Investors Business Daily taps IA for expertise about meetings
Tightly Organized Agendas Lead To Fruitful Meetings
by Morey Stettner, Investors Business Daily.
A succinct, well-organized agenda raises the odds of a successful meeting. It saves time, sets expectations and helps attendees prepare.
"An agenda is a road map that keeps everyone on track," said Demetra Anagnostopoulos, director of sales and marketing at Interaction Associates, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. "Some senior executives spend 75% of their time in meetings, so a good agenda makes sure that time is well-spent."
In the days before your meeting, distribute a one-page agenda that's divided into three parts, Anagnostopoulos says.
At the top, describe your desired outcomes. Specify what you want the group to achieve by the time they leave.
Avoid vague outcomes such as, "We will cover five areas where we need to improve service." A better approach is to define exactly what kind of agreement you want to reach among attendees.
There are two kinds of desired outcomes. Product outcomes involve concrete deliverables such as drafting a list of your organization's top vendors or customers.
Knowledge outcomes are loftier. Examples include reaching an understanding among the group about budget priorities or strategic initiatives.
In identifying both types of desired outcomes in your agenda, use what Anagnostopoulos calls " 'so that' statements."
For instance write, "We will list our top 10 vendors so that we give them preferential treatment" or "We will reach an understanding of budgetary goals so that we take appropriate steps to allocate marketing expenses."
Beginning an agenda with clear desired outcomes alerts everyone of what they must do after the meeting. It focuses their energy on tangible results for which you will hold them accountable.
The second part of the agenda answers nitty-gritty questions such as, "What will participants do in the meeting — and in what order?," "Who will lead the group?" and "How much time will people spend on each
Giving attendees a preview of these issues will facilitate smooth decision-making when it counts, Anagnostopoulos says. It removes the mystery of what topics will receive attention, who will take charge of each topic and what activities you expect people to engage in.
Another question you may want to answer is, "How will the group discuss the issues?" Answers may include brainstorming, viewing a video and discussing its key points or listening to presentations by designated attendees or guest speakers.
"The danger of this question is some executives tend to get bogged down in the process," Anagnostopoulos said. "If you're not sure how you want the group to learn and interact with each other, you can skip it in the agenda."
The agenda should conclude with "next steps." These forward-looking results should tie directly to the desired outcomes at the top of the page, Anagnostopoulos says, thus framing the agenda and giving everyone a sense of how to translate desired outcomes into action steps.