objective, and there is plenty of debate on exactly how long that should be. The length of your meeting can vary according to the meeting agenda, subject matter, and number of attendees.

Fortunately, conducting effective meetings helps to eliminate those pointless, unnecessary meetings we all loathe.  As time is our most valuable commodity, it’s important to be organized and prepare your meeting agenda in advance. Check out our “Rule of Thirds” to help you budget your time and produce a more effective meeting:

For the first two-thirds, focus on the most current agenda items

First things first – make sure to start your meeting on time to begin with. This of course, requires some responsibility from both the meeting host as well as the participants. Outside of regular team meetings, most typically start with Introductions of attendees or speakers. After that, a review of agenda items can outline format and set the cadence for discussion. During this time, clearly state the overall outcome that is expected from the meeting itself. When addressing the main agenda items, always include the action it requires, and what the specific deliverable will be. At the end of this two-thirds, offer a brief Q&A session to provide any additional clarification as needed before moving forward.

Divide the remaining third into one half for past agenda items

With the first half of the remaining third, follow up on past agenda items. This is an opportunity to recap and discuss any outstanding agenda items or actions. Provided you have kept a record of these from the previous meeting, it should be easy to keep track of what was agreed upon and assignments that have been committed to. Here, past item owners will have an opportunity to provide status reports for their deliverables. Based on these reports, new or additional tasks can then be assigned to relevant stakeholders to close out any agenda items that may require further attention.

Divide the other third half into future agenda items

For this latter half, the direction of the meeting can then move to future agenda items. Assign ownership of deliverables for future items to relevant stakeholders or teams as well as assigning a due date that everyone can realistically commit to. Determine when the next meeting will be, its expectations, and schedule appropriately. Be sure to review all future action items and make the output and deliverables clear – there is no point to the meeting if there is no outcome. Time-permitting, open the floor to suggestions for future agenda items that have not already been mentioned or discussed. As said previously, feel free to end the meeting if the objective is reached ahead of schedule. No one on Earth is going to complain about getting out of a meeting early. Seriously.

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