Meeting agenda template: The blueprint for success
If a meeting agenda can be thought of as a plan for your meetings, then a meeting agenda template is the blueprint for success. This article explains more and provides you with a free meeting agenda template to implement today.
The perils of bad meetings cannot be understated. From eroding employee wellbeing, to limiting organisational performance, the symptoms of unproductive meetings are felt far and wide. There is often great truth hiding within the cliché, and so: ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ indeed. A key step on the journey of overcoming bad meetings is preparing an effective meeting agenda.
Think of a meeting agenda as a meeting plan. Something you can follow throughout your formal meetings to guide discussions and ensure things stay on track. And the best part? They don’t need to be difficult to create. In fact, we have created a simple meeting agenda template to help your meetings rise rather than fall. Just as every construction team needs a blueprint to build a house, this meeting agenda template will help your team have better meetings.
In this article, we explore the purpose of a meeting agenda template, before explaining how to create one for your meetings. Finally, to save you time and effort, we share a free meeting agenda template that you can begin following a blueprint for meeting success today.
The purpose of a meeting agenda template
It’s true that a meeting without an agenda is like a building project without a blueprint. A meeting agenda provides the structure that the meeting will follow, and ensures that your discussions remain laser-focussed on achieving objectives. Much like a blueprint outlines the phases of construction, a meeting agenda is the thread that laces the phases of a meeting together.
A meeting agenda template therefore allows you to bring consistency to the way that your meetings are planned, and also guarantees that the necessary requirements are met before a meeting takes place. Consistency is a vital part of meeting preparation, after all. This is especially important following the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Sherpany, ‘Business Performance In The Modern Era Hinges On Optimised Leadership Meetings’, found that five times more management teams now meet weekly than pre-pandemic. Therefore, having a formal meeting agenda template is vital to ensure this increase in meetings doesn’t create additional wasted time for your leaders.
Therefore, having a formal meeting agenda template is vital to ensure this increase in meetings doesn’t create additional wasted time for your leaders.
Using a template for your meeting agenda also means that the same process will be followed throughout your organisation, guaranteeing that there is consistency and synergy between your different teams’ approach to meeting management.
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How to create a team meeting agenda template
Creating a meeting agenda template for yourself is a helpful exercise - even if you end up using a template, like the one we provide later in this article. Going through the process of developing one of your own helps you to think deliberately about your own approach to organising meetings, as well as how your company does it, too.
To get things started, there are a few basics that every team meeting agenda template should include:
- The date, time, and place of the meeting
- The participants who are invited and the role that they will play in the meeting, and
- The overall objective of the meeting.
These three checkpoints ensure that your participants know when to attend the meeting, how long it will last, and what the meeting is concerning. Much like builders need to review a blueprint before breaking soil on a new build, meeting participants need to review the meeting agenda in order to prepare for the meeting. In this sense, this foundational information is central to effective meeting preparation.
The more relevant detail that you can provide your meeting participants in advance of the meeting, the better prepared they will be. Therefore, for each agenda item you should also include the following:
If many aren’t familiar with the concept of having clear meeting objectives, then even fewer have clear objectives per agenda item. Often, a meeting will have a number of topics to discuss, and having a broad objective for the entire meeting simply doesn’t go far enough.
With this in mind, having an objective per agenda item ensures that your meeting plan has phases rather than an overall approach for the entire project. For example, at your quarterly management meeting, which has the objective of agreeing strategy for the upcoming quarter, an agenda item might be to ‘Discuss the marketing budget for Q2’. The objective of this agenda item would be ‘to agree the allocation of the Q2 marketing budget.’
If each agenda item doesn’t have a clear objective, it is difficult to discern whether each item achieves what it should, which is key to keeping your meetings on track. While the blueprint for a house gives an overview of the build, it also provides detailed insights into the specification of each room. A meeting agenda template should therefore provide the same level of insight for each agenda item, to enhance meeting productivity and ultimately achieve more.
Just as the meeting itself has a lead, who is responsible for setting and enforcing the ground rules and ensuring that the meeting sticks to the agenda and achieves objectives, each agenda item should have a lead too. This will likely be a subject-matter expert in the area that the agenda item covers.
In the previous example, the VP of marketing would likely lead the agenda item concerning marketing budget sign-off. This person not only will have the greatest level of knowledge in this field, but they will also be best equipped to field any questions that arise, and give greater detail if required. In addition to this, the outcome of this particular agenda item has the greatest bearing on this individual, and therefore they should be fully bought into the process. This is good change management, after all.
The next component that each agenda item should have is an indication of the nature of the item. This should include greater context on what the agenda item is concerning. Generally speaking, an agenda will fall into three categories:
An informative agenda item is designed to bring meeting participants up to speed on a particular topic to ensure that everyone is aligned and has the most up to date information. For example, in the previous management meeting example, there might be a project update from the Digital Transformation Lead on the progress that has been made in the roll-out of a new technology. This subject doesn’t need live discussion between the participants, but rather the lead can update those invited to the meeting and discussions can take place asynchronously ahead of time This ensures that everyone is abreast of the status of the project in question and any doubts and questions are clarified.
A discussion item is something that requires active input from meeting participants in order to achieve its objectives. Rather than being purely informative, a discussion item will need broader input in order to be progressed. For example, a leadership team might need to discuss the implementation of new technology to gather the opinions of management on what the risks and opportunities of doing so might be, before pushing ahead with the project.
The third category that an agenda item can often fall into is a vote. Voting is a vital decision-making tool, and achieving consensus is not only an effective way to reach decisions, it also democratises the process, and helps to achieve buy-in from the stakeholders involved. After all, it is difficult for an individual to disagree with a decision when it was achieved by reaching a majority in a vote. Voting is also important from the perspective of compliance, and for sensitive topics, such as replacing a CEO for example, a clear and transparent record of votes needs to be kept.
The next component of any meeting agenda template should be an indication of the meeting documents that are associated with each agenda item. In our leadership meeting example, this might include a marketing plan for Q2 for the previously mentioned agenda item, as well as year-to-date accounts for the finance update, as well as an updated project plan from the Digital Transformation Lead for their project update. Documents are vital to the success of a meeting as they provide context to agenda items, and ensure that meeting participants can prepare adequately ahead of each meeting. It is important to select technology that supports this process, to guarantee that meeting participants always have the latest version of each document, and to minimise the administrative burden on your meeting organiser.
Finally, it is important to include meeting feedback on your formal meeting agenda template. As with all processes, feedback is central to success, and it is important to do this after every meeting. To collect meeting feedback, simply ask a number of questions to assess the performance of different aspects of the meeting. You can get started by trying out our Meeting Assessment tool, designed to help you get the necessary insights to improve your formal meetings.
Your free meeting agenda template
As you can see, creating your own formal meeting agenda template doesn’t need to be complicated. By following a series of logical steps, you can arrive at a blueprint that will help prepare your meetings for success.
To get you started on this journey, we’re happy to provide you with a free template which will help your meetings reach new heights.