How to Create an Online Meeting Agenda and Run Productive Meetings

Creating a meeting agenda guarantees order in your meetings, limits distractions, ensures that you address only important points, and that every person understands the desired outcome. 

Since the pandemic hit, there has been a meteoric rise in online meetings. Video meetings experienced a surge in usage by 50% in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic days. This is because of the many advantages of using video conferencing software for online meetings. 

But even with the rise in online meetings and video conferencing software, the cost of poorly organized meetings is still staggering. Every year, $541 billion is lost because of poorly organized meetings.

Several culprits contribute to this loss. First, research shows that 59% of meetings do not stay on the topic. This is frustrating for many people who feel a lot of time is wasted discussing irrelevant things.

To make meetings more productive, organizations need to set proper meeting agendas. A meeting agenda involves an organized list of activities, events, tasks, and matters to address. 

Creating a meeting agenda guarantees order in your meetings, limits distractions, ensures that you address only important points, and that every person understands the desired outcome. 

So how do you create an online meeting agenda that leads to productive meetings? Here are seven tips you can use.

Prepare the agenda ahead of the meeting

One reason most meetings fail to achieve their goal is when they aren’t set up with a purpose. The plan of discussion is not thought out thoroughly or is hurriedly conceived before the meeting starts. The result is confusion, long pauses, blank stares, participants shuffling for adequate information, or discussing non-work matters like politics.

To avoid such a dilemma and save time, draft your meeting agenda early so that you have enough time to edit, make it presentable, and even incorporate other team members' ideas. In this draft, specify the role of each person, items to be discussed, and send electronic copies to everyone for referencing at least a day before the meeting. 

In addition, set automatic reminders in your calendar that inform every person of the meeting day and purpose. By setting up a clear and concise goal, employees will easily recognize the importance of the meeting and its larger purpose. 

Set time limits

Once you have drafted your meeting purposes, the next factor to look into is time. Set how long the meeting will take. Keep in mind that you are taking people out of their busy schedule, so inform them how much of their time you intend to use. 

Explicitly state the time you give each participant to share his/her views or duration for discussing each agenda. For example, you may allocate each agenda point 20 minutes and participants 5 minutes to chime in. Besides, provide breaks. Setting time limits will ensure participants don't stay too long discussing a topic nor the meeting going for too long.

Set clear rules

Meetings are attended by so many types of people —some drop in late while some feel their views or concerns about a particular talking point aren't being considered. They may start a heated argument and stir conflict, steering the team away from the agenda of the meeting.

Such negative behavior, actions, or scenes can be mitigated by setting clear guidelines and rules. Guidelines or rules prevent conflict from getting out of control, ensure order, and minimize distractions. 

In your list of rules, etiquette should be first. Ensure participants keep their phones silent, avoid multitasking during the meeting nor conversing with another person. When attending an online meeting, everyone should be properly dressed and ensure their partners don't interrupt the meeting. Besides, they too should not interrupt others contributing to the meeting agenda.

Apart from these online meeting etiquettes, consider your settings. For example, the environment where you run your meetings should not be noisy or have a distractive background. Additionally, it should be well lit. 

Encourage members to seek permission from the moderator before speaking and to have their mic on mute when not speaking. For security reasons, advise members not to share login passwords for the meeting with non-attendees to prevent cyber-harassment activities such as zoom bombing.

Engage members and seek their inputs

Meetings fail when people can't share their knowledge, feedback or input. Your responsibility is to encourage interaction by asking members to offer suggestions on what they want to talk about and what they think requires urgent attention before the meeting. 

This ensures that every person is involved in the meeting from start to end and improves engagement.

Prepare your systems before the meeting day

System failures are not a new thing in online meetings. Even after carefully setting up your equipment, they may still fail you. 

Research by Loopup shows that 13 minutes of every person is spent to make a setup user-friendly or run smoothly. This, when converted into money, may run into several thousand dollars. 

You must check and recheck your systems (camera, phone, or microphone) to ensure they function correctly a few minutes before the meeting. 

Besides, encourage employees to do the same. Where your system may fail you, you can opt for an outside online meeting tool or platform to conduct your meetings appropriately. Besides, avoid out-of-date technologies that may cause frequent system failures.

Pick a moderator

To ensure your meetings don't go off track, pick a moderator to oversee the meeting proceedings. The moderator should be the only person with the authority to permit others to speak. The moderator keeps everyone focused on the meeting's purpose, maintains order throughout the meeting, and limits miscommunication that may arise. 

End the meeting with a specific action

Another factor that leads to unproductive online meetings is the lack of a specific action to conclude the meeting. As a result, employees leave the meeting unsure of the next step or course of action. 

For your online meetings, summarise them with a coherent action plan so that every employee is in agreement with your views when they leave the meeting. Make sure each employee understands their task and the importance of completing the task. To instill commitment and a sense of urgency, give deadlines for a particular task and lay out the consequences of not meeting that deadline. 

Conclusion

Many believe tech is the solution to ineffective meetings. However, it can only lower time commitment and streamline collaboration. Tech cannot remove culprits that make meetings fail, such as irrelevant discussion, repetition, and distractions from non-attendees or multitasking.

On the other hand, formulating a proper online meeting agenda can. An online meeting agenda ensures that only important topics are covered, prevents your meeting from going off track, gets the right response from your team members, and helps you achieve the objectives of the meeting.

About the Author

Adela Belin is a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope to make a difference in people's lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

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