As billionaire Peter Thiel famously wrote, “A bad plan is better than no plan.”
That’s definitely true about meetings. Having a plan is the best way to keep meetings shorter, stay on topic, and stop wasting the team’s time. The secret to planning smarter meetings is an efficient, clear meeting agenda that sets expectations. We’ve created a template that can take most meetings from mediocre to productive almost overnight.
Agenda Template for Effective Meetings
You’ll notice that it’s not a long to-do list. That’s because this template doesn’t focus on delegating atomic tasks. Instead, it’s focused on answering one key question regarding the team’s overarching goals: Who does what by when?
This section consists of a sentence or two that explains the meeting’s purpose or objective, and how it pertains to the attendees. This will help frame and guide the conversation so participants are not attending meetings blindly.
What needs to be answered?
Frame meeting objectives as questions. Example objectives:
- How will we replace our expensive landlines for our business by December 15?
- Which discounts will we offer for the holidays by October 1?
- What is our next webcast topic?
By listing your questions at the start of the agenda you can eliminate emails that start with, “Sorry, I forgot to ask you during the meeting…”
Next to each objective or question, allocate an amount of time to discuss. When we build focused time for “information exchange” into meeting agendas, people are more thoughtful and thorough.
Who does what by when? Once you have exchanged all the relevant information a topic you should be able to answer the question, “Who needs to own which tasks to accomplish the goal?”
Once you’ve delegated tasks, assign due dates. In other words, which deadlines does each person need to meet to accomplish the outcome of on schedule?
Start Applying This Concept
Using this template can reduce “dead air” in many meetings and increase both transparency and productivity.
There’s a little bit of project management skill involved in holding meetings this way. However, you can get started simply by using these four sections as a roadmap for meetings that you lead.
Once you get the hang of using it, you’ll be able to make your workflow even more efficient, for example, by asking people to bring certain information to the meeting in advance, and by learning to segment sub-tasks more effectively.
Remember to record online meetings as well, and, if possible, in-person meetings, too. Recording helps keep people focused on the meeting by minimizing note-taking, and allows you to refer back to any meeting to remember exactly who agreed to do what by when.
These types of leading practices are the backbone of our innovative collaboration tools, which scale from small business to enterprise.