“Good thing I left way too early,”

John peeks his head out of the car, and there is no end in sight to the highway gridlock. He turns on his favorite radio station, but the head-bopping vibes that his music normally gives him are absent today; all he can think about is the meeting that can change his career.

Highway traffic jam!
Beep Beep!

“I guess the only thing I can do right now is go over my meeting agenda, the backbone of a productive meeting, and what I included in there to moderate the meeting direction and focus.” Classic John, always turning a negative into a positive.

As he submerges himself into his meeting plans, the traffic around him begins to fade away.

1. Setting

The setting provides all the necessary and basic information for the meeting: where it is, when it is, and the conference dial-in and access code if you need to connect remotely. The attendee list is one of the most important parts of this section, since it shows everyone who will attend, and potential reasons for not being able to attend.

Good thing I only invited people that are essential to the meeting, and made sure not to leave anyone out.

2. Topics/Objectives

This might be the most important part of an agenda: the topics to examine and the objectives we want to accomplish. The information provided here can be brief, but it has to give enough information to the attendees when you email or give it to them. I have actually discussed these matters with many of our attendees beforehand so they can research and make concise arguments in advance. I always like to keep lists short, so having around 5 topics narrows down the spectrum of the meeting down to the essentials.

3. Timetable

Next to each topic should be a general time slot, so as the moderator I can see if we’re falling behind and my attendees can pace themselves and form arguments that fit with the allocated time slots. Timetables should also include the estimated time used for the entire meeting and the amount of time each “process” would take after the meeting. One of my biggest pet peeves is wasting precious time, so this is the key to an effective meeting.

After all, timing is everything… just ask my wife.

4. Parking Lot

Since my agenda is on a shared document online, I always leave a “Parking Lot” section near the end of the agenda to harbor unexpected topics. The Parking Lot is a storage for topics that arise during the meeting but would take time and steer the attention off of the main objectives. Putting the topic in the parking lot saves time while assuring my attendees that their new topics will be revisited.

5. Follow-Up Section

Following up is just as important as the meeting itself! Below each topic should be a Results or Follow-Up section to write the decisions and next steps to take for each topic. Having this section organizes the conclusions made in the meeting and allows attendees to visualize the process that has to take place afterward.

… HONK, HONK. John snaps back to reality and realizes that the car in front is 15 meters ahead already, and the traffic jam is over. He takes a deep breath then gently steps on the gas. His head starts to sway to the beat.

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