Regardless of the source, style, or bias, experts on effective meetings use, at minimum, a simple, one-page agenda.
First, learn to contain your meetings to fifty minutes by starting five minutes after and ending five minutes before the hour. Then, stop treating your one-hour meetings too lightly. We statistically waste more time and money in briefer meetings, than full-day workshops.
All in, you cost your organization at least USD$150 per hour. With eight of you in a one-hour meeting, you will ‘burn’ around $20 per minute. For optimal productivity, here is your framework for the best one-page meeting agenda template, which you can modify for your fifty-minute meetings.
Using “right-to-left thinking”, or what Steven Covey calls, “start with the end in mind”, this template focuses on what “DONE” looks like for each step in the agenda. Nobody wants more meetings or more time in meetings. This is all about getting DONE.
Some organizations encourage meeting participants to NOT attend if there is no agenda because meeting time represents a high probability of wasted time. Consequently, he or she who controls the agenda controls the meeting.
Based on a survey of meeting experts, embrace and encourage the following suggestions:
- All agendas, even a one-page agenda, should include a beginning, middle, and an end. Do not skip the beginning or end. See other MG RUSH articles or Best Practices for how to manage robust introductions and wraps.
- Circulate your agenda before the meeting, as earlier is better.
- Drafting a simple, one-page agenda around the deliverable makes it easier to create the agenda steps required. For example, a “Wedding Plan” might include decisions about food, music, and ceremony. A project plan might include situation analysis, alignment, and assignments.
- Capture participant in advance to allow for modifications or additions. Since we expect the participants to own the meeting output, they should provide some voice as to HOW the output is derived.
- Provide a written agenda that everyone can refer to and share.
- Simple agenda steps ought to reflect WHAT is the object (ie, noun) of the step. Do not detail HOW (ie, verb) you are going to facilitate the activity. Save the detail, method, and tools for your private, annotated agenda. Note below that each agenda step should stress a discrete outcome (ie, a condition) or output (ie, something that can be documented).
- Timebox strategic discussions, unless you are hosting a strategic planning session. Strategic issues bog down many tactical and operational meetings. Defer them to a separate meeting time and place. In other words, most meetings waste time discussing stuff not related to the deliverable of the meeting or the agenda; ie, scope creep within a meeting. And scope creep in projects begins in meetings.
Make it a 50-minute Meeting, Not 60
The one-page agenda template illustration is basic. You need to add your own content. Once you complete your basic template, you can regenerate future one-page agendas in a few minutes. Even if building the agenda steps only serves to get you thinking clearer about the meeting purpose, scope, and deliverables, your preparation will be rewarded. Take a couple of minutes to prevent wasting another hour. Stay focused on ‘ right to left’ thinking, which means keeping the end in mind.
Naturally, you want to start with a clear statement of your meeting purpose. Then articulate your meeting scope and specify the meeting objectives, frequently called ‘ deliverables.’ While the first and last two agenda steps (Intro and Wrap) will repeat themselves from meeting to meeting, modify steps three through five (or more) with the content, questions, and activity to satisfy your meeting objectives. Keep in mind the following two secrets for a compelling, one-page agenda template:
- Since most meetings generate some type of action or follow-up, make sure that all activities are assigned to someone in the room, and
- ‘If it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen” so be sure to distribute meeting notes after.
The one-page agenda represents the method by which you are using a group of people to advance a common cause. Respect it. Do it. Share it.
For a comprehensive approach to building agendas and meeting preparation, use the Meeting Pathway and Canvas. You’ll be glad you did.
Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.
Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)
Want a free 10-minute break timer? Signup for our once-monthly newsletter HERE and receive a timer along with four other of our favorite facilitation tools, free.