Tag Archive: agenda

The Important Bookends of a Meeting

 ©Jeff Timmons/ Dollar Photo Club

So after reading my last post you implemented all the components to a great meeting (right?). Your meeting engaged people’s interest by compelling and mission-minded work, you spent time developing them, everyone had input, and you even spent time in laughter.

So now you’re wondering, “Is that enough for a great meeting?”

The answer, “Not quite.” While the components of the meeting I wrote about last week are critical to the actual meeting, a good meeting begins before you cover the first agenda item but doesn’t end when you complete the last agenda item.

A meeting worthy of people’s time and organization’s energy has two other parts. They’re the bookends to an excellent meeting. They are: 1) the advanced agenda and, 2) the meeting output document.

The Advance Agenda

The advance agenda adds value to the meeting in several ways. Here’s what an advanced agenda can do:

  • Signals to participants the importance of their engagement
  • Allows you as meeting leader to prepare
  • Provides more efficiency to the actual meeting time

For each of the meetings I lead, I email an advance agenda from 3-7 days in advance. It not only includes the agenda so participants know what will be covered, but I also attach supporting documentation. These are documents the meeting participants should read prior to the meeting they are attending.

By doing this, I’m able to spend less time in the meeting providing context for agenda items and less time discussing the elements of each agenda item. Why? Because the support documentation provided that same information.

There’s no doubt an advance agenda takes work. I’m always working a week out and my support documentation has to be at least 80% done. There are times that I tweak the agenda or supporting documentation after it goes out.

The Output Agenda

The agenda output allows clarity about decisions and provides assignments of work. A good meeting output document serves multiple purposes:

  • Provides “minutes” to the meeting. It reflects substantive conversations and decisions. It becomes an archive of what’s determined.
  • It clearly assigns who’s responsible for what action items.
  • It allows the meeting leader clarity about what was done and what’s to be done.
  • It provides a template for the next meeting.

Usually within 24 hours of our bi-weekly senior leadership team meeting I send out the meeting output. I ask participants to take five minutes to read through all the red comments and pay close attention to any bold red copy as that reflects assignments of work. I’ve provided a Sample Output here.

By simply taking notes throughout the meeting and then placing notes back into the agenda following the meeting (a 10-20 minute task), you’re able to make sure everyone gets an accurate review of the meeting. In order to do this work, I add thirty minutes to each of these meetings on my calendar so I can come back following the meeting and take care of the meeting output immediately.

Obviously, the participants are the recipients of your work. While they could all very well take their own notes and remember what they’re to do, this output acts as another level of accountability. And besides, as the meeting leader I benefit most. As noted above, I now have a written record of what I’m going to do, what others are to do, and I have a beginning place for my next meeting agenda.


These meeting bookends do take work as a leader. But I’ve found for my most important meetings, this is time well spent. I encourage you to try it out.

How could people reading through materials in advance and having clear bolded red post-meeting assignments make your organization a more effective place?


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Essential Items For Your Meetings

©volff/ Dollar Photo Club

You know you need to bring your team together. There are several important things you need to accomplish in the meeting, but the bad news is you know the meeting will take at least two hours. Based on the meeting culture you have, people will loathe this. So, what can you do?

The answer: Have a great meeting. How do you do that? Mix it up. A meeting longer than 45 minutes needs to have 3-5 components within in to be rendered successful to the skeptics. (Sometimes meeting content is high value for you as team leader, but not valued the same way for others. You need to be okay with that, and occasionally so do they.  But you can’t systematically have meetings that are of a low value to your team.)

Not every meeting requires all of this content – but if you plan to keep people’s attention, develop, inspire, and make decisions that help everyone, make sure to include three of these content types in each of your longer meetings:

  1. Development
    What competency can be taught in your meeting that improves those in it? How can you challenge their thinking, habits, or interpersonal interactions in order for them to be better developed for their life or job role? This takes sacrifice because it’s going to take up time in your meeting – and also before it. . It takes preparedness. Adding development items into your agenda isn’t something you think of while walking to the meeting, or pull from some other leader’s website that morning. This requires you to plan and prepare to develop others.  For example: during my regular senior leadership meeting which is 2.5 hours in length, we typically set aside 25-30 minutes for development. If you value development as a leader, prove it.
  1. The “why”
    You’ve got to ensure your team knows the why for several things: the meeting itself, any significant agenda items, and the bigger why of them being required to work hard all the time.  Sometimes you’ll need to give context by telling a story or giving history on how we got here. Other times, just a simple statement like this will be sufficient:  “We have this meeting to ensure we make collaborative and well-informed decisions on matters that influence our… ”
  1. Buy-in
    Let them participate and have influence. Some meetings are simply a download of information – but those need to be short. Longer meetings need to have interaction – and participants need to have a stake in the outcome. You as a leader need to communicate what’s up for debate and consensus, versus what’s simply them speaking into a decision you or someone else will ultimately make. I’ve blogged before about the importance of establishing clarity regarding consensus versus input.
  1. Strategy
    I blogged recently about the importance of designing your meeting agenda with strategic discussion given the highest priority. There need to be times when you have discussions at higher levels of strategy, rather than getting caught in the weeds of operational details.
  1. Operational
    There are also times when you need to get in the weeds. Certain team members are going to want to always rush to the operational stuff. If they don’t see time on the agenda to discuss calendar items or details that allow them to do their work, you’ll lose them.  Don’t be afraid of doing this, but do assess its value and timing correctly in the overall meeting agenda.
  1. Laughter
    Don’t force this with a stand-up routine, but do allow margin for it. Most every team has that guy or gal who’s just funny. Let them be funny.  Don’t talk over everyone’s laughter by announcing the next agenda item. Live in the laughter for a moment. Sometimes it’ll need to be corralled, but do that sparingly.
  1. Bonus for those in ministry settings: Prayer
    Not just because you should, but because you want the meeting and its decisions to be dependent on wisdom from God. Praying not only reminds those in attendance who is ultimately in charge, but also allows for the Divine in an otherwise effort-driven- cause. I also like to leave room for spontaneous prayers. Sometimes a need or tense subject will come up, and fairly often, I’ll stop the meeting, and ask some to pray about the matter. It’s not given an agenda slot, and I do have to make up for the lost time elsewhere in the meeting, but I’ve never regretted it.

Not every great meeting requires all of these. But when you do include them, make sure to mix it up and engage those with differing learning styles. Don’t always do the ones easiest for you. I hope you have some great meetings.

(As an example of a meeting with these components, I’ve attached one of our recent meeting agendas for you to review. You can view it in my resources page, by clicking on this Sample meeting agenda.)

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