All meetings should have an agenda , even if it just an objective and a list of items to discuss. You may find yourself in the situation where you need to call a meeting at very short notice to discuss one or two items with a couple of other colleagues.

The temptation is to treat this short meeting as a chat or exchange of ideas and not bother to have an agenda . Your reasoning may be that it will take longer to sort the agenda out than it will to just have the meeting, as it'll 'only take five minutes.'

Agendas for Short Meetings

In reality, producing an agenda for this type of meeting would only take you a few minutes and can quickly and efficiently be sent by email or text to the other attendees. By taking these few minutes to prepare properly you will avoid others coming to your meeting unprepared and wasting everyone else's time whilst they scratch around trying to pull together key facts and figures.

There is a general expectation that meetings should last about thirty minutes or more, so people will often talk for at least that long, or longer, even if a substantive agreement was reached in the first ten minutes. This is because even when a ten-minute debate achieves the meeting's purpose, people's expectations are that they will not be able to start their next task for another twenty minutes, so they fill the time allocation discussing topics beyond the original objective, or are happy to use the time in social chit-chat.

If you are asked to attend an ad hoc meeting, always request an agenda. Attending a meeting without an agenda could leave you vulnerable to being 'bounced' into agreeing to something as opposed to preparing properly and making an informed decision.

As a manager, you have a team of 'technical' experts who advise and inform you of implications and dependencies that relate to their area of expertise. Without the opportunity to consult with them prior to the meeting you could find that the time and resources that you have allocated to solving a problem are completely impractical.

For example, you could be asked:

'Can one of your guys take responsibility for migrating the sales database by Monday week? It's only a ten-minute job.'

If you agree to requests such as these it could have unknown and serious implications on your other projects, as your technical team member has the up-to-date knowledge of what is actually involved regarding the technical skills needed, the timeframe required, potential risks, and implications such a request would involve. Some of these may be unavoidable but with preparation you would not get any nasty surprises.

An agenda is essential if you want your meetings to be successful. Creating an agenda forces you to consider why you are having a meeting and if it is the best way to achieve your purpose. It makes you reflect on what you want to accomplish and who needs to attend for this to be attained. Finally, it gives you an indication of how long each discussion needs to take for an informed decision to be reached.

This Meeting Agenda Checklist outlines the five key areas you need to address to produce an effective agenda. This Meeting Action List Template enables you to record actions, responsibilities and timescales that result from the meeting.

By having an agenda it is much easier for you to keep a record of what decisions were made at the meeting and what actions resulted from these, as well as which ones are the most important for you to follow up. It presents you with a logical sequence of how decisions were arrived at and offers you a way of measuring the meeting's success.

The importance of a meeting agenda

By following the process of creating an agenda you have also maximized the contributions of your attendees because you gave them sufficient time to prepare any information or documentation required. It enables teams to send one well-informed representative rather than several individuals who each have very specific areas of knowledge. This ensures productive use of teams' resources.

Your agenda also sets your attendees' expectations of how long your meeting will be, and any necessary data provided as part of these proceedings provides a common knowledge-base for all attendees. In creating an agenda you had arranged the items logically so that each issue was discussed once, avoiding the trap of repeatedly covering the same ground.

By following such standards in preparing for your meetings you will illustrate your professionalism and demonstrate to colleagues and third parties that you desire others to conduct themselves in a similar manner too.

You may also be interested in:
Meeting Agenda Format | Writing a Meeting Agenda | Meeting Agenda Sample .


Key Points

  • Even short ad hoc meetings benefit from an agenda as it gives a meeting purpose and focus.
  • Discussions will fill the time the meeting is expected to take.
  • Attending a meeting without an agenda could leave you vulnerable to agreeing to something that you later regret.

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