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How to write a meeting agenda – guide with templates and examples

Meetings are often a large part of how organizations get things done and ask teams to work together. Whether you’re a small startup working remotely or a massive multinational corporation, there are times that you and your team will need to come together and meet in order to be at your most effective. 

Going into a meeting without adequate planning, notice or structure rarely results in a productive meeting and so, designing a meeting agenda should be a part of your management and facilitation practice. Not only will you be more effective as a team, but you can avoid frustrating, overrunning or unproductive meetings and get better results too! 

It’s also worth noting that a meeting should only be run if it has a clear purpose and goal in mind. By considering what an agenda should include and following this process, you can cut out meetings that do not need to be run and make those that remain more effective.

In this guide, we’ll explore what makes a productive meeting and guide you through the process of designing a great agenda. Additionally, we’ll also share some example meeting agendas so you can see some working examples you can learn from too. Ready to start? Let’s dive in!

What is a meeting agenda?

In short, a meeting agenda is a breakdown of all the items that will be covered during a meeting. It should list all of the topics and tasks that will be covered during the meeting and also clearly articulate the purpose and expectations of the meeting. 

Your meeting agenda should also give everyone involved the information they need to successfully attend and adequately prepare. This means including all information relating to logistics, links and attachments and mentioning any preparations you wish everyone to do before the meeting. 

The best meeting agendas also help you effectively run the meeting on the day by giving you a step by step list of what to cover and timings for each major section of the meeting. 

Why is a meeting agenda important?

Preparation

By outlining what will be covered in your meeting, your agenda will ensure all the attendees can adequately prepare. This might mean preparing discussion topics, supplementary materials, or other items. Creating your meeting agenda and sending it out well in advance means everyone can do what they need to come to the meeting and make it a success. If you want your meeting attendees to contribute with thoughtful comments, give them a chance to prepare.

Scheduling and logistics

In the most basic terms, a meeting agenda will help everyone involved align their schedules and attend. By including the location or virtual room, date and time, and any necessary links, your meeting agenda will contain all the information people need to be there and adjust their calendars. You’ll also include information on how long the meeting will run for and timebox each section. If you have multiple people leading sections of the meeting, ensure you include clear timings for each of those sections so everyone can prepare and keep the meeting on track.

Productivity

Even the most simple meeting agenda will enable both the facilitator and participants to be productive. Going into a meeting with a clear agenda and timeboxed schedule means you and your group can be more effective and not get lost in side-discussions or unagreed topics. In short, an effective meeting agenda clearly sets the stage for what will and what will not be included and can ensure everyone is pushing in the same direction during the meeting.

Get team buy-in

Going into a meeting without a clear agenda or an idea of what will be covered is frustrating for everyone involved. Make meetings work for everyone by creating and sharing the agenda with the participants and agreeing on the format. 

Getting everyone on board can massively increase the productivity of any project or meeting and by developing a standardised agenda that makes it easy for everyone to understand and attend, they’ll fit more naturally into your team workflow too!

Improve your planning

Documenting your meeting agenda is the first stage in improving the quality of your meetings. DId you find that something in your agenda plan didn’t work out? Need less time for old business and more time on new items or setting follow-up actions? Go back to your agenda and adjust. Use a collaborative agenda planner tool if you want to  get comments and feedback on your meeting agenda!

Improve meeting culture

Creating a meeting template that works for everyone and has been refined over time can help make your entire team more productive and shift the mindset around meetings. 

The work you do in meetings can and should improve the work you do out of them, and a better meeting culture can help teams communicate better, surface issues effectively and more.

Help identify and remove ineffective meetings

A common complaint of most teams is that they have too many meetings or that the meetings they have are ineffective. Agenda-setting and following a process when developing your meetings can also help you and your team identify if a meeting should be run at all. 

Should it be a meeting?

Organized and well-facilitated meetings can be hugely productive to any group or organisation but not everything should be a meeting. In fact, some meetings can be detrimental to your team if they aren’t thoughtfully designed and run.

We’ve all felt the burnout of having too many meetings or been frustrated by a directionless meeting that feels like a waste of time. Before you set a meeting, ask yourself these questions to decide whether it is worth bringing everyone together.

Does the meeting have a clear goal or purpose?

Whenever you’re considering bringing your team together to work in real-time, it should be with a clear end result you want to achieve. 

If you need to collaborate on a topic or make a decision as a group in real-time, this is a great reason to have a meeting. If you do not have a goal or purpose, you should reconsider whether you should run the meeting at all. Nothing is more frustrating for a group than a meeting with no reason to be run. 

Remember that a daily catch-up or weekly progress report can be a good reason for a short meeting, though only if you can clearly articulate a goal and purpose. If you can’t, go back and clarify the purpose or goal and really determine if it’s worth holding the meeting. You might find asynchronous work or a simple email is a better option for sharing information or collaborating with your team. 

Could this be summed up in an email?

You don’t need to run a meeting every time you have a small piece of information to share. If your goal is to share information quickly, effectively and without the need for discussion, perhaps that could be shared in an email or on Slack instead?

Some topics are too large for email and if you want to discuss a topic or collaborate on solutions, a meeting might still be the right approach. Before you go in this direction, ask yourself if you couldn’t transmit the information you need to share in an email and save everyone involved the time and effort of an extra meeting. 

Could the meeting work be done asynchronously?

Not all discussions or activities need to be conducted in real-time. When asking a group to collect ideas or bring items for discussion to the table, ask whether you couldn’t do so in a shared document asynchronously. 

Collecting insights in this way allows everyone to contribute in their own time and reflect on the topic meaningfully before adding to the discussion. You will still want to timebox the activity and potentially debrief over email or in a meeting, but allocating tasks asynchronously can not only save time but also make everyone more productive too.

Who needs to be at the meeting?

Some challenges do not need an entire organisation in order to be solved. When holding a meeting, carefully consider who needs to be in the room to make it a success. You might find that you only need to chat to one other person in Slack in order to make something happen. Alternatively, you might still hold a meeting but limit the attendees so it is useful for everyone involved. 

Is the meeting an effective use of everyone’s time? 

Meetings are rarely the most important part of everyone’s day. Disrupting the flow of your team’s working day should only be done if it is an effective use of time for everyone involved. Particularly in times of upheaval or heavy workload, the potential time spent in meetings can mean other work is left incomplete. If you can achieve the same results without interrupting people whose time is better spent elsewhere, do so. Sometimes an email or invitation to a shared document is sufficient to get the work done. 

Is the meeting actually a workshop?

If the scope or the complexity of the meeting grows, it might be that you are running a workshop and not a meeting. In simple terms, the difference between a meeting and a workshop is that meetings are often where things are discussed while workshops are where groups go through a process and take action. 

Meetings are great for surfacing issues and discussions, while workshops are better at generating ideas, developing solutions and choosing the best followup actions. While both formats are worthwhile in different contexts, workshops employ group process, facilitation techniques and activities in order to be successful and do deeper, more involved work.  

What to include in a meeting invite?

Getting people to attend the meeting means sending a meeting invitation that includes all the necessary information in a simple, easy to understand format. You’ll likely send your meeting invite as an email or Calendar invite, though you might also use other dedicated meeting software. Here’s what you should include in yours.

Meeting logistics

Here, you’ll include everything your participants need to know in order to attend the meeting. Including:

  • Title of the meeting
  • The date and time of the meeting
  • The location of the meeting
  • For virtual meetings, include a link to the virtual meeting room and any necessary passwords
  • The run-time of the meeting
  • Host (and co-hosts) of the meeting
  • Additional meeting roles such as note taker
  • List of participants 

Purpose of the meeting

Ensure you include the purpose of the meeting in your agenda so everyone can understand why they’re being asked to attend and prepare adequately. You may also want to include any links to resources or co-creation documents. Additionally, include any background information to help participants understand the context of the meeting. If it’s the first in a series of meetings or a project retrospective, be sure to include that information here. 

Preparatory work 

If you have any preparations you wish participants to make before the meeting, include them here. This might include contributing ideas to an online whiteboard, reading a document that will be discussed, or preparing questions around the central topic of the meeting. Be sure to include links to any resources and make instructions completely clear.

Meeting agenda

The final section of your meeting invitation should be the agenda for your meeting. This should include a clear, simple list of the topics you will be covering. If a discussion item is led by someone other than the primary facilitator, include that information alongside each entry too. Ensure that the meeting agenda you send your participants covers everything 

What to include in a meeting agenda

Meetings of different purposes and may require different items in their agenda, though they should broadly follow the same structure in order to ensure the whole team can move through it productively. Remember to set timings for each section so your meeting can run on time and give everyone an indication of the scope of the discussion.

It’s worth noting that while you might have a detailed meeting agenda for yourself and any co-facilitators, you might share a simplified version with your participants. So long as you ensure that everyone attending has the information they need, your agenda can be as detailed or as simple as necessary. Let’s dive in!

Introductions and housekeeping 

Here, you’ll make sure everyone who needs to be in the meeting is present and make introductions where necessary. You’ll also briefly reiterate the purpose of the meeting.
In a virtual meeting, allow extra time to solve technical issues and get everyone on camera.

Icebreaker (optional)

Meeting icebreakers can be a great way of helping new groups get to know each other or warm-up and prepare a team for a difficult conversation ahead. Depending on your meeting format, agenda and length, you may want to include an icebreaker at the beginning. Remember that not every meeting needs an icebreaker. A regular weekly standup doesn’t need an icebreaker to warm everyone up. On the other hand, an interdepartmental meeting where people are coming together for the first time to discuss better ways of working might benefit from an icebreaker. 

Meeting topics and items for discussion

This is the main bulk of the agenda. Here, you’ll set out all of the items to be covered in your meeting. These might include a review of what was accomplished in a previous meeting, presentations of news and information, discussions, collaborative exercises and more. These items are completely contextual depending on the nature of your meeting and in our next section, you’ll see some example meeting agendas that include all kinds of items. 

Be sure to set a time for each item in your agenda and include a short description. If someone other than the host is leading this section, include that information too. Remember that the purpose of the agenda is to not only outline these items so people can understand the meeting at a glance but also give them opportunity to prepare.

Breaks (optional)

In longer meetings, breaks can be vital in ensuring everyone stays engaged, energized and is able to contribute meaningfully. As a general rule of thumb, a break every 1.5 to 2 hours is a great way to keep everyone happy and keep up group energy levels. Remember that virtual meetings are often more draining and so the necessity for a quick break is even greater in those situations. 

Set follow-up actions

Whatever the format or purpose of your meeting, there are likely to be follow-up actions that should be agreed upon before you adjourn. These might include taking action on  items discussed during the meeting, sending notes or resources, or simply agreeing the time and date of follow-ups or later meetings. The more complex the meeting, the more involved this part of the agenda is likely to be, so ensure you set adequate time for this.

When setting follow-up tasks, be sure to give each task an owner and agree on when that will be completed or checked in on. Ownership and timeboxing can help ensure that items set are completed in a timely manner.

Closing

All meetings should be brought to an effective close. Give participants an opportunity to add any final items, give feedback or briefly clarify any hanging questions before closing the meeting can help ensure follow up actions are taken and that everyone is on the same page leaving the meeting. You might even use a closing activity from our library of facilitation methods to help your group meaningfully reflect on the meeting. 

How to write an effective meeting agenda 

Once you know you are running the meeting and have an idea of the framework of the agenda, you’ll want to write up your agenda so you can share it with your participants. Creating a great meeting agenda doesn’t need to be a chore. Check out our tips below for help in writing a meeting agenda that can help your meeting be a success. 

Clearly identify and articulate the meeting’s goals

One common frustration point for meetings is that not everyone is on the same page regarding the goal or purpose of the meeting. Be absolutely clear on what falls under the remit of the meeting and what falls outside of it. By doing this, you can ensure all attendees are aligned going into the meeting, and you can also identify if additional work needs to be done elsewhere. 

If the goal of a meeting is to align your marketing and product teams on a project but you need to have the product team ready to present new features, you might set some preparatory work for the product team beforehand. By identifying and sharing the goal and purpose of the meeting early, you’re helping everyone make it a success.

Ask participants for input

If you’re running a meeting that will benefit from the input of participants, ask them to contribute ideas or possible agenda items in advance of the meeting. Not only can you ensure that the meeting is fit for purpose, but you can also source the best ideas and get team buy-in too.

You might also find that some sections of the meeting are best led by certain team members or stakeholders. Be sure to liaise with those people beforehand and let them know what sections they’ll be running, when and for how long. Switching meeting leaders can be productive, but only if everyone has had a chance to prepare! 

List the topics you want to address

If your meeting is following a discussion format, ensure that you include a list of all the topics or questions you will be discussing in the agenda. Though you might find these changes on the day, listing all of these items ensures participants know what to expect and can begin to prepare answers or know what to think about before the meeting. 

Having a list in place also helps with time management and prioritization during the meeting – if you know you have some key topics yet to be discussed, it helps guide the team to end one topic of discussion and move onto the next effectively.

Identify the purpose of each task

Identifying the purpose of your meeting should be the first thing you do, but when it comes to writing your meeting agenda, you’ll want to understand the purpose of each component in order to make it a success. 

Group meetings always benefit from focus and so each task or item should be selected in order to fulfill the purpose of the meeting. If you’re running a project retrospective meeting, you don’t need a section on company-wide news, for example. If you were running an all-day virtual meeting, you might include an online energizer after lunch so that people come back recharged and ready to engage. 

We often find that certain tasks deserve to be explored but a general team meeting is not the place to explore them. In these cases, it’s worth considering how best that work should be done – is it a separate meeting or could it be done asynchronously? Whatever the case, ensure that all of the items in your meeting agenda belong there, and that you’re not overstuffing or trying to combine two meetings. 

Remember that each part of the meeting should be there for a reason and omit items that have no purpose. Your meetings will be learner and more productive as a result! 

Timebox

Meetings that are effectively timeboxed are more productive and less frustrating. Try not to overrun and set times for each and every section of your meeting agenda. This can help prevent meandering conversations and keep everyone focused. Furthermore, people are less likely to dread attending your meetings if they run on time and they can schedule around them without worry! 

Setting times for discussion items can be difficult if you’ve never run the meeting before – estimate and use your best judgement but also take notes on how much time each section took up. You can go back to your agenda afterwards and improve for the next meeting.

Be simple and clear

Meetings do not need to be complicated and neither should there agendas. Keep your meeting agenda simple, clear and short for the best results. You want your participants to get a sense of the meeting easily, understand what they need to do to prepare and attend. Remember that people tend to have more meetings than they would like – don’t make it difficult for them to attend yours! 

Create a reusable template

Creating a meeting agenda from scratch each time is not only a waste of time, but it means you lose the potential to iterate and improve. By creating a template for your meeting agenda, you can speed up the process, develop a standard meeting schedule and also figure out where you can make improvements. Find that your first meeting agenda overran? Go back to the template and change the timings. Find that energy levels dip in your longer meetings? Find space to include an energizer. 

Making your agenda into a reusable and editable template is the first step to iterating and improving and is made easy in SessionLab too!

Keep it focused

A common mistake when designing a meeting agenda is to try and cram too much in. Your group will be much less effective if you attempt to cover lots of ground and don’t spend enough time where you need to. It is much better to cover key points with the relevant depth so you find solutions and make meaningful decisions rather than try and cover everything. 

Remember that focus is contextual. A daily-standup will have a different focus to an ideation meeting or project retrospective. Think of the purpose or goal of the meeting – if what you’re exploring is unrelated to the goal or purpose of the meeting, it shouldn’t be in the meeting. If your goal is to align on the next steps of a project or sum up progress so far, you might cover a lot of ground but it should be related to the core goal.

A good example of maintaining focus is with a daily stand-up meeting. The goal or purpose of a daily stand-up is to align on the tasks that are being performed for that day or week, and briefly appraise everyone of your progress. We find that keeping focus here means sharing the broad strokes of what we’ll be doing but ensuring we don’t dive into those tasks during the meeting. The purpose is to briefly align and course correct before we start our days, not to open up all those topics and take action. Ensure your agenda reflects this wherever possible.

Get feedback

Improving your meetings can’t happen in a vacuum. Get feedback from your participants on how the meeting went in order to improve the quality and structure of them. You can achieve this by using a debriefing activity or a round of feedback at the end of the meeting. While this is often the most effective way of getting quick, honest feedback on your meeting, you can also send out a survey afterwards. Whatever method you choose, listen to your meeting participants and make changes so that your meetings continue to be effective and useful for everyone involved. 

Meeting agenda templates

The job of meeting agenda isn’t truly complete until it’s been shared with your participants. But are you wondering what a finished meeting agenda looks like and want to see how you might put the finishing touches on an agenda that you might send to clients or internals teams?

For simple meetings, an agenda that covers the main discussion topics in a simple format such as a calendar invite is likely sufficient. See our Team alignment meeting agenda for an example of a simple meeting agenda.

For more involved meetings and group processes, a more in-depth meeting agenda should be used to adequately prepare everyone involved for the meeting ahead. We’ve included some common meeting formats that require a more complex agenda and thoughtful group process too. 

These meeting agenda examples will give you a taste of what a completed agenda looks like and hopefully give you inspiration for your own. Let’s take a look!

Team Alignment Meeting

Aligning teams and discussing possible roadblocks or team dependencies is often better in real-time. Being able to bring up ideas and concerns while also clarifying any points in a structured manner can help prevent email back and forths too!

Here’s a simple meeting agenda made using Google Calendar. Feel free to copy the format and use for your next team meeting!

Ready for some more complex meeting agendas? We’ve chosen a few common meeting formats and outlined an example agenda for you below. Each of these meeting agendas also features a SessionLab template so you can adjust it to your own needs too. Let’s take a look!

Project Kickoff 

Starting a new project is always worth getting together for. Even if you’re doing preparatory work in a collaborative Google document or working asynchronously for much of the project, a kick-off meeting in realtime is an efficient way to align and surface any issues before getting down to work in earnest. Let’s take a look at this kickoff meeting agenda to see how you can set off on the right foot with a short, one-hour meeting.

Preparatory Work 

Kicking off new projects is exciting, but without structure and proper table setting, the session can become messy and unproductive. Asking participants to complete a small amount of preparatory work before the meeting can help ensure the success of the kickoff and give everyone a chance to get into the right mindset.

For the project kickoff meeting, start a shared Google Doc or online whiteboard and invite participants to add their ideas, hopes and fears for the project before the meeting. Add some light background information to the top of the document and add some of your own ideas, hopes and fears before inviting other people to join. A blank page isn’t inviting and by adding something to the mix, you can show others how to proceed.

One of the other benefits of having this prep work is for participants to flush out some of their thoughts and feelings ahead of time and come to the kickoff meeting ready to meaningfully contribute. 

Introductions and check-in

Checking in and making introductions is a vital ingredient for any successful meeting agenda. Giving everyone a chance to speak and share a little something at the start of a meeting helps everyone in a group feel present and fully arrive in the meeting, ready to work. It can also help create the right mood and a sense of positivity so don’t miss this step out! 

Project Background and Purpose

Briefly outline the background of the project and what the goal is. What exactly are you hoping to achieve with this project, and how will you measure that success? Aligning everyone on the purpose of the project at this stage means you can save time down the line and ensure that the kickoff meeting is a success. 

Remember to share everything your team needs to get the background and include links and resources in the shared document so they can do further reading if they feel the need!

Scoping

Now your group is aligned on the background and why you are working on this project, the next stage is to discuss the scope of the project and dig a little deeper into the tasks that will need to be performed in order to complete the project.

You might discuss the timeframe of the project, the teams and staff involved as well as the challenges, risks and dependencies. You might also start thinking about who will lead the project and take charge of various subsections. You’ll get to assign tasks in the next stage, but by starting to discuss these items here you can ensure you adequately scope out the project according to everyone’s schedules and needs. 

Remember to use the hopes, fears and ideas contained in the shared document to help inform and guide the conversation if necessary. If someone has brought up an idea or challenge that changes the scope of the project, it should absolutely be brought up here. 

You might find that some items are hard to scope for at this stage. Use your best estimates and prior experience to scope as best you can. While timelines and scope can change over the course of a project, it’s important to have a developed idea of what you will be doing at this stage so you have a framework for moving forward. 

Tasks and Roles

Aligning on tasks and assigning project roles is one of the primary outputs of the kickoff meeting. Now you’ve scoped out the project in broad strokes, you’ll break it down further into key tasks and assign them to owners. 

Note that some tasks might be too granular or need further research before they can be defined here. At this stage, ensure that you block out the major steps of the project and empower your team to do the necessary followup work if they need to. 

It’s important to note if one task is dependent on the completion of another so that you can align your teams on task priority and ensure no-one is blocked from making progress later. 

Setting the Timeline

All successful projects have a timeline – not only a completion date, but a structured week by week breakdown of how a project and its associated tasks will be completed. While some tasks are harder than others to estimate the amount of time needed, placing items on a timeline and working backwards from an end date can really help set smaller deadlines and ensure the work gets done on time.

Open Questions

Creating space in the meeting agenda to answer anyone’s burning questions can save time and prevent potential pain points from occurring later. Refer back to the shared document or online whiteboard to see if all major points have been addressed and briefly open the floor for team members to ask any questions relating to what’s been covered so far. Clarifying tasks or questions of scope here can ensure everyone leaves satisfied and aligned.

If any questions are too large for the scope of the kickoff meeting, set a follow up task. It might be that a subteam needs to have a separate conversation or that more research needs to be done first. While all open questions are important and should be answered, remember that they might fall out of the remit of this kickoff meeting.  

Choose Next Steps

While you’ve already placed major project tasks on a timeline and aligned your team on the broad strokes of the project, it’s worth taking a moment to outline the steps that will be taken following the meeting. It’s easy for teams to leave a kickoff meeting and lose momentum, meaning that the project doesn’t get the kind of internal traction that leads to success. Take a moment to agree on steps to be taken immediately following the kickoff and also schedule a progress check-in if necessary.

Check-out

Checking-out of a project kickoff is a great way of continuing the work of the meeting, sharing positive energy and also giving everyone a chance to be heard once more. There is always value in giving everyone a moment in the spotlight to share how they feel so be sure not to miss this step.

Project Retrospective

Large projects can take many twists and turns. A retrospective meeting is where you and your team will discuss and learn from such projects with a view to improve things next time around. In this retrospective meeting agenda, see how your group might effectively reflect on a completed project and bring up any essential learning points in less than an hour!

Preparation

The retrospective group process starts with a little reflection time before the meeting. Be sure to first brief your participant about the scope of your retrospective – you can do this in your meeting invite, a weekly standup or in Slack. 

If you plan to review longer or more complex projects, give a couple of days of reflection time before the session, so people can collect their thoughts and look up any specific data points they might need for the retrospective.

Greeting and Kick Off

Here you’ll briefly welcome everyone to the meeting, do any small items of housekeeping and kick-off the meeting. If running an online retrospective, you’ll want to ensure everyone’s tech is working before you begin.

Facts and Figures Recap

In order to get everyone aligned on the scope of the retrospective, present the key facts of the project you are reviewing. (E.g. main achievements, timeline, resources & costs.) This will help people to recall the whole progression of the project before they note down their own observations in the next step.

If the project is particularly large, you may have stakeholders from different affected departments involved in recapping facts and figures from their departments. 

The 3Ls

Now you’ve gotten everyone up to speed with the results and metrics surrounding your retrospective, now’s the time to properly reflect.  

The 3Ls is a structured reflection activity which asks people to reflect on three aspects of the work done:

  • Liked – things you really liked
  • Learned – things you have learned
  • Lacked – things you have missed

After people have reflected individually, you can then cluster the responses together to align on project takeaways. These can be used as the basis for action, learning or championing success.

By using a structured activity to organise your groups reflections, you can save time and surface better insights than using a more open discussion structure – great for a short, timeboxed retrospective.

Memo to Myself

The purpose of this exercise is to support participants in applying their insights and learnings by writing an email with their main takeaways and sending it to their future selves.

Not only does this offer a clear learning path from the session but by having the email arrive in the future it also gives your participants an opportunity to check-in with themselves and ensure any opportunities or challenges are considered and worked on.

Letter to Myself #hyperisland #action #remote-friendly 

Often done at the end of a workshop or program, the purpose of this exercise is to support participants in applying their insights and learnings, by writing a letter and sending it to their future selves. They can define key actions that they would like their future self to take, and express their reasons why change needs to happen.

One-breath feedback and Closing

All good group processes need to be brought to a close. Use this opportunity to thank your participants and ask for one breath feedback on the session. This is a great moment to gain insight into your meeting format and adjust your agenda for future sessions. 

One breath feedback #closing #feedback #action 

This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.

Lightning Decision Jam

Unstructured, meandering discussions can kill a team’s creativity and remove the appetite for future meetings. Use Jonathan Courtney’s Lightning Decision Jam method as the basis for a short meeting in which you can use a group process to make quick, effective and thoughtful decisions. See the method below for full instructions.  

Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) #action #decision making #problem solving #issue analysis #innovation #design #remote-friendly 

The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process.

What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples:

  • The conversion flow of our checkout
  • Our internal design process
  • How we organise events
  • Keeping up with our competition
  • Improving sales flow

One-Hour Brain Sprint

With the right process, working collaboratively in a real-time meeting can be one of the most effective ways of generating ideas. Try the One-Hour Brain Sprint template to give your idea generation meeting a framework for success. 

Expert Interviews

The expert interview is an exercise from the Design Sprint where we bring the people with specific knowledge into the room to explain the briefing and the background of the project or subject of the brain sprint. Project managers, design team leads or even clients are good candidates for experts here.

The experts will allow open questions from the group but without any further discussions. Any interesting takeaways or facts should be written on post-its and added to the briefing box, ready for the next stage.

User Insights

Next, the experts will present more detailed reports relating to the project or challenge at hand. Ask further questions and make more post-its as necessary and add these to the briefing box. 

Lightning Demos

This is where the process gets fun! Everyone in the group takes post-its to write down the name of inspiring sites/products and relevant ideas or actions. Browse the internet or pull up some examples from experience – images, videos or any materials that can help explain the idea are encouraged too.

After the demos have been collected, each team member will have three minutes to present their demos to the group in a concise manner. Short explanations without further discussion only! 

Notes

Now we know the extent of the challenge and have found inspiration, the next stage is to come up with ideas. In this section, each person individually writes as many ideas as they can in a short period of time and sticks them to the wall/whiteboard.

Some rules to consider for this section:

  • go for quantity
  • build on other ideas
  • defer judgement
  • encourage wild ideas

At the end of this section, give one minute for everyone to put their ideas on the wall and read them aloud.

Notes, second turn

After the first round, invite participants to build on ideas generated in the first round or come up with new ones! Again create as many post-its as you can and stick them up on the wall/whiteboard. 

Vote

Now you and your team have a large collection of ideas, it’s time to vote on those you’d like to move forward with. Each team member gets 6 sticky dots to vote on their most liked ideas and they can distribute their dots however they wish. Refrain from discussion at this time so everyone can remain impartial and so you can move forward swiftly.

Once all the votes have been cast, organise those notes with votes in order of highest votes.

Wrap-up -> Execution

By the end of the session, you must decide what to do with the ideas. What’s the project? Who will the ideas be presented to?

One option is to divide up the post-its to all the designers in the group and have each of them develop a layout. In other cases, it is also possible to add an extra step: (see Concept Sketching)

Concept Sketching (optional)

If you and your team wish to flesh out some of your ideas further, you can use the concept sketching stage to refine and iterate upon your ideas. Here’s how!

  • For each idea, take a sheet of paper and put on the top a name for the idea to give it a more important aspect. 
  • Then rephrase or just copy the idea from the post-it. 
  • Add a rectangle below and sketch the idea in a simple and easy way. 
  • If prefered, add another colour to decorate, and if necessary, describe in two or three comments what you have drawn.

The concept sketches can be shared with the group as a basis for further action and discussion.

After the One Hour Brain Sprint is finished, you’ll have a set of ideas that have been generated with a combination of expert insight, outside inspiration and group voting. These can then be used by designers and problem solvers as the basis for action in a future session! If you want to see the template in full, check it out below!

Next steps

Now you’ve written a great meeting agenda that is clear, simple and fit for purpose, you’re almost set to run your meeting! Here, we’ll explore what you should do next and point out some resources that can help you improve the effectiveness of your meetings too.

Distribute your agenda in advance 

Give your participants adequate time to prepare and adjust their schedules for the meeting. Sending a complete agenda the day of the meeting isn’t sufficient and will only serve to frustrate your participants and lessen the potential productivity of the meeting. 

Remember that the more complex the meeting and the greater the prep work, the more time you want to give your participants between receiving the agenda and running the meeting.

Double check the logistics

Ensure that your meeting room is booked and free if you haven’t done so already and double check that anyone assigned to lead part of the meeting is available and prepared to do so. If you’re using tech as part of your meeting, make sure you have everything you need and perform a technical test if necessary. This is especially important if running an online meeting where the success of your meeting can be entirely lost if your tech fails!

Learn how to run better team meetings

Creating an agenda for your meeting is a vital part of ensuring its success, but running the meeting and managing discussions, tasks and activities requires some additional skills. In our post on running better team meetings, find out how you can encourage better working practices and create more productive meetings too.  

Improve your facilitation skills

Becoming a better facilitator can enable you to lead better meetings and make the most out of any group process. In our post on essential facilitation skills, learn all about the role of the facilitator and what you can do to be a more effective facilitator in meetings, workshops and more! 

Over to you

Learning how to improve your meeting agendas can make all the difference when enabling groups to work together effectively and make the most of their time spent in meetings. Did we miss something from the list above or did you find one of the meeting agenda templates especially useful? Let us know in the comments below?

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