Good agendas for meetings

Sep 22, 2008 | Client service

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my views on the benefits of good agendas for meetings with clients.

The subject of agendas for in-house meetings came up recently on a business forum and I shared the following thoughts which are worth recording here too.

I’m thinking here of the weekly or monthly team meetings and partner meetings that occur in many firms of accountants.

All too often the agenda for such regular meetings is more of a simple crib sheet of the topics that the group has always discussed. In my experience of working in various places where this happened, meetings could become pretty lively whenever a new item was added to the ‘list’ – whether under ‘any other business’ or earlier in the agenda.

The reason for new items livening up the meeting was not always positive. Typically only one person knew why the item had been added. As a result the ensuing discussion and debate was a struggle. No one else had thought about the issue beforehand and statements were made based on assumptions  and vague recollections.  Inevitably the whole process was repeated at the following meeting as by that time everyone had done their research. The reason this was so common was that no one knew the context or reason for the additional agenda item. Each person arrived at the meeting with a different set of assumptions.

My preferred starting point is to ensure that each agenda item has a sub-note that indicates what information will be required, who will lead the discussion and, where relevant, what the desired output is. Here are some examples that highlight how easy it is to cause confusion if you just add a simple item such as ‘sales leads’ to a traditional agenda.

Sales leads
Discussion led by Nick as to how we could increase the number of sales leads.

Sales leads
Report by each team member as to opportunities identified in the last month and progress on converting last month’s leads

Sales leads
Mark to explain why he thinks we’d get more leads if we used a different telemarketing company

Without the clarification it’s unlikely that more than one or two people will know what is to be discussed or why it’s on the agenda. WITH the clarification there’s much more chance of having a focused discussion first time round. And this means less wasted time in meetings and that has to be a good thing.

Do you have any other agenda tips to shareby way of comments on this blog post?

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