Meeting Agendas: How to Design One that Actually Works

by in Best Practices

Let’s face it — we’ve all had a terrible meeting once or twice in our lives. They’re actually way more common than you might think. According to Doodle’s 2019 State of Meetings report, the cost of poorly organized meetings in 2019 will reach a whopping $399 billion in the United States alone, which is a tremendous drag on the effectiveness of businesses. One easy step to increasing your meeting effectiveness is to always include a meeting agenda. Here is our guide for designing a great meeting agenda that you can use the next time you schedule the conference room.

Meeting agenda on laptop for productive meetings  

What is a meeting agenda?

A meeting agenda is a chronological list of topics, tasks and activities to be addressed or acted upon during a meeting. A meeting agenda allows attendees to have an outline of what will be discussed in the meeting so that they can prepare ahead of time to ensure the most productive and effective meeting possible.

Meetings without agendas are the worst 

No one wants to be in a poorly planned meeting. Time is crucial to everyone in the room — and outside of the room — so having to sit in a conference room or on a video call with a group of people who don’t know why they are there in the first place can get a little frustrating.

Just by creating a simple outline of how you want to spend your time in this meeting and sharing it with your colleagues, not only can you eliminate confusion, you also set the tone for the meeting, define topics that are to be addressed and increase participant engagement since everyone has time to prepare information or research topics in advance. 

Five reasons to use a meeting agenda 

An effective and well-thought-out meeting agenda can do wonders for you and your colleagues. Here are five reasons to use a meeting agenda:

1. Address all the key talking points

There’s nothing worse than going to a meeting and having no idea why it was called in the first place. Agendas clearly list out topics being discussed in the given meeting time, so no one comes into the room completely clueless. 

2. Ensure everyone should be there

Attendees are hand-selected and are chosen to have a seat in the room for a reason. Whether you’re chosen to speak on a certain topic on the agenda or decisions made in this meeting directly affect you, being able to look at an agenda beforehand confirms your spot at the table. 

3. Define the outcomes

Every meeting has a reason for gathering. If you know the objective of a meeting going in — and what the outcome can be — there is less opportunity to stray away from the topic of discussion, therefore eliminating the risk of having a bad meeting.  

4. Keep attendees focused 

Agendas give attendees an outline to follow along with in the meeting. Conversations will stray less into the void and bleed less into other topics not on the list of discussion topics, keeping the meeting on track. 

5. Eliminate excuses 

With agendas sent out ahead of time, any excuse that a participant might have for not being ready to discuss a subject is eliminated. Agendas keep colleagues accountable for being prepared and presenting their best selves in the meeting room. 

Nine tips for creating your meeting agenda 

Creating your meeting agenda doesn’t have to be difficult. Here is a handful of tips on creating a thorough agenda to make the most of your meeting. You can use these tips whether your meeting is 30 minutes or a three-day conference and whether you’re meeting with a group of four or 100. 

1. Create the agenda early 

No one needs the stress of scrambling to put together an agenda minutes before the call — the later you send out an agenda, the less time people have to look at it. The earlier you get started on drafting an agenda, the more time you have to edit and make it presentable for your colleagues. 

2. Seek input from team members

To guarantee meeting engagement, make sure the agenda includes topics that they want to talk about. Ask attendees to suggest what they want to add so everyone can be involved from start to finish and everyone has a speaking turn in the meeting. 

3. Prioritize items that need to be addressed

Once you have all your topics on paper, order them by importance so you talk about the meatiest material at the beginning of the meeting. Meetings often run overtime, so you don’t want to be in a situation where you have to push important topics to the next meeting. 

4. Set a reasonable time limit

Forty-five-minute meetings give you that extra time to talk about things you might not be able to in a 30-minute sync and seem less intense and intimidating than full hour-long meetings. If you’re a Lifesize user, you can learn a lot about your company’s average meeting time in the Admin Console.

5. Keep “brainstorming sessions” out of a time-sensitive meeting

Open-ended meetings like brainstorms or whiteboarding sessions don’t usually have a time limit and can be held spur of the moment. Try to avoid those topics in meetings that have a strict time constraint for the sake of everyone else’s time and schedules.  

6. Determine whether a decision needs to be made for an item

Highlight issues that need to be resolved or decisions that require a vote to make it clear that attendees will be asked to participate. Be sure to give your team members a reasonable amount of time to consider their choices.

7. Use the 2/3 rule

When you make that meeting agenda and start pulling together attendees, make sure every person in the meeting is involved in at least two of the three things that are being discussed. That way, people don’t feel like they’re sitting in on a meeting where they aren’t needed. 

8. Keep to a schedule

It’s hard to time how long each agenda topic will be addressed, but try to allow enough time for each agenda topic without getting off track. Be flexible, but also make sure each topic is effectively and thoroughly discussed. 

9. Send your meeting agenda in advance

The earlier you can send your meeting agenda out, the more time you give your attendees to prepare. At the latest, make sure to share your meeting agenda 24 hours before the meeting — it’ll serve as a reminder that the meeting will be happening and give your colleagues an opportunity to make last-minute updates. 

Post-meeting questions to ask yourself

It’s important to evaluate how your meeting agenda affected the rest of your team after the meeting ends. By taking the time to reflect on how close your team stuck to the agenda or not, you can start outlining the next one. 

Did you allocate enough time?

You can’t predict exactly how much time to allot per topic on your agenda, and that’s okay! Sometimes you over- or underestimate how much your colleagues have to say about each topic — just make sure to include the ones you missed for your next meeting.

Did you stay on topic?

If you and your colleagues had a hard time staying on topic, make sure to be a little stricter the next time you meet. Topics were listed for a reason, and sometimes it takes a little extra oomph to stick to the agenda. 

Did you accomplish all or most of what you needed?

Take the topics you might not have gotten to on this call and make sure to include it on your next agenda, and maybe even send out a post-meeting email to attendees saying that the conversation about these missed topics isn’t quite over. 

What can you change for next time?

No agenda is perfect the first go-around. Take a moment and make the edits you need for the next time you meet – they’ll only get better! 

Three ways to enhance effective meetings

Lifesize is built to let teams communicate in all the ways they need to. With 15 years of experience building and supporting productive meetings, we know what you need to succeed. 

Share your screen

Empower your users with tools that simplify the way you meet. From sharing applications, presentations and files to streaming video and audio in the meeting room, Lifesize Share™ removes the complexity of having to bring the right cord or dongle with you to the meeting. With wireless meeting room connectivity, share your meeting agenda on screen and skip the scrambling that comes with passing cords and presentations.  

banner image for the blog promoting Lifesize share

See everything in clear detail

For detail-oriented and distributed teams, 4K video technology is the game changer you need to succeed. Lifesize is the first and only global 4K video conferencing solution in the market, with full-motion 4K content sharing and an unparalleled quality meeting experience. Powerful 20x zoom and rich camera optics provide incredible image clarity and a stunning meeting experience. 

Download our meeting agenda template

We’ve prepared a free meeting agenda template that you can copy and paste into the body of your next meeting invite. Include the basic details of the meeting (date, time, attendees, location), the main objective of why the meeting was called and any preparation your colleagues might need to do before the meeting starts. Include meeting topics, speakers, time limits and any other details that might be relevant to the meeting at hand.


Download the agenda template


Ready to get started with Lifesize?

Make the most of your time by meeting smarter, being proactive and sending out thorough meeting agendas to your colleagues in advance of your meeting. Schedule a demo with a Lifesize expert to see firsthand what a productive meeting experience can look like and be sure to subscribe to the blog for more tips on how to host more productive meetings.