4 Meeting Agenda Examples to Boost Productivity and Save Time
Meetings are essential to gaining alignment and creating an organization that can thrive, but they're only as effective as the agendas we create for them. This article will highlight the power of a time-tested (and time-saving) meeting agenda and how to turn any meeting from a bore… to adore.
As leaders, we recognize the New Age of Work has placed greater importance — and scrutiny — on meeting cadence, quality, and outcomes. People can work from anywhere; the easiest way to get them together is to “have a meeting.”
It’s critical we make the most of these meetings, time, and resources being as valuable as they are. After all, we don’t want to waste either, right?
Here are a few statistics1 that show there’s still work to be done:
- In the United States alone, there are around 55 million meetings held each week.
- An estimated $37 billion is lost per year to unproductive meetings.
- Workers spend an average of 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings.
Obviously, those are some heavy numbers and it’s clear that a well-crafted meeting agenda facilitating would behoove any company, anywhere.
So let’s get into ways we can do just that.
- A standard meeting agenda offers team members the predictability as well as the flexibility they need. It helps them to be adequately prepared and makes for an engaging conversation focused on specific outcomes and agreements.
- Ninety uses a proven meeting agenda for our recurring meetings, and we believe these meetings are at the heart of any great small to midsize business. Even better, they can easily be customized to fit your organization's needs.
- Some organizations may not be ready for a fully integrated platform that can automate meetings. So for any company that needs to create their own meeting agenda, we have six key steps to consider to ensure an effective use of everyone’s time.
Recognize the Barriers to Efficient Meetings
Before we dive into the importance of running great meetings and the agendas enabling them, let’s first acknowledge that meetings get a pretty bad rap for a host of reasons. Some say there are simply too many of them.
But it goes much deeper than that. Certain counterproductive traits seem to form a common theme for meeting malaise. People generally view the worst meetings as:
- too long, boring, or lacking in purpose
- framed by an unclear or vague meeting agenda
- hastily scheduled and prone to last-minute changes
- lacking action agreements and/or follow-up
Simply put, every inefficient meeting you run is time that could have been spent working towards hitting your goals.
At Ninety, we have leaders with extensive experience helping organizations grow from a startup in survival mode to a thriving company built to endure. We’ve been in many, MANY meetings. We’ve learned a lot along the way, which led us to create a platform of powerful tools that, among many other things, help businesses make the most of meetings.
A Meeting Agenda Offer Structure and Predictability
Let’s start by examining exactly WHY we bring people together for meetings in the first place:
- To get information or opinions
- To give information or opinions
- To solve issues (by making decisions and committing to actions)
- To create and work on ideas
- To maintain or increase trust
Using the framework famously popularized by Patrick Lencioni in his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, this last reason supports constructive conflict, commitment to decisions made, accountability, and attention to results. These are all critically important to building what we call a High-Trust Company, which, ultimately, is (or at least should be, in our opinion) the goal for any organization.
Now, here are the (probably obvious) required decisions for any meeting:
- Purpose. Why are we holding the meeting? What are we hoping to accomplish?
- Participants. Who do we want to participate in these meetings? Who should we invite?
- Cadence. Is it one time, or will it be recurring? How often?
- Duration. For how long?
- Agenda. What’s the necessary agenda to accomplish the purpose?
Once we’re clear on the goal, the participants, and the cadence, it’s much easier to think about what our meeting agenda needs to be for having a productive meeting.
When we set up recurring meetings, we believe in having a standard meeting agenda or a structure in place to offer team members the predictability as well as the flexibility they need. This helps them to be adequately prepared and makes for an engaging conversation focused on specific outcomes and agreements.
There are many meeting agenda frameworks for weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual recurring meetings. As you'll see below with some examples from the Ninety platform, that structure guides team members through the meeting step by step, tracking time… and saving time.
Meeting Types and the Agendas That Drive Them
In a future post, we’ll outline all kinds of meetings, ranging from essential to non-essential to recurring or reactive meetings. Depending on the size and status of an organization, there could be at least 20 different meetings we’ve identified to ensure alignment and actions at the individual, departmental, and organizational level.
For the purpose of highlighting proven, time-saving agendas, we’re sharing a cross-section of the essential, recurring meetings we run here at Ninety. These are just a few of the meetings we believe you’ll find at the heart of any great small to midsize business. Perhaps the best part? They can easily be customized to fit your organization’s needs.
- Weekly Team Meetings (WTM). Every team, and every team member, is in a WTM with their leader and their peers, leveraging the same agenda across the company so that we are all on the same page and everyone has an opportunity to talk about any issues that are getting in their way. Our WTMs focus on accountability, staying connected and solving problems.
- Quarterly Planning Meetings (QPM). These are recurring meetings held approximately every 90 days to keep our teams aligned and pointed in the right direction. They increase team health and contribute to our collective ability to Get Smart Stuff Done (we use the term GSSD all the time here), one of our Core Values at Ninety. Like WTMs, our QPMs are also multi-purpose: accountability, planning, coaching, teaching, bonding and problem-solving.
- Annuals. These are recurring meetings held once a year, typically running a full day or two to cover an extensive agenda appropriately. At Ninety, we hold Annuals with our Senior Leadership Team and each of our departments. Annuals are also multi-purpose: accountability, planning, coaching, teaching, bonding and problem-solving.
- 1-on-1 meetings. These are recurring feedback (or “feedforward,” as we call it) meetings between a team leader and a team member that everyone has. We run weekly and quarterly versions of a 1-on-1. We deeply believe in the weekly/quarterly 1-on-1 cadence because it helps foster alignment, mutual accountability between individuals, and a team member’s career development in a way an “annual review” simply cannot.
Despite the different purposes for each meeting, the common thread is both the efficiency and effectiveness enabled by Ninety's meeting management software. It helps automate and document your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings. It tracks how you spend time using our in-app timer. It allows the creation of To-Dos or Issues mid-meeting. And it lets you easily record and share information with other teams.
We also want to point out the bookends to our meetings. We begin with a Segue. This allows team members to share personal or professional highlights that help everyone stay meaningfully connected on a personal level. It sets a solid tone for the meeting and helps get everyone focused for engaging dialogue.
Our meetings conclude with each participant rating the meeting on a scale of 1-10. This tells us whether or not the meeting (ahem) met expectations and if it was effective. Spoiler alert: they’re very effective, judging by the ratings.
The Value of a Meeting Agenda in a Remote Work Environment
We’ve all learned our fair share about what works — and what doesn’t — with remote teams. Balancing schedules across different time zones, keeping everyone engaged, mitigtating the risk of potential distractions at home… This is where the value of a meeting agenda really shows up.
Teams that are fully aware of what they’ll be tackling in a meeting will be better prepared for it, especially when working remotely. For anyone who has worked from home, think how many times a phrase like this has been uttered: “Look, I have a meeting at 2:00 and cannot be distracted. Please don’t text, call or interrupt me for the next hour unless it’s something critical that simply can’t wait.”
Now, granted, whether there’s full cooperation at home when such a request is made can be a crapshoot. (A 4-year-old might not always get passing grades on this one… but everyone understands.) The point is, when we see a meeting agenda and know exactly why we’re in the meeting and how we can participate, we take great lengths to ensure we’re “all in” and fully focused on moving through the Issues. Because we value our team members and the time we’ve all taken to have the meeting at the expense of staying heads down on other work.
Now, if we didn’t have an effective agenda to align us all? Well, let’s just agree that there’d be a good amount of time wasted And nobody has time for THAT..
Agenda Strategies When You Need to Create Your Own
We realize some organizations may not be ready for a fully integrated platform that can automate meetings and eliminate the headaches of creating agendas. But, from now until then, we can help bridge the gap if you need to write your own meeting agenda.
These six steps outline what we feel is the best way to think about it:
- Determine the reason for the meeting.
Starting with an achievable goal allows participants to understand why they will meet. Meeting agenda items are focused on the stated objective.
- Get ideas from participants.
Engage your team members even before the meeting takes place by asking them for input on the meeting agenda. Asking them for topics they’d like to discuss or questions they’d like answers to will help to ensure the time is spent fulfilling their needs. It also allows them to decide whether they should be participants. Be sure to include all relevant feedback in the agenda.
- Clarify the purpose of each meeting agenda item.
To encourage discussion, try phrasing each agenda item as a question. Then, identify the purpose of each item, such as sharing information or getting input or making a decision. By noting each item’s purpose on the agenda, participants will better understand what’s expected of them for each discussion.
- Estimate how much time to spend on each meeting agenda item.
Divide the meeting time among all agenda items, giving weight to items needing more time. This helps streamline communication and keeps the meeting on schedule.
- Identify participant roles for the meeting.
In addition to the meeting leader, give other people a chance to lead the discussion. Decide who will handle what agenda items and who will take meeting notes.
- Leave time at the end to discuss next steps.
At the end of the meeting, reserve time to review discussions, conclusions and decisions. This helps participants better understand the next steps after the meeting. For example, when running a meeting in Ninety, the program automatically sends participants a recap email detailing what was discussed and the action items that need to be addressed before the next meeting.
Feeling well-armed to run an efficient meeting? We sure hope so. While we know every organization is different, we deeply believe that running efficient meetings with a time-tested meeting agenda enables any organization to focus, align, and thrive.
At Ninety, our cloud-based platform features proven, effective meeting tools and agendas to help small and midsize businesses master the art and science of running great meetings. The kind of meetings that provide structure, focus discussion, reduce tangents, and increase overall meeting efficiency.
If you’d like to learn more about setting the right agenda, read more about how we run effective meetings that truly enable teams to thrive.
Also be sure to add our blog to your favorites list so you’ll quickly find more of our best practices for running great meetings, company building, and other related topics. And if you love what you’ve read, share it!
Automate and Run Your First Meeting for Free
Meetings are essential to work, but they’ll become unproductive and inefficient if not properly planned. Imagine being able to structure meetings to ensure all objectives are met, everyone is aligned, and all topics are covered within the allotted time.
Fortunately, there’s a way to do just that. Ninety’s meeting tool lets you automate and run meetings that lead to focused discussions… and fewer tangents.
Start making the most of your time. Create your first meeting for free in Ninety today.