June 14, 2021
The disease is meeting-itis, and most of us suffer from a bad case. Too many meetings, most are unproductive, and managers report they’d rather be doing anything else! One of the ways to cure meeting-itis is to make sure that when you DO really need to have a meeting, you have a formal agenda. That’s as true for a Town Hall as it is for a brainstormer.
Our unique data analysis shows that having a formal agenda at meetings reduces their size and length, which increases the likelihood of positive results. Surprisingly, we discovered that most of our clients don’t have formal agendas for their meetings, a deficit that hindered their productivity. With that in mind, here are some tips:
Have you ever been in a meeting that was supposed to be about sales, and half the meeting is spent discussing why the printer doesn’t work; too many people are on vacation and oh by the way the promotional brochures have spelling errors? Maybe Victor from Procurement is talking about his sick cat and Jenny from marketing is scrolling celeb gossip on her Instagram? An agenda keeps participants focused on exactly what needs to be accomplished so that everyone has more time to realize their goals, and even take care of their cat.
A good meeting agenda assigns topics to different people. That promotes teamwork, equity, and engagement. (And it’s better than falling asleep while the vice-president of sales continues his hour-long powerpoint).
You’ve got other things to do besides sit in this meeting, and so do your colleagues. Respect for other people’s time, and your own, means assigning a finite amount of time to each agenda topic so you can move on. This keeps Bob from human resources from going off about overtime. Again.
The shareable agenda should include a space to add next steps, solutions, and action by participants. There should be an agreement on who will do what, and by what date. This should be written down in a document and then shared afterwards with meeting attendees so everyone is on the same page about follow up.
The bigger the meeting, the less productive it is. Meetings above nine participants are considered unproductive, according to extensive academic research. At companies we have analyzed, hundreds of thousands of work hours are wasted because people who don’t need to be at meetings are attending them instead of doing more productive work.
Employees want to feel seen and heard. If they don’t get to influence the agenda, then they are getting talked at instead of collaborating. Including the thoughts of others in the agenda combats disengagement. Send out the agenda three days in advance of the meeting so others can contribute.
Perhaps you have heard some water-cooler complaining about a project’s challenges. Tackle these obstacles as part of your agenda. Show you understand a team’s struggles, and also be transparent about what is working, and what isn’t. This is particularly valuable for contractors who are mixed in with employees during a meeting and who might not have the whole picture of a team’s work.
It’s important to know when you are finished, on track, and sticking to a timetable. It gives the meeting a proper sense of pace and makes attendees feel like they are accomplishing something.
Design your agenda with your own needs, and your team’s needs, in mind. This will make them more eager to get on board and contribute ideas. Every company has its own unique culture, and no one knows that culture better than you. Your meeting agenda should reflect your own innovative thinking about how you and your team believe a meeting can be efficient, productive, and leave people feeling like they are glad they came.