Heading up a meeting of any kind without a pre-prepared agenda is like hearing an announcement to please keep your hands inside the vehicle and then just sticking as many limbs out the window as you can. You’re asking for something to go wrong - and it probably will. Organising an effective agenda doesn’t take long, and it can be a huge help in making your meetings run effectively and efficiently. Here’s a few quick tips to use next time you write a meeting agenda.

1. Keep it Clear

The old K.I.S.S. principle. Your agenda isn’t a fleshed-out script, it’s a guide. You and your committee will discuss each topic in your own way before making any decisions and moving on.

2. Identify the Goal

In short: what do you want to accomplish in this meeting? Having a set decision to make can help you cut unrelated topics and streamline the meeting. Write your agenda prioritising topics that are closely related to the goal higher, so that if a committee member has to leave early or something happens then a decision is reached.

3. Remember Your Audience

Once you have your goal, make a list of team members who are most involved with accomplishing that goal. In a small committee that’s probably everyone, but in a medium-sized not-for-profit or community organisation it may only be certain members. This is who will be at the meeting, so discussing topics outside their fields would be a waste of time.

4. Consult The Team

A few days before the meeting, send your draft agenda out to those who will be attending and ask for any feedback or additional topics they might have to offer. They’re likely to notice something you overlooked.

5. Finalise the Structure

Once you have any additions from the team, reorganise your agenda and set some time limits. Nobody wants to sit in a meeting for six hours, so having a set structure and pace for the meeting can help you keep it to a reasonable length. Map out each topic in your head and try and imagine how long it’d take to properly discuss that topic and reach a consensus. Remember that five minutes is more time than you’d think in these situations, and forty five minutes would likely leave too much room for off-topic discussion.

6. Don’t Forget the Niceties

It may seem superfluous, but allocating time to greet the group, welcome any guests, formally introduce any new members or people who haven’t met yet is really important for morale. In the same fashion, having a little more time than needed for wrapping up lets the chairman properly thank everyone for attending, and allows the committee to wind down at a relaxed pace. 

Writing an effective agenda may seem daunting, but giving yourself plenty of time to work on it, and making it a collaborative, team effort, can reduce the stress and lead to quicker, more productive meetings. And who doesn’t want that?