24 Nov 2019

How to write the perfect meeting agenda [+template]

Bonus material: Meeting agenda template

There’s one thing worse than having a cold cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Yes, you’ve guessed correctly – it’s a meeting with no clear purpose. 

Let’s dive deep into existentialism – what is this “clear purpose” we’re speaking of? Well, it’s quite easy. When scheduling a meeting you need to ask yourself two essential questions: what are we discussing and what is the objective of this meeting. Without those questions, it’s better to leave everyone to do their thing and just head out for a cup of coffee. 

What should be the answers to those questions? Starting off, without knowing the topics for discussion, there’s absolutely no need to have it. The topics should be the ones for which you cannot Google the answer or you need the input from other coworkers for mapping out the next steps. The objective is definitely something meaningful for continuing your work – whether it’s a decision, a map of next steps, or just a cross-departmental split and sync of tasks. In either case, you need to leave that meeting knowing something more than you did before. You can achieve clarity with the meeting agenda dispersed beforehand. 

What is a meeting agenda?

It refers to the activities and topics that need to be discussed and the things to achieve during a meeting. 

Its purpose is to create a clear understanding of the meeting’s subject and its goals. It should make it clear why each of the participants is there and where is their input expected. With a clear agenda, everyone will have a chance to prepare for the discussions, making it even more efficient and valuable.

Bonus material: Meeting agenda template

What to include on the meeting agenda? 

Before writing it down, please consult with your colleagues about the specific topic you’d like to cover and if there’s anything else missing. Especially if the meeting is split into different sections for which different people are responsible. 

Ok, now that’s clear, let’s get to the technical aspect of actually writing a meeting agenda. We’ll be adding a template at the end. But in case you’re up for a challenge, here’s how to write it:

  • Start with the title. It’s more important than it seems. It’s the most obvious differentiator of meetings. So when you’ll need to browse the folder with 10 different agendas, it needs to be immediately clear which one you’re searching for. 
  • Who, when, where, why section. That one comes immediately after the title and it’s almost like a quick summary of what’s it going to be about. Don’t forget the “why” question. Just sum it up in a few words the purpose of getting together. 
  • Outline the topics. Do so in the order of importance, because people get tired really quickly. With reading and at the meeting so it’s best to get the most important things out first. For each of the agenda point write what’s going to be about and what are the outcomes of this discussion. In that way, the agenda will easily tie-up with the meeting minutes. 
  • Add the point “other”. This will make it clear that anything else missing above can be discussed in the end. It’ll also prevent people from jumping into a completely different topic as soon as they can connect it to the agenda point (you’re welcome). 

Send it out!

Don’t forget about that step. Let everyone discover what the meeting is about and prepare points, questions. My tip? Simply attach it to the invite you’re sending out via calendar. 

Bonus material: Meeting agenda template