9.3 The agenda
Often you will start to work on an agenda before inviting the participants, or in parallel, in order to ensure that you have clarity on who needs to attend.
An agenda sets out the purpose of the meeting. It is the list of items to be discussed within a meeting and the proposed order of the items. Depending on the type of meeting and those involved, agendas may be formal with detailed information or informal with just a list of items. Where it is a reoccurring meeting and the same items are always discussed, they can often be ‘standing agendas’.
A good agenda can act as a guide for those attending the meeting, which can help for better meetings. For meetings that are linked to projects, it can be helpful to include an overview of the project for those who might not be directly involved in the project.
Agendas should be sent out in a timely manner, ideally a week in advance to give people time to complete any actions required before a meeting and, if necessary, to send an update.
In many cases, the meeting invitation will go out before the agenda is finalised. Ideally the body of a meeting invitation will contain basic information, and when the agenda is finalised, it can be useful to attach or add it to the meeting invitation and resend it to all participants. The advantage of including all information in an invitation is that it makes it easier for participants to find information, as it is often easier to check an invitation than find an email.
You may wish to use the following checklist for creating your agenda.
|Information to include||Purpose|
Name of meeting
Name of the chair/facilitator for the meeting
Link for meeting
Who has been invited and, ideally, who has confirmed they will attend
|This is to ensure all those attending have the basic information. It is also good practice to include this in the meeting invitation.|
Include the purpose of the meeting in the agenda so participants can make an informed decision if they need to attend.
This is also something you may wish to include in the meeting invitation.
While this is normally a verbal action, it can be useful to include important information and list any expectations for the meeting.
If you have a team working agreement or terms of reference for the meeting, you may wish to link to those.
|Review of actions from previous meeting||If the meeting is a reoccurring one, it is sensible to include a review of any actions from the previous meeting’s minutes to ensure progress has been made. Listing actions on an agenda provides a reminder to participants and prepares action owners that they will be expected to provide an update.|
|Timings for items||It can be useful to include timings for items on the agenda, as this will help meetings stay on track, but also, in planning for the meeting, it might identify that you have too many items to discuss.|
|Items for discussion||This is the list of what will be discussed in the meeting. You may wish to provide context for each item to explain to participants why something has been included.|
|Links to documents required for the meeting||
Under each item where there are documents to refer to, it is sensible if they are stored in a collaboration space to provide a link to the documents.
Otherwise, attach the documents to the meeting invitation/email with the agenda.
|Any other business (AOB)||Always include AOB on an agenda. In advance of the meeting, check if participants have AOB they wish to add, and normally it would be checked at the start of a meeting if anything else needs to be added.|
|Times of breaks||If the meeting is long enough to warrant breaks to be scheduled, try to be clear on the timing for this.|
|Date and time of the next meeting||If the meeting is a reoccurring one, it is useful to list future meetings, as it may be noted that a meeting clashes with other events, such as a ‘closure day’, which might have been missed at the time of setting the meeting up.|
|Optional additional information||It can be useful to include additional information about any projects and the key participants who attend. This can be a link to a website if there is one connected to the meeting.|
If a meeting has required a risk assessment, this should be attached to the agenda/meeting invitation so all participants are aware of any risks.
If there is a significant risk, participants should be aware, so ensure that this is communicated in the meeting invitation or an email.
Not all meetings will require a formal agenda. Often if I am having a 1:1 or meeting with people I work with daily, my agenda might be a bullet list on a scrap of paper to remind me what information I require from the meeting.
Activity 27 Create an agenda template
Spend time reviewing the agenda checklist above. Your organisation may have standard template that is used for meeting agendas, or you may need to create one. If you need to create one, or improve an existing one, use the checklist to create an agenda template.