Fleshing out your meeting agendas

by Lisa Dubernard No Comments April 13, 2011

If you’re like me, you’ve attended your fair share of meetings (staff meetings, board meetings, cabinet meetings…you name it.) Most of these meetings have had an agenda but many agendas were just SKELETONS, or basic outlines of the topics that will be presented, discussed or acted upon. So as we’ve had access to technology tools, meeting agenda content has had the potential to be changed.  But how? And for the BETTER?

I’m sure we’ve all spent valuable time listening to someone read their powerpoint slides to us.  PAINFUL!

And unfortunately some folks use technology to create (and distribute on paper) massive amounts of documentation.  So much for going green or paperless!

Here are some tips I have for those of you who have started using meeting agenda management software (like eBOARD).

(1) Don’t just give folks a skeleton of the agenda.

Each agenda item should include at least a SUMMARY of the topic, which of your organization’s GOALS this is related to, who is the principle CONTACT for this item and, IF there is a RECOMMENDATION (or action), state it briefly and word it how you would like the motion to be.

Here is an example of what I mean:

(2) Don’t just give folks the supporting documents ONLY!

Posting an agenda in this manner makes it more difficult for your meeting participants to quickly access and grasp the main points of the item. Additionally, they will have to open each attachment individually to see the contents.

I recommend that you should only use Supporting Documents (like PDF’s) for true supporting documents. I like to think of an agenda like a skeleton and the supporting documents like a purse, scarf or an accessory. They are nice to dress up an agenda item, but not quite as important as the muscles, skin and clothes!

I know, I know. It takes time to “flesh out” an agenda!

Well, here are some OTHER things to consider about agenda development using technology.

  • Agenda items can be ASSIGNED to others to complete and submit. Most agenda management tools will allow you to ASSIGN someone to fill out the necessary fields and then submit the item for approval. This responsible person should easily already KNOW this information and should be able to complete it in just a couple of minutes.
  • Fleshing out the agenda can make your meetings smoother and quicker! If the basic information is easy for attendees to have reviewed IN ADVANCE, the verbal presentations can be much shorter. You could spend more time discussing items, deciding or acting on them! Plus folks can usually use the technology to take notes online without the need to print and handwrite notes.
  • Search tools enable folks to find information WHEN they need it ON THEIR OWN! Most agenda management tools offer a way to search for items. So the next time someone wants to know when we last discussed the bus routes and want the details for that info, they can simply search for “bus” and they can find it themselves. Personally, I LOVE this. At the time we discuss something I’m usually clear on the topic, but 3 months later (or even 3 days), I just can’t recall even the basic information. Having access to fleshed out meeting agendas keeps everything in one easy to find place.  And those who missed the meeting can still access the materials!
  • Agenda management can keep everyone focused and aligned. If your agenda items ALWAYS include a GOALS field linked to the related goals, it makes it very easy for everyone (board members, staff or public depending on the meeting) to see how this agenda item relates to the overall goals of your organization. This is CRITICAL because if you (the item submitter) are not sure how this relates to your strategic plan, perhaps it’s not such an important item after all!
  • It can make minute-taking a snap. If you have the basic information in the correct fields, the minutes can be shorter.  ALSO depending on the  tech tool you use, the pre-written recommendation can be easily moved into the minutes if you use this particular agenda item field!  Minutes can be published as soon as you need them to be (yep, in just minutes!)

Categories: Accountability, Cost Savings, eBOARD, Meetings, Meetings Management, Paperless, Planning, TransparencyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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