We’ve all experienced those meetings. Meetings where team members show up unprepared, folks get off-track during the meeting, and the topics meander or simply aren’t relevant.
But there’s no need to cancel your team’s weekly conference just yet. These problems can be fixed by an effective and well-designed meeting agenda
While research finds there is no relationship between simply having a meeting agenda and meeting quality, the answer lies in the substance of the agenda. Meeting quality is more than simply having an agenda. Rather, it’s what’s on the agenda, and how the leader facilitates relevant items throughout the meeting.
An effective agenda should set clear expectations for what needs to happen before, during and after the meeting. It should help attendees prepare prior to the meeting, allocate time effectively during the meeting, and identify when the discussion is complete, and thus when the meeting can end.
So, how can leaders design and implement the above when creating their agenda? How can we make the best and most effective agendas for successful meetings?
The Answers Are in The Questions
Dr. Steven Rogelberg, meeting scientist and author of the Harvard Business Review article, How to Create the Perfect Meeting Agenda, recommends listing agenda items as questions the team needs to answer as a way to creatively structure the meeting topics. Who isn’t more likely to be engaged when asked something than simply being told something?
Instead of having an agenda full of bulleted topics, try creating a couple of questions beneath each topic a couple of questions that need answered. Dr. Rogelberg provides examples of what this could look like:
• Instead of simply naming the agenda item, “Budget Problems,” consider adding questions underneath the item such as, “How will we reduce our spending by 100K by the end of the fiscal year?” and “Does missing benchmarks warrant a change?”
• Instead of a topic titled, “Customer Process Improvement,” consider incorporating questions like, “What are the key ways of improving overall response time to customers by 25%?” and “What are two ways we can we recruit more customers?”
• Instead of a topic titled “Continuing Our Strategic Planning,” try adding in what exactly will be worked on in the meeting such as, “What is the key market threat we need to be aware of, how could it affect us, and what can we do about it?”
Be Strategic With Your Agenda
Dr. Rogelberg’s approach will make you more strategic when designing your agenda and planning for your meeting. This process will also encourage you to think critically about the significance of a topic and what your team’s ultimate outcome or goal is. It can also make it easier to determine your invite list; invite the people essential to answering the questions. No more inviting team members who are not relevant to the discussion.
Assign Topics, Encourage Relevant Questions
Once you know who to invite to your meeting, you might consider assigning each meeting attendee an agenda topic prior to the team meeting, encouraging them to create their own questions around their topic. The assigned attendee can then facilitate the discussion around their allocated subject during the meeting, seeking out answers to their questions from the team.
This question-based agenda will naturally aid in decision-making. The answer to the question is the team’s decision on the matter. The decision can then be communicated to the team (even those not attending the meeting) via meeting minutes.
As an added bonus - this question-based approach can better inform when to end the meeting – conclude the meeting when all questions have been answered!
Dr. Rogelberg also provides tips for framing questions, recommending leaders and attendees design questions that are specific and challenging, collaborate to identify questions that truly matter, put the most important questions first, and execute the agenda once the list of questions is finalized.
And Have a Great Meeting!
This fun and unique query approach will spark the interest of your meeting attendees, spice up your meeting flow, keep your attendees engaged throughout the meeting, and ultimately lead to more effective and efficient meetings – with clear decisions and a path forward. No more meetings that could have been emails.
For more information on how to create a question-based agenda, read the full article by expert Dr. Rogelberg at Harvard Business Review.
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