Creating an Agenda for Meeting Success
By Linda L. Mather
IAF-Certified Professional Facilitator and Assessor
A neighborhood meeting regarding curbs and sidewalks that I once attended quickly
deteriorated into a free-flowing discussion dominated by the most vocal people in the
room. An important tool for managing the meeting had been overlooked—an agenda.
The agenda is very important to running a successful meeting. It sets the stage and
establishes parameters. For the convener, the agenda is an important preparation tool. For
the participants, the agenda is a road map that confirms the goals of the meeting and the
way to reach them.
Let’s assume you are going to convene the curbs and sidewalks
meeting. Developing an agenda will help you think ahead about
the timeline, activities and outcome of the meeting.
The activities of the meeting will be dictated by what you want to
happen at the end. How much information needs to be
communicated? How many speakers will there be? What topics
need to be discussed? How much discussion? Based on your
answers to these questions, you can map out how much time each
portion of the meeting will take. You are estimating, but it should
prevent running out of time without discussing important issues.
Important discussion and information items should be labeled as such on the agenda.
Think about who should provide the information or lead the discussion. Maybe a subject
expert, in this case an arborist, an engineer or the mayor, might be preferable as
discussion leader to you as meeting chair. Think about ways to focus the discussion.
Rather than general questions such as “what do you think?” consider listing several key
questions related to the discussion topic. The traditional 5Ws (who, what, when, where
and why) are a good starting point. Assume that the participants can change these
questions, but in most cases they will agree and use them to guide their thoughts. For
example, in my curbs and sidewalk meeting, the answer to, “Why do we need curbs and
sidewalks?” included the federal Clean Water Act and the re-grading of the street.
Most important, decide how to end the meeting. Does the group need a list of further
areas to explore or additional questions to be asked? Should a committee be convened to
continue the explorations? Do you need to reach consensus or is a simple yes/no vote
enough? Will you need to create an action plan?
So let’s see how your agenda for the curbs and sidewalks meeting might look.