Have you ever sat in on a meeting that seemed to drone on forever? Or participated in one where the host was all over the place and the meeting didn’t progress in a logical manner? Or maybe you’ve left a conference call with no idea what the purpose of the call was or what you’re supposed to do next?
If you have experienced any of these things, you already have a pretty good idea of why a meeting agenda is essential. Without one, it’s easy to get off track and for meetings to drag on for much longer than necessary. When there is no clear agenda, it’s also common to leave a meeting feeling like you wasted a lot of time and accomplished very little.
When hosting a meeting, creating an agenda in advance is beneficial both for you and the other participants. Let’s look a little bit closer at exactly why having a meeting agenda is essential to productivity. And if you are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of writing your own agenda from scratch, rest assured that there are plenty of meeting agenda templates out there to help you get started.
Establish Meeting Direction
If you host a business meeting without an agenda, it is likely to lack direction and be less productive than a more structured event. Without a list of topics that need to be addressed, it is easy to stray off topic and end up talking about things that have nothing to do with what actually needs to be discussed. Participants are more likely to engage in small talk, and you’ll find yourself wasting time trying to get everyone back on track. When you don’t have a preset agenda, you’re also likely to end up fielding questions that you had planned on addressing later in the meeting.
When you get in the habit of hosting meetings that lack direction, people are less likely to participate in the future. They may call in, but they will probably assume that the meeting has no real point and won’t pay attention.
Get Feedback from Participants
Ideally, the agenda you create should be distributed to all participants three or four days prior to the meeting. This gives everyone time to go over it and come to you with any questions or concerns. When creating an agenda on your own, it’s always possible to overlook a relevant topic that should be addressed. If a participant realizes that something important isn’t on the agenda, there is an opportunity for them to reach out to you about it. From there, you can add the overlooked topic to the agenda, if necessary.
Listening to participants and taking their feedback to heart makes them feel more valued. When they know that you care about your concerns and are willing to adjust the agenda as needed, they are more likely to participate and contribute in a meaningful way.
Allow Participants to Prepare
Creating and distributing an agenda prior to your meeting ensures that everyone has adequate time to prepare. When everyone knows exactly which topics will be discussed, they have the opportunity to do some research and prepare relevant questions and information so they can contribute in an effective manner.
This is especially important when you are hosting a meeting in which participation from attendees is vital. If, for example, you are planning a conference call during which you will discuss a new project, participants should have a general idea of what the project is all about and, if relevant, any requirements the client may have. This is also important when you need feedback from attendees regarding how long it will take to deliver a finished project, what supplies or resources they will need to get the job done, etc.
Take Control of the Meeting
When you create an agenda, you decide exactly what topics will be discussed and how long you will spend talking about each one. This gives you complete control over how the meeting proceeds and how much time will be spent on each topic before moving on to the next. Without a clearly communicated agenda, you run the risk of having something that you planned on mentioning briefly turning into a 45-minute discussion.
Distributing your agenda a few days prior to the meeting also eliminates uncertainty for participants. You are much less likely to be interrupted with questions or concerns when all attendees know what you will be talking about and when. If they have a question about something you are talking about but know that you will be going over the information they need later on, they won’t feel the need to chime in for clarification at the wrong time. Everyone can relax knowing that the topics that are important to them are already on the agenda.
Get More Done in Less Time
No one particularly enjoys being stuck in unnecessarily long meetings. And, unfortunately, the longer a meeting runs, the less productive it tends to be. Creating and distributing an agenda ensures that all attendees know what needs to be discussed and how much time has been allotted to each topic. This tends to encourage everyone to move along at a pace that ensures everything gets covered within the specified timeframe. This also tends to prevent people from getting distracted by wondering just how much longer they’re going to be stuck in a meeting.
Since a good agenda also includes clear action items, it also ensures that everyone knows what needs to be done both during and after the meeting. Once it concludes, participants will know exactly what is expected of them. This, of course, boosts productivity even after the meeting ends.
The Bottom Line
Meeting agendas are important. Whether it’s a conference call, a one-on-one video meeting, a webinar, or any other type of meeting, having an agenda ensures that all participants know what to expect and will be prepared to participate in an efficient and productive meeting. If you need help getting started, check out a meeting agenda template.