An organized meeting needs a well-written agenda. Don’t let your meeting become the over-long, inefficient slog into which so many meetings seem to devolve. By sticking to a detailed, yet flexible agenda, you can keep your meeting streamlined and focused, ensuring that you meet all of your goals for your meeting in the shortest amount of time. Whether you’re looking to write your own agenda, use a template, or make the most of an agenda you already have, get started with Step 1 below!
Writing an Agenda
Making an Agenda from Scratch
Start by giving your agenda a title. From the most beautiful literature to the driest spreadsheet, nearly every important document needs a title, and meeting agendas are no exception. Your title should tell the reader two things: First, that s/he is reading an agenda, and second, what topic the meeting is covering. When you’ve made a decision, place your title at the top of your blank document. The title doesn’t have to flowery or complicated — in a business context, simple and direct titles are usually best. Resist the urge to use fancy or large fonts for your title. In most situations, you’ll want to use a plain, dignified font like Times New Roman or Calibri and to make your title the same size as the rest of the lettering on the document (or only slightly larger). Remember, the purpose of your title is to inform readers of what they are viewing, not necessarily to amuse or distract them.
Include “who?”, “where?”, and “when?” information in the header. Following the title, meeting agendas usually have a header which can vary in detail depending upon the level of formality your workplace encourages. This header is usually located about one line below the title. Generally, in the header, you’ll want to include brief factual information about the meeting that doesn’t have to do with the topic being discussed. This is so that people who aren’t at the meeting can tell when and where it occurred and who was there. Below are some of the things you may want to include; regardless of the information you choose, be sure to clearly label each piece of information (bolding the label text works well here):
Date and time. These can be grouped together or in their own separate sections.
Location. If your business has multiple locations, you may want to writethe address, whereas if it has just one location, you may want to name the room you’re meeting in (e.g., Conference Room #3).
Attendees. Job titles are usually optional and not required.
Special individuals present. These may be special guests, speakers, or meeting leaders.
Write a brief statement of the meeting objective(s). Meetings that don’t have a clearly-defined purpose risk wasting precious time as attendees decide what to talk about. Skip a line after your header and use bolded or underlined text to label your objective section with a title like “Objective” or “Purpose”, followed by a colon or a line break. Then, in a few concise and to-the-point sentences, describe the items of discussion for the meeting. Aim to write about 1-4 sentences here.
For instance, if yoy’re looking to write an objective statement for abudget meeting, you might use this one: “Objective: Outline key budget goals for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and discuss long-term, cost-cutting measures. Additionally, R&D Director Marcus Feldman will present the results of a recent competitiveness study.”
If you’ve ever written in a scientific context, think of the objective statement as the meeting abstract or executive summary. You’re essentially saying, in broad strokes, what you plan to be discussed at the meeting without going into detail.
Write a schedule outlinining the main elements of the meeting. Schedules help combat a common flaw: business meetings often run far, far too long. Skip a line after your statement of the objective(s), give your schedule a bolded or underlined title, then begin making entries that correspond to the main topics of discussion in your schedule. For ease of reading, start each entry on its own line.
Label each entry with either the time you plan for it to begin and end or the amount of time you plan for each entry to take. Pick one system or the other and be consistent — mixing and matching looks unprofessional.
Allocate time in the schedule for any special guests. If any guests are coming to your meeting to discuss topics of importance, you’ll want to devote a chunk of the meeting time to these people. Plan on assigning each guest a single schedule entry even if s/he has more than one topic of discussion.This way, each one will be able to organize his or her topics as s/he sees fit. It is best to contact the guests ahead of time to figure out how much time each one will need for their discussion topic. This helps to avoid embarrassing scheduling conflicts.
Leave extra time at the end of the meeting for Q&A. During this time, people can ask for clarification about confusing topics of discussion, offer their own adjunct opinions, suggest topics for future meetings, and make other comments. You can make this Q&A time explicit by including it as the final entry in your schedule or you can simply bring it up yourself after the final element of the meeting.
If you reach the end of your meeting and no one has any additionalquestions to ask or comments to make, you can always end the meeting early. Many of your attendees will likely be thankful for this!
Optionally, provide an outline of the discussion topics. Generally, the schedule is the “meat” of the meeting agenda — the part that people will look to to guide the discussion. However, while it isn’t essential to go this extra mile, providing an additional outline of key points can be a big help for meeting attendees. An outline provides attendees a reminder of the organisation of the ideas presented during the meeting, helping jog everyone’s memory of the specific topics mentioned. Below is a sample of the type of outline organization you will might want to employ (see How to Write an Outline for more information):
I. High-priority Budget Items
A. Employee travel budget
B. Dealership fees
i. Negotiating a better deal?
C. Lobbying costs
II. Revenue-boosting Measures
A. Alternative service deals
i. Presenting options to customers
ii. Soliciting feedback
B. Re-investment in mobile technology
…and so on.
Check the agenda for errors before distributing it. Because some attendees may end up relying heavily on the meeting agenda, it’s wise proofread it for errors and completeness before giving it out. Doing so isn’t just a courtesy to the attendees — it also reflects positively on your attention to detail and the respect you have for them.
Additionally, ensuring there are no errors in your agenda can save you time and face.
Using an Agenda Template
Use a template included with a word processor. Many word processing programs, like Microsoft Office, Pages for Mac, and so on, have templates for a variety of personal and professional documents, which may include agendas for meetings. These templates make it remarkably quick and easy to produce a professional document. Typically, these templates are organized into logical sections with an aesthetically pleasing arrangement — all you need to do is type the relevant information into the appropriate fields and you’re ready to go!
Though every word processor is slightly different, most that have the ability to use templates will allow you to navigate to the templates by using the menu bar at the top of the program window.
If your word processor can use templates, but doesn’t have any templates suitable for meeting agendas, you may be able to download one from the program creator’s website. For instance, Microsoft Word templates are available from office.microsoft.com, while templates for Pages for Mac can be found in the Apple App store.
Alternatively, download a template from a third-party source. If your word processor doesn’t come with any agenda templates and you can’t obtain any from the official site, don’t worry — there are tons of free templates available online. A simple query on your preferred search engine for “meeting agenda template” should yield dozens of relevant results. However, since not all of these results will be from official, reputable sources, it’s important to be discriminating when it comes to choosing which templates to use. Below are a few third-party sites you may want to visit:
Save Word Templates —This professional site offers many quality templates for Microsoft Word.
Word Templates Online — Another good source for Word templates. However, this page offers only a few options.
iWorkCommunity — a good Pages agenda template. However, this template is for older (pre-’09) versions of Pages.
The App Store also has numerous templates for Pages. Unfortunately, not all of these are available for free.
Fill out the fields in your template. Once you’ve located a suitable template in your word processor or downloaded one that you like, all you need to do is fill out the template with the necessary information. Most templates will have clearly-marked areas for you to type in names, times, topics for discussion, section titles, and so forth. Fill in all relevant fields to complete your agenda, then, when you’re done, carefully check your work for errors. As convenient as agenda templates are, they don’t protect against spelling, grammar, and factual mistakes.
Don’t leave any fields blank. Nothing looks less professional than, for instance, having a schedule entry that reads only “Type here.” If, for some reason, there are parts of the template you don’t want to fill out, be sure to delete these rather than leave them unfilled.
Make minor modifications to make your agenda fit your needs. Templates for meeting agendas can be incredibly convenient, but there’s no reason why you need to stick to the prepared style and format exactly. Feel free to make changes to the template content and style to ensure that your agenda meets the standards that your business has set and your professional preference. For instance, if you really like the look of a certain template, but its header section is so long that it’s distracting, feel free to delete superfluous areas of the header as you see fit, as long as you do so in a way that doesn’t ruin the formatting of the document or negatively impact the agenda.
Best Practices for Using an Agenda
Schedule the most important topics first. When planning meetings, it’s usually a good policy to front-load the schedule with the most important topics. This ensures two important things. First, it ensures that everyone will be able to discuss these important topics when they’re at their sharpest and least-fatigued at the very beginning of the meeting. Second, it ensures that in the event that the meeting has to end early or certain attendees need to leave before it finishes, important topics have already been discussed. Meetings don’t always go the way you plan them to. If minor, unimportant topics get cut from the end of a meeting, it may be possible to resolve them on your own or to schedule another meeting for later. However, if you’re unable to get through the biggest topics of discussion, your meeting has failed to achieve main part of its purpose, which can be considered a failure. Keeping the most important topics at the top of your schedule usually avoids this problem.
Stick to your agenda schedule, but be flexible. When planning and conducting a meeting, one of the biggest dangers to look out for is the meeting going over its allotted time. Generally, employees loathe overly-long meetings, and with good reason.—They can be tremendously boring and can delay people from addressing pressing work. Ensure that your meeting stays on schedule, by keeping an eye on the clock and, when you get the opportunity, politely moving the meeting forward by saying something like, “We should move to the next topic if we want to get out of here on time.”
However, meetings often don’t go as planned, so you’ll need to be prepared to adjust if one part of your meeting runs longer than you would have liked. Be flexible while trying to cover as much ground as possible in the limited time allotted for your meeting. For instance, if one part of your meeting runs long, you may need to shorten the discussion for other parts of your meeting or eliminate relatively unimportant parts of the meeting entirely to assure a timely conclusion. (You might strategically include optional elements to ease the time constraints.)
Start writing your agenda well in advance of the meeting. Agendas are critical: They project a professionalism let attendees know you value their time and contributions to the organization. Therefore, ensure that you have enough time to produce a quality document by starting to write your agenda as early as you reasonably can.
Starting early also gives you the benefit of being able to solicit feedback on your agenda before the meeting and refine it. Sharing a draft of your agenda with coworkers or supervisors and asking for their input can help you fix flaws and add details that overlooked. If you wait until the last second to write your agenda, you will not have time to solicit and integrate the feedback.
While you may be able to get away with writing agendas for ordinary, everyday meetings the day before the meeting itself, important meetings may require weeks of preparation.
Share the agenda with the attendees before the meeting. This ensures that everyone arrives at the meeting with full knowledge of the topic(s) to be discussed. Depending on the company culture, this may mean printing numerous copies and delivering them in person, or simply sharing them electronically, for example, by emailing the agenda as an attachment. In either case, be sure that it is free from technical errors before sharing.
Depending on the importance of the meeting, you’ll probably want to give attendees the agenda at least an hour or two before the meeting. For big, important meetings, sending the agenda a day or more in advance may be in order.
Since people are often busy, it’s a smart idea to take several additional copies of the agenda with you to the meeting in case anyone forgets theirs.
Sample Business Meeting Agenda
Sample Club Meeting Agenda
Sample PTA Meeting Agenda
An excellent tool for having a productive meeting is using “OARR”: Objectives, Agenda, Roles & Responsibilities. First, your meeting should have an objective. If you are having a meeting to just impart information, don’t waste people’s time with a meeting. Send them a newsletter. The objective should have an active component and if possible, a product to show for it: “Determine the quarterly goals for the team”. The agenda is a list of the topics you’ll address to get to that objective, with a time limit to keep you on track. For example “1. Review the status of last quarter’s goals (15 minutes), 2. Round-table suggestions for goals (20 minutes), 3. Pick top 5 goals (10 minutes), etc.) For Roles and Responsibilities, determine who is running the meeting, who is keeping notes, and who will assign actions/”to do” items resulting from the meeting.
Depending what your colleagues prefer, it might be worth keeping to a deadline for people suggesting ideas to add to the agenda. Name a cut-off date and time, and stick to it. Allow for amendments where these enhance the agenda or are simply a case of events overriding your original agenda.
If somebody cannot make the meeting, consider creating an “Advance Apologies” section at the top of the agenda, or leave a space for this and simply announce them during the meeting.
If your company has a special form for agendas, use this form as a template. For some places, it is essential to stick to the formula.
How to Plan a Town Hall Meeting on a Health Issue
How to Prepare for a Meeting
How to Organize a Meeting by Leaving an Answerphone Message
How to Write a Business Agenda
How to Be Mentally Prepared and Organized Before School Starts
How to Conduct Productive Meetings Using Conference Calls
Sources and Citations
Cite error: tags exist, but no tag was found