Your agenda tells your team what to expect during a meeting and how they can prepare for it. Ideally, you’ll use your agenda to connect your team with the meeting’s purpose, assign tasks or items to team members, and designate a realistic amount of time to each agenda item. A great meeting agenda maximizes the meeting’s effectiveness and keeps your team on track.
There’s a good chance you’ve experienced that painful feeling that arises when you’re unsure why you’re in a meeting and don’t know what to expect. Meetings without agendas tend to cause that feeling—that’s why we believe meeting agendas should be an integral part of your meeting culture.
An effective agenda communicates the purpose of your meeting, gives your team the chance to prepare their agenda items, and keeps everyone on track.
Whether you’re prepping for your next board meeting, staff meeting, or business meeting, we’ll help you write an agenda that will maximize your meeting’s potential.Free meeting agenda template
Let’s start with some of our favorite tips on creating great meeting agendas so you can make the most of yours:
Create and share your meeting agenda as early as possible. At the very latest, you should share your meeting agenda an hour before the meeting time. This allows everyone to prepare for what’s going to happen. Your team can also relay questions or additional agenda items to you for a potential adjustment before the meeting. Besides, when your team members have a chance to properly prepare themselves, they’ll have a much easier time focusing during the meeting.
Link to any relevant pre-reading materials in advance. This can be the presentation deck, additional context, or a previous decision. Everyone arriving to the meeting will be on the same page and ready to move the discussion forward rather than asking a ton of questions that take up relevant time.
Assign facilitators for each agenda item. Remember that feeling of being called on in school when you didn’t know the answer? It’s a pretty terrible feeling that we’re sure you don’t want to evoke in your teammates. By assigning a facilitator for each agenda item before the meeting, you allow them to prepare for a quick rundown of the topic, questions, and feedback.
Define and prioritize your agenda items. Differentiate between the three categories of agenda items: informational, discussion topics, and action items. Clarifying the purpose of each agenda item helps your team member understand what’s most important and what to focus on. You’ll also want to prioritize which items are most important and absolutely have to be discussed during the meeting and which ones can be addressed asynchronously, should the clock run out.
Use your meeting agenda during the meeting to track notes and action items. That way, all of the meeting information is in one place. If anyone has questions about decisions or action items from the meeting, they have an easy place to find it. Bonus: Do this in Asana so you can assign out action items and next steps to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Asana also integrates with Zoom and pulls in your Zoom recording or meeting transcript directly into the meeting agenda task.
Create flow by categorizing your agenda items. To maximize productivity, you’ll want to create a meeting agenda that flows well. Batch similar items together and ensure they can build off of one another. For example, list any informational items before the discussion items so your team has all of the information going into the discussion.
Allocate enough time for each item on your agenda. Nobody will complain about a meeting that runs short—keeping everyone longer than anticipated isn’t as much fun. Plan sufficient time for each agenda item by calculating an estimated time and adding a couple of minutes as a buffer. This will help with keeping your team on track and moving on from a topic when the time runs out.
By sticking to these best practices, you can ensure that your meeting agenda is a reliable tool and does the job—before, during, and after your meeting.Read: 9 ways to improve your team’s efficiency at work
Whether you work from home and take virtual calls or sit in the office and meet in person, meetings can be incredibly draining. Beginning with some small talk may be nice to get to know each other better or catch up on what everyone did this past weekend but it certainly isn’t goal-oriented or productive. A meeting agenda can help your team maximize the potential of each meeting you hold.
Our research shows that unnecessary meetings accounted for 157 hours of “work” in 2020, compared to 103 in 2019. Considering a 40-hour work week, that’s almost four weeks of wasted time. This is where your meeting agenda comes in. If you’re doing it right, writing your meeting agenda is the first and best indicator of whether or not your meeting is actually necessary. If you find that everything on your meeting agenda can be discussed asynchronously, you can cancel the meeting and share your message in a time-saving email.
That isn’t to say all meetings should be replaced by emails. If you’re sure that the meeting is justified and necessary in order to drive your team’s progress, have that meeting. However, always make sure that you create an agenda before getting together so your team members know what you’ll be discussing and why the meeting matters.Free meeting agenda template
Here are a few more great reasons to have meeting agendas:
Your agenda allows everyone to prepare for the meeting. Ideally, every item on your agenda will have a dedicated topic facilitator. When everyone going into the meeting knows what their responsibilities are in advance, they have time to prepare and will be more efficient during the meeting.
It shows you’re considerate of your team’s time. When your team receives a well-thought-out meeting agenda, they’ll immediately see that the meeting is actually necessary. Besides, it’s also a roadmap that will keep you on track during the meeting and ensure no time is wasted.
An agenda sets clear expectations of what will and won’t be discussed. Think of a meeting agenda as a way of setting boundaries and ensuring that only topics on the agenda will be talked about. If anything comes up during the meeting that needs to be discussed, write it down in your minutes and return to it later. Either at the end of your meeting—if you got through it faster than expected—asynchronously, or in the next meeting.
It keeps your team on track. Your meeting agenda will prevent your team from drifting off—whether that’s discussing non-agenda topics (like the barbecue at Kat’s place last night) or taking too much time for an item that had specific time allocated.
Your agenda will provide purpose, structure, and opportunities to collaborate. With a clear plan for everyone to follow, your team will go into the meeting knowing the purpose and goal of the meeting. Your meeting agenda also allows your team to direct their attention toward opportunities to collaborate, whether that’s during a brainstorming session, a town hall, or your daily standup.
Track next steps and action items so nothing falls through the cracks. Keep your agenda open during the meeting to capture any next steps or action items. By adding them directly into the agenda, these items won’t be forgotten when the meeting ends.
Meetings are great opportunities for your team to bond but the time spent on small talk can be worked into the first few minutes of the agenda rather than surfacing every now and then during the meeting, disrupting the flow and productivity or your team’s discussion.Read: 5 tips for leading great meetings
Now you know why meeting agendas are important, but how do you create an agenda that ticks off all of these boxes?
Let’s take a look at what a good meeting agenda should always contain:
The purpose of the meeting: Your meeting agenda should inform all participants what the meeting objectives are, what will be discussed, and what kinds of decisions need to be made. Your agenda should include just enough context so that your team can familiarize themselves with the topic before the meeting begins.
The meeting participants: Not only should your agenda list the participants of the meeting but also what agenda items each team member will be responsible for.
The duration and the allocated time for each agenda item: Defining how much time will be spent on each agenda item can be difficult when you’re first starting out writing agendas. Once you get the hang of it, though, you’ll realize how rewarding it is. It’s always good to allocate a couple more minutes than you think you’ll need, in case a question or discussion point arises that needs to be resolved during your meeting.
An overview that lists what will be discussed during the meeting: Your meeting agenda should contain a full list of items that will be discussed during the meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page. These can be topics to brainstorm, decision-making items, or open-ended questions. Listing all of the items for the meeting sets boundaries and allows your team to prepare for each agenda item.
We have now defined the bones of your meeting agenda but there are a few more things that can truly level up the way you write meeting agendas and use them as an extension of your meeting culture.Read: Why 1:1 meetings are crucial to your team’s success
We’ve discussed what makes a good meeting agenda and what you should avoid doing but, as always, it’s easiest to learn from a real life example. Let’s take a look at a project kickoff meeting agenda created in Asana:
As you can see, each item has a timebox and a teammate assigned to ensure everyone knows when it’s their turn and how long they have to lead their discussion or give their presentation. The agenda also has relevant files attached and is shared with all team members for visibility and better collaboration.
It’s one thing to have an amazingly organized and detailed agenda that your team can reference before the meeting—using it as a tool during the meeting is a whole other ballpark. These tips will help you make your meeting agenda as useful during the meeting as it is as a preparation tool:
Stick to your agenda. The best agenda becomes useless if you don’t stick to it during the meeting. Try not to bounce back and forth between agenda items but rather stick to the priorities you established earlier.
Stick to your timeboxes. It absolutely helps release some tension and lighten the mood if you have a bit of small talk or a quick check-in at the beginning of your meeting. That’s why you should allocate three to five minutes to this—and stick to the timeframe. Pictures of Kabir’s son’s adorable Halloween costume can be shared elsewhere so you have enough time to reach your meeting’s goals now.
Designate a note taker. At the beginning of the meeting, designate a note taker who will write down any questions, feedback, tasks, and ideas that come up during the meeting. You can rotate this position so everyone on your team gets to contribute at some point. Ideally, these notes are taken in the same place as the meeting agenda—this will make it a lot easier for team members to follow the notes and link them to agenda items.
Follow up after the meeting. Typically, the note taker will be responsible for following up with the meeting notes afterward. The notes should include any decisions that were made during the meeting, tasks that need to be completed, and questions that remained unanswered. If possible, assign teammates and add due dates to action items to keep accountability high.
With Asana, you can keep your meeting agenda, meeting minutes, and meeting action items in one place. Effortlessly share the agenda with your team and assign agenda items in real time so nothing falls through the cracks.
Streamlining your meetings with one central tool will reduce the amount of work about work your team faces, connect everyone to the purpose of the meeting, and allow for productive meetings everyone enjoys.Free meeting agenda template