It can be extremely challenging to get a group of colleagues on the same page at work. With more than two or three individuals, coordinating via e-mail can be inefficient and ineffective. But often, the meeting setup that takes the place of that cumbersome e-mail chain fails to deliver the desired outcomes and ends up being a big waste of time.
One of the major flaws professionals make with meetings is failing to utilize a solid agenda. Something so seemingly simple and basic can really make a tremendous difference in the effectiveness and efficiency of meetings.
Create an Agenda
Too many meetings simply don’t have an agenda at all. As surprising as that may sound, consider how many meetings are set up with simply a subject or broad topic, i.e., “quarterly check-in,” “address productivity challenges,” or “review new contract.”
All of these meetings have a focus but not an agenda. An agenda is a list of topics, in order, that need to be covered for the meeting to be considered complete.
Ensure the Agenda Reflects Priorities
Having an agenda is a key first step, but not all agendas are created equally. It’s important to prioritize key agenda items to ensure they get appropriate time and attention.
“Don’t leave the most important topics for last,” writes Jacqueline Whitmore in an article for Entrepreneur. “To ensure that the highest priority objectives are met, discuss the most pertinent issues first. That way, if someone needs to step away or leave the meeting early, you’ll still have accomplished your main goals.”
Stick to the Agenda
Finally, an agenda is only as effective as the person or team running the meeting. If the meeting organizer is unable to control the discussion and allows the participants to stray from the agenda, the benefits of that agenda can be lost completely.
Meetings are a necessary and often useful part of any organization. Unfortunately, many meetings are scheduled as little more than placeholders with no structure or objectives. Creating and sticking to a well-thought-out agenda can make a dramatic difference in the effectiveness of those meetings.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.