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18 ways an agenda can improve your meetings

1. Circulate the agenda in advance – and include minutes of previous meetings, people’s commitment from previous meetings and briefing documents.

2. Allow others to contribute to the agenda items – but put a time scale on when you need agenda items to be contributed.

3. Put start and end times for each agenda point.

4. Include the desired goals and objectives for the meeting on the agenda.

5. Include a purpose for the meeting on the agenda. This will allow participants to see if they really need to attend.

6. Review the agenda before you start the meeting, and see whether there is anything else to be added.

7. Prioritise and put the most important items at the top of the agenda.

8. Allow sufficient breaks, as participants will start to flag after about 60 minutes.

9. Include details of the venue for the meeting on the agenda, including a phone number which the meeting organiser can be contacted on, in case of people being late.

10. Before deciding to include an agenda point, review it – do you have time to include it” Plus, is it relevant to the desired goals and objectives for the meeting?

11. Plan some variety to the agenda – presentation after presentation after presentation gets very dull. Think about including some breakout group work, for a different meeting dynamic.

12. Have someone facilitate the meeting to help you keep to your planned agenda.

13. Leave some “back-pocket” time in your agenda, in case of discussions running over. Normally participants welcome a meeting finishing early rather than running over.

14. Remember to include time for introductions in your agenda, in case participants don’t know each other.

15. Remember to include time for a meeting summary, and agree on who has agreed to do what and by when.

16. Remember to include time to celebrate any successes during the meeting.

17. At the beginning of the meeting, take the opportunity to explain the reason for the agenda’s order and structure.

18. Include time on the agenda for participants to state what they want to achieve in the business meeting.

Heather Townsend, Britain’s queen of networking, is the founder of The Efficiency Coach, a company that helps professionals achieve better business results for less effort. Follow her Joined Up Networking blog for more useful tips and tricks. She has just been commissioned to write the FT Guide to Business Networking.


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