Why are meeting agendas important? I volunteer on the board of a local nonprofit organization and recently attended their agenda-free meeting. The meeting started at 7 p.m. and lingered on well past 9 p.m. Little was accomplished, a couple people were especially vocal and kept the meeting squarely off topic, and by the end of it, I couldn’t wait until my term on the board was over. Unfortunately, meetings like this aren’t rare in the business or educational world. However, an effective agenda can turn a meeting that feels like a waste of time into a productive collaboration.
How do people really feel about meetings?
Most of us can probably look no further than our own experiences to single out at least one meeting that felt like a complete waste of time. According to the to a study conducted on the economic impact of meetings.
- Employees attend an average of 62 meetings per month
- 40-50% of executives’ time in the office is in meetings
- 90% of attendees daydream during the meeting
- 73% do other work
- 50% find the meetings unproductive
- 9% of all meetings are wasted
- 25% of the time is spent talking about irrelevant issues
However, meetings also come with many benefits. Collaboration, when necessary, benefits all the members of your educational organization. Well-run meetings can move your initiatives forward, help you achieve buy in and build beneficial professional relationships. How can you ensure your meetings stay on track and are an effective use of time? Focus on the agenda.
Key elements to an effective meeting agenda
Collect information before the meeting — Talk to the people who will attend the meeting. Find out what topics are important to them to discuss. What do they hope to get out of the meeting? Giving other meeting attendees a voice in the agenda will help them feel more engaged in the meeting, come better prepared and be more likely to participate. It gives you time to prepare information on topics that you might not have considered without their input, and you can start building support for your goals through one-on-one conversations. You can also preemptively answer simple questions that could derail the meeting from the essential topics.
Focus the topics — Topics that only require input from one or two people can be handled before or after the meeting. Don’t waste valuable meeting time addressing those issues. Make sure the agenda topics are relevant to everyone or most of the people attending. It will help keep the entire group actively engaged in the meeting.
Include meeting goals in the agenda — What does this meeting need to accomplish? Make a list on the meeting agenda of the questions that need to be answered or decisions that need to be made before the end of the meeting. This will give attendees time to considered the goals before the meeting and be prepared to offer their opinion.
Establish how topics will be discussed — This step is especially important if a few voices tend to dominate your meetings. Establish a plan for how discussions will be run so everyone has a chance to talk and share it with group. Whether you are collecting ideas before the meeting or simply making it clear that each person will be given a set amount of time to discuss an issue before it is voted on, you are establishing ground rules that will ultimately help more members share their point of view.
Share the agenda before the meeting — Once the agenda is complete, share it with all those who will be attending. Make sure to give them plenty of time to consider what will be discussed. If your group is unlikely to read the agenda or plan ahead for the meeting, then give specific tasks to each person to prepare for the meeting. This will hold the group accountable and nudge them toward coming to the meeting better prepared.
Campus committees are often a good way to hear from many different points of view. Finding ways to engage all members in the process and to encourage participation while still respecting their time is essential.