Meeting mistake 4: No written agenda

If you want your staff to arrive on time, ready to contribute to the objective announced in the invitation, you must prepare an agenda in advance and, when possible, share it at least 24 hours before the meeting.

Characteristics of a poorly prepared agenda: Too much time devoted to listening to reports. Lack of background information about a key issue and/or no one prepared to present it. Unrealistic number of items on the agenda.

Characteristics of a well prepared agenda: Items are prioritized, with the important, urgent and/or controversial topics at the beginning, not at the end. Related topics are grouped together. Topics that do not fit on the agenda, either for reasons of time or because the needed preparation has not been done, are posted in a separate list of “pending items”.

Benefits of correcting this mistake:

  • Shows how the stated objective will be reached.
  • Greater realism regarding use of time in the agenda can overcome reluctance to attend meetings.
  • Prevents detours in the conversation.
  • Seeing topics being addressed in a systematic way builds confidence in the process.

In practice: Schedule time to plan the agenda, preferably several days before the meeting. If necessary, consult with others to choose and order the priority items.

Facilitation tip: Check off or cross out items on the agenda after they have been discussed.

Having the agenda visible at the start of the meeting sends the message:               We are here to work!

This is the fourth of five messages about common mistakes that that make meetings boring and unproductive. You can see the complete list in our new, free guide: Excellent Meetings at Work.


About the Author:

Beatrice Briggs is the founder and director of the International Institute for Facilitation and Change, a consulting firm based in Mexico. A Certified™ Professional Facilitator, she puts her years of experience at the service of leaders who want to make their meetings worth the time, talent and money invested in them. A native of the United States, Beatrice has lived in Mexico since 1998, working in both English and Spanish to alleviate the suffering caused by bad meetings wherever they occur.