“This could’ve been an email.”
How many online meetings have you attended in the past month made you think just that? Now, how many of those meetings had detailed agendas? A call without an effective meeting agenda usually ends up feeling like a waste of time.
And yet, most of us are signing into online calls without knowing what will be discussed. A 2021 Intrado survey of 250 U.S. employees found that only 37% say their work meetings always have an agenda.
Whether you’re fully remote or a hybrid team, having an effective meeting agenda can be a gamechanger for your productivity—if you know how to do it right. Below, we’ll go over 14 tips for crafting an agenda that will keep your meetings concise, on track, and efficient. Your colleagues will thank you for it!
Why Does an Effective Meeting Agenda Even Matter?
- It eliminates unnecessary meetings.
The very act of creating a meeting agenda will reveal whether the meeting needs to happen or not. When you have to get intentional about your next call and outline its objectives and processes, it will become abundantly clear whether a meeting will be a waste of time or a wealth of knowledge.
- It makes meetings shorter.
When every attendee knows what they’re supposed to be doing at the meeting, there’s no fumbling for words and no awkward silences as people try to figure out what to discuss next. That makes meetings shorter, and who doesn’t love a shorter meeting?
- It makes them more productive.
Instead of jumping onto a call and meandering to different unplanned topics, you’ll have a detailed roadmap of where to go and how to get there quickly.
14 Must-Have Tips for Creating an Effective Meeting Agenda for Your Next Video Call
Now that you see how essential an effective meeting agenda is for your productivity, let’s go over some tips for crafting one for your next call.
1. Take advantage of free meeting agenda templates
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when there are plenty of meeting agenda templates available online for free. Simply download a template from one of the options below and begin filling it out or customizing it based on the rest of the tips on this list.
- Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)
- Hugo (Hugo, Microsoft Word, and Google Docs)
- Fellow (Google Docs)
2. Define the meeting’s objective.
Okay, this sounds obvious, right? But too often, we have meetings on our calendars that simply say “Website Launch,” with little context. Start getting specific. For every meeting agenda, begin with context plus an objective.
For example, you might have a website launch meeting agenda that says:
- Context: We’re planning to launch our new website in Q4, and we just got the mockups back from our designer.
- Meeting objectives: Let’s review the mockups, discuss what we want to keep and what we want to change, and confirm our launch timeline.
3. Give each item a goal and outline the steps you’ll take to reach it.
If you have a longer meeting with lots to discuss, be sure that each item on the agenda has a goal and a process to achieve it. For example, for a rebranding campaign meeting, you might have the agenda item of “Discuss new taglines,” but be sure to add details beneath it, such as:
- Goal: Narrow it down to three taglines that are most aligned with our new brand.
- How do we define our new brand?
- Which taglines are most aligned to our new brand, and why?
- End with a vote. The top three advance to the next round.
By having a specific goal for each item and a breakdown of how you’ll get to that goal, you’ll end up having a much more effective meeting.
4. Allot a set amount of time for each item of discussion.
This is a step many people fail to take: Once you have your basic list of items you know you need to discuss, estimate how long it will take to get through each item. Then, add buffer time (a few minutes or so). Why? Because things usually take longer than you might expect, and there might be people who end up talking more than others.
Estimating how long each topic will take and adding buffer time on top of that ensures you have enough time to go over everything during the meeting.
Speaking of talk time, did you know that there’s an app that can monitor how much time you’re doing the talking versus letting other attendees speak? Krisp not only blocks distractions during online meetings but also shows you what percentage of the time you’ve been speaking. This is useful if you’re trying to be inclusive and yield the floor to others or if you’re trying to be more assertive and speak your mind during meetings.
5. Don’t try to cram too many topics into one meeting.
How can you prevent this? First, decide how long the meeting will be (preferably, no longer than one hour). Then, work backward.
For example, if you know you have 60 minutes and each topic will take 10 minutes to discuss, you can have a maximum of six items on the agenda. And even then, that’s not ideal because you’ll likely need buffer time to ease the transition into each new topic. So, realistically, you’re looking at five topics max.
If you find that you want to discuss more items than can fit into one meeting, either save the excess items for another meeting or see how you can discuss those via email instead.
6. Outline who will be responsible for leading the discussion of each topic.
Each agenda item should have an “owner,” the person responsible for leading the discussion of that particular topic. This ensures everyone knows what they are contributing to the meeting and prevents any one person from being spread too thin. It also helps the meeting move along smoothly, since everyone knows what they’re responsible for.
7. List all meeting participants
No one wants to attend a party without knowing who’ll be there, right? It’s the same with meetings. Be sure to include a list of all the participants to provide context for the meeting.
8. Choose a meeting facilitator
The meeting facilitator’s job is to start the meeting, make sure all attendees stick to the agenda, transition smoothly to the next item of discussion, and end the meeting promptly. If you value efficiency, this is an important job!
9. Assign a notetaker
Often, everyone feels like they need to be taking notes during meetings, which takes their attention away from the discussion. While it may come down to personal preference, you can relieve some attendees of that pressure by letting them know that there will be an official notetaker and that meeting minutes will be shared afterward. This frees up everyone to be fully present to the discussion.
Additionally, with automated meeting minutes, the note-taking process is no more a troublesome task.
10. Outline any actions attendees need to take before the meeting begins
To help everyone arrive fully prepared, be sure to include any action items they need to complete before the meeting begins. For example:
- Do they need to review anything? If you’ll be discussing a particular project, make sure they have the materials they need to review to have enough context for the meeting.
- Do they need to brainstorm ideas? Brainstorming sessions are fun, but sometimes it helps to ask your team to begin brainstorming ideas before the meeting, so their creative juices are flowing by the time it starts.
- Do they need to install any software? In addition to an agenda, having your attendees install a noise-cancelling app like Krisp can help your meeting become even more effective. During the online call, Krisp will eliminate distractions like room echo or background chatter so you can focus on the task at hand.
11. End each meeting agenda with a wrap-up/next steps section
No one likes signing off from an online meeting without any idea of what they learned or what they’re supposed to do next. At the end of every meeting agenda, be sure to have a “Next Steps” or “Action Items” section so everyone walks away with a clear direction.
12. Don’t forget to add the link to the online meeting
Scrambling to find a Zoom link 30 seconds before the call begins is a universal experience. Is it buried in your Slack messages? Lost in your email inbox? Or did the host text it to you? By having everything for the meeting (including the link to it!) housed in the agenda, attendees can easily find what they need in one place.
13. Add any extra details that might be helpful
At the bottom of the agenda for an online meeting, it can be helpful to answer the following:
- Will all participants need to have their cameras on or off?
- Will the meeting be recorded?
- If so, will the recording be made available to all participants?
- Will meeting minutes be made available too?
This is a courteous gesture and can help attendees be prepared to look presentable and give them the comfort of knowing if they miss something during the call, they can watch it later or read over meeting minutes.
14. Ask all meeting attendees to review the agenda beforehand
Once you’ve put together your meeting agenda, email it to the attendees and ask them to reply with any changes they’d like to see.
Why? Sharing the agenda and asking for feedback on it improves efficiency. First, there might be something on the agenda that has already been resolved and doesn’t need to be discussed further. And second, an attendee might look at the agenda and realize they don’t actually need to be there, saving them an unnecessary call.
An Effective Meeting Agenda Will Save Your Next Video Call
You wouldn’t get into a car for a road trip without first mapping out your journey. So why sign into another video call without an effective meeting agenda? It’ll prevent your meeting from meandering off its intended path, which always ends up wasting people’s time.
By getting into the habit of crafting an effective meeting agenda before every call, your attendees will never again think, “This could’ve been an email.”
Want to boost meeting productivity? Install Krisp for free to automatically eliminate background noise on every call.