Boss Lady

A visual guide to a meeting agenda that actually works

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Executives are spending twice as much time in meetings as they were fifty years ago.

 

It’s frustrating. Brain-storming, planning, and coordinating are valuable processes, but ultimately we all want to be doing.

 

There are many reasons why the meeting process has become bloated – and they’re not all bad in themselves. For one thing, we see a bit more democracy in today’s workforce. In the best businesses, everyone has a voice. It’s no wonder things are getting a little noisy.

However, much of the problem comes down to simple bad habits. When you spend half your working life in meetings, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

Here’s a look at nine ways to tighten up your business meetings and why they work.

Review the agenda

The world is spinning faster. Business is developing faster. What was important when the agenda was sent out in the morning might be irrelevant by the time you show up to the conference room after lunch.

Rushing straight into Item One can be a false economy. Set aside five minutes at the start of your meeting to run through the agenda, crossing off or relegating items that are no longer pressing and adding stuff that’s come up last minute.

Share your aims

An item header without a verb is like a map without any directions.

Before you start, you need to define the purpose of each discussion and the ideal outcome. That way, it’s easy to draw your colleagues back to the task at hand when digressions threaten to take over.

Add time frames

Every item on your agenda should have a timeframe within which it should be settled. You can save everyone time in advance by thinking through how long each item needs – depending on complexity and the number of voices to be heard.

Of course, sometimes things end up requiring more time. But at least when you have a timeframe, everyone is aware when moving becomes urgent, and can tailor their input to the allotted period.

Be specific

The duties and knowledge of your crew are like a Venn diagram. Some parts overlap, some parts don’t.

It’s easy to get locked into your own perspective of what’s going on in your company. Writing a clear, specific agenda without ambiguities gives everyone a chance to get on the same page and prepare for the meeting in the most appropriate way.

Elect item leaders

Giving each item on the agenda its own leader has lots of advantages.

It gives the chairperson a break to refresh, and the team a break from that same voice and perspective. It promotes democracy and fresh ideas. And it encourages the wallflowers to speak up.

It also means each point is given more attention and preparation by the person that is leading – supplying the energy to hit that item’s goal.

Prioritize

It seems an obvious thing to do, but when you have the same meeting week-in, week-out, it’s easy to let this process drift. Simply: identify each topic as essential or additional so that nothing urgent gets left out, and don’t forget to bump up neglected items in the next meeting.

Ask questions

You brought these people to the room for a reason. You want their knowledge, ideas, responses – and you want their chemistry.

You can bring each other up to date with relevant information in advance. Use the meeting room to briefly set the scene, then ask purposeful questions to direct your colleagues towards the desired outcome.

Make it easy-to-read

 Again, your time together in that room is valuable. You don’t want anyone repeating themselves because their colleagues’ heads are stuck in the agenda.

Create a clear, easy-to-read agenda with lots of white space and short sentences. Keep reference materials visual where possible so they can be referred to and absorbed alongside the spoken word. 

Evaluate

Put aside a few minutes at the end of each meeting to sum up what’s been achieved and highlight areas of the process that weren’t as efficient as they could be. Now your meeting is lean and efficient, you don’t want to fall into the same habits again!

A visual guide to a meeting agenda that actually works

About John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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