Meeting agendas have many benefits, yet surprisingly few leaders take
the time to plan and circulate an agenda ahead of time. This publication
will help group leaders construct, disseminate and use an effective
MT198433 HR 6/2002
Planning Meeting Agendas
by Dave Sharpe, MSU Extension Community Development Specialist
o your meetings have a
specific agenda? If they
have one, is it merely a
listing of topics? Are the members
aware of the agenda? Do the first
items on the agenda get lengthy
discussion and the last little, if any?
Are items frequently dropped from
the discussion, forgotten or tabled
until the next meeting because the
members have worn out or the time
has run out? Planning an agenda
requires careful thought before the
meeting. It takes time and effort.
But a carefully planned agenda can
help prevent these common meet-
ing problems and can serve a num-
ber of other important functions as
well. The functions are those that
improve meeting efficiency and
• The agenda lets both members
and leaders know what has been
accomplished and what remains
to be accomplished.
• It permits adequate consideration
of all agenda items.
• It keeps discussion on track,
preventing introduction of extra-
• The agenda helps maintain the
organization by planning to meet
the needs of all members.
• If circulated between meetings,
the agenda helps maintain com-
munication among members.
• It helps everyone understand
what concerns are to be addressed
and what action is to be taken on
• It helps members and others
decide if they’re interested in
• If circulated before the meeting,
the agenda allows members time
to prepare to participate more
effectively at the meeting.
• It allows a carefully planned cli-
mate to occur.
With all of an agenda’s benefits,
it is surprising that few leaders take
the time to plan and circulate agen-
das. For many meetings, the agenda
exists only in the chairperson’s
Follow these five steps for plan-
ning meeting agendas:
Step 1-Gather items to be
Items to he covered come from a
variety of sources. As a group
leader, you are aware of old busi-
ness items from previous meetings
that need to be covered. Most
groups have committee reports that
must he included in the agenda.
You may already be thinking of
new business items that should be
considered. Additional ideas for
new business may come from other
group members, state or national
levels of your organization and
from other interests in the commu-
Involving members in this item-
gathering step is very important.
People are more likely to be com-
mitted to activities they help plan,
including group meetings. Mem-
bers can be involved through
agenda planning committees. Mem-
bers can also be involved through
mailed or telephone surveys asking
what items they would like to see
included at the meeting.
Step 2—Consider member
In addition to the business items
that help the group accomplish its
tasks, you should include activities
that help maintain the group. Dif-
ferent people are interested in dif-
ferent things. Try to anticipate
which topics and activities will
interest individual members. Then,
plan activities that will interest as
many as possible at each meeting.
If you cannot pack everyone’s
interests into one meeting, make
sure everyone’s interests get ad-
dressed at future meetings.
Arnold Bateman lists the follow-
ing member needs and suggested
group activities to meet these