There are many different formats of meeting agendas, although very few stray from the basic structure.
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Word processing software, like Microsoft Word, offers agenda templates and agenda wizards for you to use.
The agenda format to use depends on:
When the attendees are going to view the agenda: Most agendas are distributed days before the meeting (which is recommended). There are cases, however, when an emergency meeting has to be called, and the agenda is sent on the meeting day/ hour itself. If it’s the latter case, write the agenda in outline form; this way it can be easily reviewed in the shortest time.
The context of the meeting: Some meetings in Sydney happen regularly, for example a monthly Board of Directors Meeting. In this case, sections on ‘Matters Resolved the Previous Meeting” or “Matters Arising from the Previous Meeting” may be appropriate for the meetings to have a good flow.
Agendas for meetings that happen regularly may not be as detailed as other agendas, as there is the presumption that regular attendees can easily make out what basic outlines and basic tags mean. The attendees’ level of familiarity with the items in the agenda can also dictate how detailed and how formal an agenda should be.
The purpose of the agenda: Your purpose in sending out an agenda can influence what format you should use.
Some agendas are meant as an invitation to potential meeting attendees. In this case you can include sections on how you perceive their input on the discussion would help.
Some agendas are meant as orientations. For example, The Toastmasters’ Club in Sydney issue agendas to inform their invitees what would happen in an event. They write the agenda in the second person, e.g. “This is the section where you discuss what happened in the last symposium…”
Writing the Agenda
When writing the agenda, consider the following factors:
- Priority of Items
- Consult everyone involved in the meeting what topics should be included in the agenda. At least, seek confirmation from your team if the agenda is accurate and complete.
- Rank the topics in descending order of importance and urgency. This way, it’s the less priority topics that get sacrificed in case there’s no more time.
- Logical Flow
- Start with topics arising from the previous meeting before new stuff, unless new issues are more important.
- Combine items that are related and or similar.
- Start with ‘informational items’ first, before items that require critical thinking and decision-making.
- Allot time for questions.
- Close with a wrap-up session.
- Plan for only 30 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Anything longer tends to be unproductive because of attendees’ fatigue.
- Be reasonable in setting the time that will spent on each topic. If the discussion has to be really focused, state in the agenda what precisely would be discussed. You may also advise attendees what they need to prepare beforehand to get the discussion flowing faster.
Good business writing skills are essential when preparing any official document like proposals, tenders, quotes, newsletters etc.
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