How to Prepare an Agenda That Works

Steve Kaye

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People lose control of meetings because they prepare ineffective agenda. Here's how to make sure that your meetings run the way that you want.

1) Put the goals for the meeting on the top of the agenda. These should appear as headlines above each major part of the agenda. They serve to tell everyone what you want to accomplish during the meeting.

2) Describe the outcomes for each goal. That is, tell people what will happen as a result of completing the goals for the meeting. These are the benefits (or incentives) for achieving the goals. Note: these can be left off of the agenda if you describe them briefly as part of introducing each goal.

3) Calculate the cost of the meeting and put this on the agenda. This shows everyone how much the meeting costs, which helps create a sense of appropriate urgency. It also helps you design a meeting that makes money for your business.

4) Plan activities that achieve the goals. These activities should be based on equitable participation and consensus. Include the amount of time allotted for each step, a description of the activity, and the person responsible for leading it. Ideally, this list of activities should be so complete that someone else could use it to lead your meeting.

5) Put the meeting's arrival time as the first activity. Set this at 5 to 10 minutes before you want to convene. This provides a buffer time for people to arrive as well as a time for social talk.

6) Include logistical details such as the location and directions to the meeting, what to bring (e. g. , last months sales figures), and how to prepare (e. g. , read the XYZ report). In general, tell the attendees everything that they need to know so that they can participate effectively in the meeting.

7) Provide travel information for out-of-town participants. This can include suggestions for transportation, hotels, and restaurants. For some occasions, it can also be helpful to provide information on emergency phone numbers, local customs, local entertainment, activities for spouses and children, weather, clothes to pack, medical facilities, and anything else the attendees might need to know.

8) Provide maps because they help people find locations easily. Never assume that everyone knows how to find a new location.

9) Distribute the agenda before the meeting so that the participants can prepare. Usually, sending the agenda a day or two before the meeting will suffice. If the meeting deals with complex issues or requires extensive preparation (e. g. , research, surveys, data compilation), then a week or longer may be warranted.

10) After sending the agenda call key participants to check if they received it. Use this contact as an opportunity to probe for views on the issue, solicit support, and provide background information.

Note: Learn more about Effective Meetings at:

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Steve Kaye helps leaders hold effective meetings. He is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator, author, and speaker. His meeting facilitation and leadership workshops create success for everyone. Call 714-528-1300 for details. Visit for a free report.


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