Developing a purposeful agenda: Part 2

What do the items on a purposeful agenda actually mean?

A purposeful agenda always begins with a welcome or introductions. This is important! Oftentimes, when first arriving at a meeting, especially if it is later in the afternoon, a person may be distracted by events that occurred during their day. The short time dedicated to this part helps participants begin to focus on the task at hand. It may be as simple as going around the room asking each person to state one thing they accomplished that day or what they hope to gain at this particular meeting. Depending on how new the group is and what the introduction activity is, 5-10 minutes should be sufficient for this section.

Action items, also referred to as old business, are usually next on the purposeful agenda. Committee reports, updates and requests for future action occur during this segment. It is common courtesy to correspond with persons responsible for providing a report or request prior to completing the agenda. This segment is much more interesting to the meeting participants if they are asked for specific advice, feedback or assistance. The person reporting should be clear as to what they will be asking of the group and enough time allotted on the agenda to accomplish their goal. If they are not requesting assistance or feedback, then a very brief verbal description, with a written report, is usually sufficient. The agenda should list the name of who will report each item, as well as the expected time and action.

New business usually relates to items that have arisen since the last meeting. The person preparing the agenda should determine what may need to be communicated or discussed and put these topics on the agenda. Be sure to ask for everyone’s input during the discussion.

Additions to the agenda are usually requested at the beginning of the meeting and then requested again during new business, because it is possible that new discussion items have arisen from the events during the meeting. Also, the leader may wish to go around the table, round robin, and ask each person if they have anything to add. The group will then determine if the item should be added to the end of the existing agenda, or carried forward to the next meeting.

The next step is a summary of action items and tasks determined by the meeting participants to verify who will do what and by when. The meeting leader should be sure to ask if anything is missing. This is also a good time to develop the next meeting agenda.

Finally, allocating 10 minutes at the closing of a meeting is an opportunity for those in attendance to provide one final comment. This is an effort to check-in with the participants to establish if the intended goals of the meeting were achieved.

Developing a purposeful agenda is the first step toward experiencing a purposeful meeting.

The Michigan State University Extension Leadership and Community Engagement team offers educational programs in several leadership areas, including communicating through conflict, volunteer board development, meeting management and facilitation skills development, and organizational strategic visioning and planning.

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