Meetings · Management

Do you ask for agendas before a meeting?

Natalie Balt Cofounder/CTO at CrewUp

November 20th, 2015

Before having a meeting is it important or necessary to ask for agendas prior to the meeting? Does this help with efficiency? Or is it just added work? Would love to hear others thoughts whether or not I should implement agendas to my meetings, and what works and what doesn't.


Peter Radsliff Consumer Tech Marketing & Product Executive

November 20th, 2015

More than just having an agenda, what can really make your meetings more efficient is to publish what your specific goals for the meeting are. Let people know that you will be trying to come to a consensus decision by the end of the meeting. Or, that you will be making a decision based on the information presented during the meeting. Getting clear on the business outcome of why everyone is there is much more important than merely listing what you are going to cover during the meeting time. That said, agendas are an excellent way to keep a meeting in alignment with the goals. Just be sure that your agenda provides an open structure that invites participation, instead of something that is so locked down that people feel shut out.

Isaiah McPeak Entrepreneur and Debate Coach

November 20th, 2015

1. We ask for a "purpose" of a meeting. What's the outcome we're going for?
2. If it requires a breakdown structure, an agenda should come with. Usually, a meeting should be tight enough to not need much more than a couple bullets.
3. We push as much to "pre-meeting" as possible. 

For example... we are trying to create a particular process. To do so we:
a) Scheduled a "Decisionmaking" meeting for 8 days out
b) One person identified likely key issues
c) A deadline 5 days out was set to send written thoughts
d) As often happens, we may discuss these written thoughts via writing and end up not needing the meeting... or it may be a simple "ok, seems we've got it down to two options, let's choose"

How does this work? Single-topic meetings. You cannot have a meeting that is any TWO of:
- briefing (update/argument on a topic)
- idea collision (post-individual-brainstorm idea fest)
- scoping (storyboarding and breaking down a plan)
- problem-solving (e.g. a risk/issue/challenge)
- status (revisit assumptions/commitments)

Dave Kashen Co-founder & CEO at WorkLife - We're Hiring!

November 20th, 2015

Like in most situations, the more intentional you are the more likely you are to achieve the outcome you want. Being intentional about your meetings can take a number of forms:

- Agendas. Especially when there are a group of people for whom knowing what the focus of the meeting will be will give them a chance to gather they're thoughts or materials, and show up prepared. Agendas also have the hidden benefit of helping you stay on track during the meeting. There's a way in which the agenda starts to feel like a 3rd party arbiter of what's 'in bounds' and 'out of bounds' for the meeting so that if people are going off on tangents, it's easier to reign the conversation back in. Depending on the meeting, it can be useful to collaboratively create the agenda by giving others the chance to add topics they want to discuss. Also, setting standing agendas for recurring meetings is a relatively simple, high-leverage way to deliberately create a process for your team to ensure you have the right conversations that enable you to accomplish the right stuff week in and week out. (and yes, I'm co-founder of worklife.com, which streamlines the process of creating/sharing agendas and running effective meetings :)

- Goals. Sometimes people write their agendas in the form of goals, but more often than not, agendas are a list of topics. It can be useful to get even more clear on what you'd like to achieve by asking the question: "What would we like to be different by the end of this meeting?" You can add the goals separately, or frame the agenda as a set of goals (e.g., instead of 'South America launch' as the agenda topic, write 'Decide whether to launch in South America, and agree on budget for marketing around the launch'). That way people know what the intended outcome is for discussing that particular topic. One of the reasons people get so frustrated in meetings is bc they think have different understanding of the goals (e.g., one person thinks the 'South America' discussion is to create the strategy and plan for launching and another thinks it's simply to decide go/no go and that they'll create the strategy some other time).

- Prep. For more strategic and decision-making meetings, the battle to make the the meeting is effective is won or lost before it starts. It can help to specify exactly what pre-work you want people to do or materials you want them to review before the conversation to make sure you're using your time together most effectively. Executives at Amazon famously spends the first 10 minutes of the meeting reviewing a one (or multi-) page document outlining the problem and key considerations.

- Experience. One of the highest leverage moves that almost no manager does is to get clear on the experience you want to create during the meeting. How do you want people to feel during the meeting and when they walk away? Excited, inspired, urgent, empowered? Spending just a minute or so setting your intentions for what you want people to experience can make a world of difference.

- How you show up. One of the critical factors in creating the experience you want for people is being intentional about how you show up. Want to be perceived as confident, relaxed, enthusiastic, courageous, authentic? Spend a minute setting your intentions for who you'e going to 'be' in the meeting and you'll notice a world of difference in how people relate to you and what you're able to accomplish.

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

November 21st, 2015

Meetings have got corrupted over the years.

They started out as people getting together to get something done.
But over time, they have become part of the control and communication systems of bad managers. They bring people together so they can communicate once. Create false buy-in (why didn't you say something at the meeting?). And show off their control of the group - I run the meeting, you only attend.

Let me give you an example.
A new head of a company attended the monthly management meeting. As she was new, it became a big event with 60 attendees squashed into the room.

She started with one simple question to a single attendee. "Why are you here and what can you contribute to this meeting?". The person ummed and awwed. She simply said - please leave and moved to the next person. Same again. By now most people were getting up to leave - they had realised they shouldn't really be there. Within 5 minutes the meeting was down to 12 people. And some real work got done.

Good meetings have only one item on the agenda. And the only people there are the ones who can truly make a difference on this action item.

If you have two items, hold two meetings. With different invitees to each.

Rather than an agenda, take your subject and send out three core questions (any more than 3 shows you haven't got it in focus) you want to cover on this subject.

And after the meeting, send out three action points (any more than 3 won't get done and will dilute the effort on the core three). And communicate more widely what was agreed at the meeting.

Mark Day Technical Leader

November 21st, 2015

The most important thing is to be mindful about meetings. Agendas are usually helpful but are sometimes inappropriate. And even the best agenda means nothing if the meeting is then poorly run.

Decide what kind of meeting this is. Decide whether an agenda will help. Decide what kind of process is relevant (e.g. are you trying to get buy-in? feedback? status reports?  These require very different handling.) 

If you are trying to evolve a longstanding regular meeting to use better practices, a part of being mindful is to proceed gradually. Even if you can tell that it needs to be handled very differently from its "tradition," resist the temptation to turn it upside down. Figure out the one or two changes that will make the biggest difference and do those. That might well be adding an agenda and sticking to it, if that's not the current practice. But if there's something else that's a bigger problem, solve it before you worry about agendas.

Simon Bain CEO SearchYourCloud Inc.

November 20th, 2015

Hi. If you have requested, or are the owner of a meeting then yes. You should have an agenda. Even if only an informal one in the invite request outlining what it is you wish to discuss. That way the people that you are inviting are able to prepare in advance. Simon

Andrew Hoag Builder of products, teams and companies

November 20th, 2015

Absolutely set an agenda. It's amazing how common meetings are and how little shared best practices there are... Check out Worklife which takes a lot of things I've recommended over the years into a coherent system.

Lawrence Lerner Digitalization and Transformation Coach

November 20th, 2015

The feedback has been clear. Agendas are good, less is more. 

Follow a simple rule of three
  • Keep it simple
  • People want to be entertained (relevant business content)
  • Brand matters - keep the context relevant and relatable to them

Mauri MBA Dynamic Talent Acquisition Manager, Build and Drive Results-Based Recruitment Program, “Her secret sauce really works!”

November 22nd, 2015

Just thought I'd add something a bit different. When you're inviting a candidate in for an interview, please make sure that person has an agenda listing the name, title and time frame for each person s/he will be meeting. It's common courtesy and helps the interviewee prepare.

Barry Garman Director at Karsun Solutions LLC

November 20th, 2015

Absolutely! Having an agenda that clarifies expected outcome is a must for every meeting, even for recurring meetings where the goal of the meeting may change from one meeting to another.