QUICK AND EASY – how to write interesting, useful Meeting Agendas

24th January 2017

When someone says they’re “dieting”, how can you tell it’s working?

Because they lose weight, yes?

When someone says they’re “teaching”, how can you tell that’s working?

Because the children are learning.

But what if someone says they’re “discussing”? How can you tell if that’s working?

That isn’t so easy, is it? After all, what’s the output of ‘discussing’?

And this is a huge problem with meeting agendas. For example, if an agenda item says …

       “Discuss Project X”

… you know “discussion” is the input. But what’s the desired output?

You can’t tell, can you?

But, if you don’t know what it is, how do you know when you’ve achieved it? You can’t. So you’ll all just keep on talking about it, but not achieving anything.

Instead, imagine the agenda said…

       “Agree our new priorities with Project X, including our immediate next steps”

… well, the output is crystal clear now. And because you know where you’re going, you’re much more likely to get there.

And how does this affect you?

Well, you know all those meetings that don’t work? You know the ones – too long, too pointless, too boring…

Look again at their agendas. I bet most of them contain input verbs – discuss, review, share, update, download … and so on.

But these make no reference whatsoever to what the desired output is.

So you don’t get any.

The good news is that this is pretty easy to fix: simply change your input verbs into output verbs.

For example, which agenda sounds better? Agenda #1…

  • Discuss Project X
  • Update on Initiative Y
  • Download on Strategy Z

Or Agenda #2…

  • Agree our new priorities with Project X, including our immediate next steps
  • Identify quick wins we can make with Initiative Y
  • Agree any final changes we need to make, to ensure our Strategy Z launch works brilliantly

Agenda #2 is better. No question. It’s the same meeting as Agenda #1. But it’s clearly going to achieve outputs.

In fact, Agenda #1’s meeting will just be a Talking Shop. The agenda’s input-focus means it’s been set up to fail.

So, let’s end with another question: think of the agendas you write – are they more like Agenda #1 or #2?

Action point

Look at the today’s meetings’ agendas. For each agenda item, replace the Input Verb with your desired Output Verb (for example, ‘discuss’ becomes ‘agree our next actions with’).

This will make a huge difference – you’ll achieve much more, and in much less time.

Of course, getting the agenda right is a great start. But there are lots of other things you can do too. In fact, meetings are so important, I recorded a whole hour of tips, explaining how to ensure yours work. You can watch them in month 2’s videos here.

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