Business Meetings 411: Keeping Agendas on Track

Informal Business MeetingAn informal survey that I did on LinkedIn uncovered 2 pet peeves related to meeting agendas: 

  • Meetings with no agenda.
  • Meetings that fail to stay on track and stick to the agenda.

Participants find this frustrating whether they are attending informal, impromptu meetings like small brainstorming sessions or large sales rallies and conferences.

At one time, business meetings were much more formal. Robert's Rules of Order, first published in 1876, was the order of the day. Jim Slaughter, author of Complete Idiot's Guide to Parliamentary Procedure Fast-Track has indicated that some U.S. states still require parliamentary procedure for governing bodies, nonprofits and community associations.

For most business meetings, the trend is towards informal meetings that encourage a high level of participation. As a result, it can be challenging to keep meetings on track.

Here are a few quick tips that may seem like basic, common sense. From the abundance of complaints about meetings, they are clearly not common practice.

  1. Avoid meetings for the sake of meetings.
    Sometimes a conference call, Skype call or virtual meeting with key players will suffice.
  2. Always have an agenda, even if it is just drawn up at the start of the meeting.
    It is best to crowdsource the agenda in advance and give attendees an opportunity to suggest agenda items.
  3. Sequence the agenda items.
    That way participants can slip out when their input is not needed.
  4. Schedule items that require input from just a few attendees at the beginning and end of the meeting.
  5. Meeting agendas work best when they are timed.
    Assign a specific timeframe for each agenda item. Include timing on the agenda for project meetings, conferences and sales rallies so that participants can help you stay on time and on-track. To give facilitators more flexibility without frustrating participants, leave timeframes off agendas for team building and training sessions.
  6. Build in some margin. Schedule 15 - 30 minutes more than you think you need.
  7. Count on at least one person going overtime and work that into your plan.
    Know your members' track records; find out how much time he or she requires and then build a buffer into your master plan, allocating about 33% more time than requested.
  8. Always assign a facilitator and a timekeeper.
    The facilitator's role is to keep the agenda on track. The timekeeper monitors the time and signals speakers 5 minutes and 1 minute before their time is up.
  9. Assign a notetaker to record key decisions, tasks, who is assigned to carry them out and target completion dates.
  10. At your next meeting, when an agenda item comes up for review, re-visit the tasks and get a progress update re: completion.

Business Meeting Agenda Template

For more tips on running meetings effectively, consult the Cvent Blog's other Business Meetings 411 features, including 10 Tips for Minimizing Mobile Device Disruptions, Catering to Diverse Learning Styles and 16 Ways to Prevent Latecomers from Derailing Corporate Events.

Photo Credits: Quiltsalad

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