How To – Compile an agenda


A well-compiled agenda will help focus the direction of a meeting and ensure all the necessary discussion points are covered within the allotted time period. Here aresome tips on how to put together an effective agenda and how to the schedule items that need to appear.

What is an agenda?
An agenda is essentially a list of issues or items that have to be raised and debated within the context of a time-limited meeting. The format of a good agenda is short, simple and clear.

Compiling an agenda
The first step is to gather together all relevant information, sort out the items for discussion and then assess the level of detail that needs to be covered in the meeting. Where the agenda needs to incorporate a range of items, assign a time limit to each to ensure the overall time allocated to the meeting is appropriate.

Writing an agenda
Agendas are always headed with the date, time and location of the meeting and restricted to one sheet of paper if possible.

The traditional structure runs along the following lines:

  • Welcome and introductions (if appropriate)
  • Apologies for absence
  • Approve minutes of last meeting
  • Matters arising from last meeting
  • List of issues to be raised and covered
  • Any other business
  • Details of next meeting

Number each item and assign a start/finish time for the benefit of attendees not required to attend the whole meeting.

Always type agendas and leave plenty of room in the margins for notes.

Structuring an agenda
The order in which items appear on an agenda is important since it can influence the duration – and efficiency – of a meeting. Topics should be ordered logically and items with a similar theme grouped together.This will reduce the risk of re-visiting the same ground over and over.

Begin with routine and straightforward business where decisions are likely to be easy and uncontroversial. Housekeeping matters, such as apologies for absence and approval of minutes from the last meeting, should be placed at the top, followed by reports from those who were assigned various tasks at the previous meeting.

Once the less contentious issues are out of the way, current issues should be listed on the agenda and this is normally where the bulk of discussion occurs. Begin discussion of these points as soon as possible when participants are alert and be generous in the time you allow for discussion of these agenda points.

Finally, allow for any other business and plan to set the date, time and location of the next meeting.

Distributing an Agenda
Circulate a preliminary agenda well in advance and ask for feedback and comments, including any additions. Once the draft agenda has been approved, any changes further down the line will require consent from all participants.

Try to avoid presenting attendees with a revised agenda as they arrive for the meeting unless last minute events have made it completely unavoidable – this will have time implications and be unpopular.

Distribute the draft and final copies as far in advance as possible and attach any relevant papers to allow those attending enough time for preparation. Include on the agenda an indication of the likely duration of the meeting overall and the time allocation dedicated to each individual item. If in doubt, be generous with timings: participants are happy for meetings to finish earlier than planned but less happy if they overrun!

Attach any relevant supplementary papers to the final copy of the agenda before you circulate it and make sure that all participants are aware of what''s expected of them in plenty of time before the meeting.

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