Hands up if you’ve ever sat through a meeting that seemed completely unplanned. You know the ones we mean — those frustrating, time-wasting exercises where there’s no clear goal, no real purpose, and nothing meaningful seems to be achieved.
The secret to a productive and purposeful meeting is to create a detailed and well-thought-out agenda. An effective meeting agenda not only outlines the who, what, when, where, and why of your pow-wow, but also provides a clear plan of action to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
So if you’re hosting a business meeting in Atlanta, keep reading for our simple tips on how to create the perfect meeting agenda.
Alt text: Photo of empty boardroom
The first rule of creating a meeting agenda is to start early. To be as effective as possible, your agenda needs to be prepared well in advance, not just thrown together half an hour before the scheduled start time.
Getting all your ducks in a row as soon as possible ensures that all the attendees have time to prepare for the meeting. When everyone knows why you’re meeting, what will be discussed, and when, they’ll turn up ready to offer their input and make things happen.
Identify your goal
We’ve all sat through too many of those meetings that could have (and should have) just been emails. You’re probably also far too familiar with business meetings that have absolutely no sense of direction, which is why it’s essential to define the goal of your meeting as early as possible.
Ask yourself: What is the main reason for this meeting?
Work out the logistics
The practical aspects of the meeting should always be at the forefront of your mind. The first thing you’ll need to do is choose a date and time, and make sure all the invitees will be available to attend.
Speaking of the attendees, now is the time to work out exactly who will be coming to the meeting. Which team members must attend for the meeting to be successful? Draw up a rough draft of your attendee list and check it twice.
The other key practical consideration is choosing the right venue. The best meeting venue will have sufficient capacity, be easily accessible for all attendees, and have all the essentials like Wi-Fi, any tech gear you need for presentations, and access to clean bathrooms.
If you’re heading off-site, compare some of the many diverse meeting spaces in Atlanta available for hire. No need to book a boring conference room — Atlanta is home to some truly unique meeting spaces, like the Georgia Aquarium and Atlanta Botanical Garden. Choosing an unexpected meeting space will boost morale and give your team something fun to do afterward.
Break it down
Once you’ve sorted out the basics, it’s time to focus on the nitty-gritty details of your meeting. This means thinking about how you’ll achieve the goal you outlined above:
- What questions will you need to answer?
- Who will be presenting or speaking about key issues?
- What’s the purpose of each discussion point?
- Are you providing information, taking action, or seeking feedback on specific topics?
Be sure to prioritize the topics so that you deal with the most important issues first. And if there’s anything that can be covered in an email rather than a meeting, leave it off your agenda altogether.
Alt text: People seated in comfortable chairs around the coffee table in an office.
Get some feedback
No matter how much time and effort you put into planning the agenda, your first draft won’t often be the same as your final draft. When you first send the agenda out to all meeting attendees, ask them to review it and offer their feedback.
They may be able to suggest additional issues or problems you need to tackle, or recommend prioritizing discussion topics in a different order. Some of your invitees might even be able to suggest inviting an extra person, someone with expert knowledge of the issues you’re meeting about, to help make the day more productive.
Get the timing right
How many meetings have you endured where you’ve spent the entire duration stifling yawns and trying to sneak glances at your watch? Timing is everything in many aspects of business, and it’s no different when creating an effective meeting agenda.
Think about how long you need to spend on each item on the agenda. You may need to get input from some of your attendees to get this right, and it’s often a delicate balance between allowing sufficient time to discuss an issue properly and making sure the meeting doesn’t drag on too long. But if you’re realistic with your expectations, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Review and next steps
Remember to leave some time aside at the end of the meeting to decide on your next steps. This will give you and your team the chance to review the key decisions and work out the key action items moving forward. It’ll also ensure that the goal you identified back when you first started planning your agenda has been achieved.
Creating a business agenda can be daunting at first, but with a little practice, you’ll quickly develop a feel for the ins and outs. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start planning!