Are you exhausted by meetings that should have been an email?
In our newly virtual and remote world, we are inundated with meetings, emails, Slack notifications, and messages. There are only so many hours in the day, and sometimes we waste more time than we mean on “getting people up to speed.” Poorly organized meetings cost money—money that could be spent elsewhere in the company on things that really matter.
Under remote setups, meetings seem like an inevitability. Not only do meetings cost time and money, but they’re a point of dread for many people who are simply trying to get through the workday. Meetings are different from casual conversation or impromptu chats, too—they take planning, coercion, and focus.
For virtual meetings, we can fix this problem.
Creating a proper agenda can keep meetings on track, keep people focused, and most of all help everyone relax and have fun. They are a way of combating virtual fatigue. Agendas foster expectation and goal-setting, and are a win-win for everyone!
Table of Contents
What Should Your Meeting Agenda Include
- Key Objectives
- Topics of Discussion
- Sessions Structure
- Other Details
The logistics of your meeting reduce anxiety, create expectation, and allow people to plan around the meeting’s time, subject, and duration. When planning your meeting and sending out the email, make sure that you include the date, the time, a link for the meeting’s schedule, and ample preparation. Your attendees need access to your details, and you need to provide as much clarity as possible. People don’t enjoy surprises—during the work day surprises only cause confusion and mistrust. Create calendar invites, and make sure everyone agrees on the time. Does your team work better in the morning or after lunch? Is your crowd a Tuesday crowd or a Thursday crowd? Also, include a full list of who is going to be attending the meeting, with as much information beforehand as allowed.
- Key Objectives
Okay, so you’ve set your meeting—what is the goal? There needs to be a purpose to your meeting that justifies it beyond “this could have been an email.” Full agendas beforehand will help people understand the sessions, and will allow them to plan their day around it. Transparency appreciated in the adult world—people want to be shown that their time and presence is valued.
Early insights into your meeting are important. When people know what the meeting is about, they know that the accomplished objective will signal the meeting’s end. The meeting can be quick, clean, and well-managed, allowing everyone to return to their previous tasks. Title the meeting, clearly outline its objectives, provide the agenda ahead of time, and watch how much greater each person benefits from the session.
- Topics of Discussion
Meetings are known to quickly devolve into meandering sessions of distracted conversation. When the topics brought up are not the topics discussed, the mood can deflate and morale can drop.
Define your meeting by making a clear list of subjects and topics, providing a time slot for each that is emailed out ahead of the session. If you are having multiple people speak, keep an eye on the clock and have them prepare early. Stick to your subjects. List the information that is going to be discussed. If you want, you can open a few minutes at the end of the meeting for questions and cross talk. If it looks like the meeting is going to go over the allotted time, reschedule the second half of the meeting so that people can marinate over their ideas.
Providing this clarity means that your meetings will feel energized, clear, and productive.
- Sessions Structure
Definition is all well and good, but often is not enough to stabilize your next virtual team agenda. You need to create further clarity by showcasing the correct order in which your items will be discussed. By keeping to the structure of your session and discussing everything in the order it was laid out ahead of time, there won’t be room for distraction, cross-talk, or meandering.
Give a timer to everything. Don’t overschedule. People might want to discuss the points you are presenting, so remember to leave time for that. If you’re using Google Calendars or another scheduling program via email, you can clearly lay out your itemized list by time and order.
Fix your agenda by including the icebreakers and questions ahead of time, showcasing further clarity and timing. You can lay out the meeting by point/discussion/questions, or any other format that works for you and your team.
- Other Details
What do your team members need prior to the meeting? What can you provide? Are there documents, files, tools, programs? Do they need to be brought up to speed on anything that could make the meeting run smoother? Are there responsibilities and goals that need to be met for the week before everyone jumps into the sesion? Does someone need to take minutes? Do you need to get the greetings and talking and icebreakers out of the way? Again, this kind of information and clarity will smooth the agenda, and help the meeting stay on track for its duration.
Types of Meeting Agendas
The “Daily Stand-up” Agenda Template
This agenda template has been popularized by current trends, as there are many benefits to having enjoyable daily meetings and check-ins during our time of separation and remote work. Regardless of your industry, business, workload or model, this template is good for camaraderie.
This template is easier to put together than your typical online meeting, which works great for any remote team. Daily stand-up is supposed to be quick and fun—you do these in the morning, before lunch, but it can also work as a capper for the end of the day. This agenda can be held with a remote team or an entire department, but the end goal is to break down the time associated with a typical meeting.
Each team member spends only 15 minutes total discussing their successes, qualms, progress, and aspirations. Questions can be along the lines of “What did I work on today?” or “What issue am I having in my department this week?” Remember, the point of this agenda is not to be invasive or to hold your team to a ridiculous standard—you’re doing this to help your team and find areas in which everyone can grow.
The benefit of this model is to keep everyone informed, well-paced, and cared for. Everyone wants to contribute to the team but they also want to be reminded of how important and necessary they are. The best way to figure out where blockages are happening in individual projects is to check in with the individuals involved. Team members know where they can help one another, where their ideas can merge, and how they can better utilize their time during the day.
The “Retrospective” Agenda Template
While your team may be getting along with their various modes of continual communication, even the best teams might be struggling with reflection and feedback. When daily workflow includes constant creative problem solving and “outside of the box” methods, some team members might fall behind without you even realizing it. This agenda seeks to fix that by focusing on feedback, reflection, communication and progress as a whole.
The retrospective agenda template is set up to foster an open and communicative style that will benefit your remote workers and make everyone—virtual or not—feel included and seen. In practice, this agenda utilizes an executive strategy that asks:
- When should the team start doing something?
- When should the team stop?
- When should the team continue?
By critically and openly reflecting on these simple questions, your team members can respond with their personal styles, qualms and efforts. Instead of blindly following an executive plan, your team members will have the opportunity to showcase their processes and shortfalls. Everyone will gain new tools that will help their daily workflow.
If you host this agenda in an ongoing and focused way, you will find that your team grows more innovative and knowledgeable of one another. This is especially important in a mostly remote or virtual network.
Why Are Virtual Meeting Agendas Important?
The virtual meeting agenda templates help maintain that your virtual meetings start on time, follow their formats, and don’t meander. They exist to make sure that everyone’s time is respected and used effectively, and that each team member is kept up to speed.
Communication is the most important aspect of any competent team, and communication has grown increasingly difficult to navigate. To retain productivity values, schedule meetings that serve a purpose and align everyone in productive synthesis. These frameworks and agendas and virtual meetings exist to follow strict templates that will reward this level of productivity.
Agendas and virtual meetings should be scheduled days in advance, their structure should be plainly announced, and the purpose and goal of the meeting should be transparent and properly communicated. Each step of clarity you add to your meetings ensures that your employees’ time, intelligence, and value is recognized.
Use Google Docs, Google Calendar or alternative cloud-based programs to document the meetings for everyone. Keep everyone in the loop and don’t make major surprises or announcements to the format unless strictly necessary. Don’t use offline docs that create confusion, and allow everyone the necessary transparency they require to do their jobs effectively and structure their time around the upcoming meeting.
5 Reasons to Use an Agenda During Virtual Meetings
1. Address all the key talking points
Heading for a meeting wherein you have no clue what is going to be discussed is anxiety-inducing and frustrating. Meeting agendas clearly lay out topics ahead of time so that you can plan for it and expect the conversation. No one in the room should be clueless, and no one should feel like a structured weekly meeting is an ambush.
2. Send meeting invites to the right people
The people chosen to attend a meeting are done so for a specific reason. If you’re on the agenda, make sure you’re there. If the topic directly affects you, or if someone doesn’t join the meeting and their department is the subject, this reflects poorly on everyone. Looking at the agenda ahead of time confirms who should be at the meeting and conveys its level of importance clearly.
3. Define the outcomes
Your meetings should always have a clear-cut purpose. Everyone who knows the objective going in will also have an idea of the outcome upon the meeting’s end. This cuts down meandering and loss of topic, and also diminishes the possibility of having an unproductive agenda. By knowing the purpose of the meeting, it gives credence to the actual “meat” of the conversation, which is more often than not built upon conveying the idea. This is how you can avoid the “it should have been an email” grumbling, because people will be smartly informed of the meeting’s necessity.
4. Keep attendees focused
When everyone knows the agenda, they have a structured outline to follow that covers the entirety of the meeting. Conversations will stay on track, topics will be covered, and the discussion can stay relevant to the subject matter. By cutting the fat out of your agenda, you can move through the meeting quickly and smoothly, and everyone can return to their tasks.
5. Eliminate excuses
After everyone sees the agenda and knows what the meeting will be about, they have less excuses to not be prepared for the meeting. Proper agendas keep everyone accountable, and create better presentations and outcomes. When meeting agendas are provided days in advance, it gives people plenty of time to prepare for it and makes the subject more enriching.
Agendas Are Structures For Your Virtual Team
In conclusion, agendas help everyone stay on course, properly prepare, and pay attention. They reduce anxiety, diminish surprise, and increase preparedness. Agendas and objectives enhance meetings in both time and structure, and make everyone feel heard and respected. When meetings are something to look forward to during the week, they are something everyone can orbit around.
Meetings are supposed to be positives that unite the members of your work team, and by adhering to structured and transparent agendas, everyone benefits!