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How to format meeting agendas?

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  • How to format meeting agendas?

    I've got several regular meetings that I run, and I've never been able to pin down a solid system for dealing with action items, people responsible, updates on older items, and new topics. I've tried using Word documents, tables (with columns for item, person, and NA), sending out agendas, etc.

    These are department meetings as opposed to meeting on a particular project. We usually have a lot of little open items to discuss and decide NA's. Keep in mind that I am the only GTD'er in the bunch. Some of my "tricks" have rubbed off on others, but I'm the only one who uses the who system.

    Does anyone have any good ideas for managing these types of meetings, and creating a document that keeps everyone on the same page? (pun intended!)


  • #2
    Whatever format is used, I believe it is important to set aside an appropriate amount of time at the end of the meeting (5,10,15 minutes or more) which has the sole purpose of reviewing every single project and N/A which came up in the meeting in very specific detail. I've found that this task is best handled by whoever is keeping minutes or notes, rather than the person responsible for leading the meeting & keeping it on track.
    Last edited by spectecGTD; 11-01-2005, 05:03 AM.


    • #3
      Don't forget to assign roles

      I touch on this is my recently published essay "Work is Broken" which is part of the More Space project. In that essay, I describe some of the techniques we've adopted at my company (populated with a lot of GTDers) for making meetings work better. I've also included a portion of the Contract for Communications we wrote that outlines the how's and why's of communication at our company. We're a pretty small group - about 30 people - but these practices scale well based on my first-hand experience seeing how others have used our framework. In the section on meetings, I not only address agendas but also pre-assigned roles for participants that produce better results.

      More Space is a collaboration of 9 business-oriented bloggers each of whom contributed an essay on an area of work they are passionate about. The entire book may be freely downloaded in PDF, read online in HTML, and is also available as a set of MP3 audio files if you prefer to listen, rather than read. A full-color printed book is also available from the project site, on, or from 800-CEO-READ.


      • #4
        I'll take a look at the essays.

        Also, I think setting aside time immediately after a meeting in an excellent idea. I will use that idea for meeting with my boss and such as well. When topics are fresh in my mind is the best time to pull NA's out of notes.

        However, my real question was one of format: is there a particular format that people like to use for distributing meeting agendas?



        • #5
          Do you mean format or medium?

          I'm not sure if you're asking about format or medium. We tend to use a simple structure for the meeting agenda that lists the basic logistics (when, how long, where), assigned roles (owner/moderator, scrible, timekeeper, etc.), a brief agenda with time segments, and links to any required reading or other resources necessary for preparation prior to the meeting.

          We use a network calendar program called Corporate Time (now owned by Oracle) but an Exchange server, Basecamp, or any other shared calendar system that generates e-mail invitations would work. The nice thing about this system is that even if a recipient deletes their invite e-mail, all of the information shows up in their calendar and can be read/copied/printed at any time from the server copy.


          • #6
            Both, really.

            I guess my favorite format is a simple Word doc outline. After the meeting I add my notes and action items in red. Then I can review the previous meetings notes while creating the next meeting agenda so no old business is dropped.



            • #7
              I've been utilizing both a standard issue MS Word Agenda, with the top-down approach. But I've also been creating an agenda utilizing MindManager Pro 6.0. This has the ability to assign tasks that you can use as follow-ups, as it syncs fairly seamlessly with all MS Office programs, including Outlook.

              When I passed out copies of this mind map agenda along with the standard MS Word one, the board was a little freaked out,l but they saw the value in it. I definitely love the value of being able to assign tasks, link documents, web addresses, virtually anything, right to the agenda!

              For your other meeting attendees, if they're familiar faces, they can easily download the free MindManager reader program to read your stuff.



              • #8
                Status Docs/Agenda

                In a previous Sr. management position, we used a really simple document/structure that seemed to work really well.

                Here's the format we used:

                1. For each person we had a one-page table.

                2. The table columns were as follows:
                Project (usually just two or three words)
                Task (eg. "Develop project plan for Project xxx")
                Due Date
                The status was ALWAYS one of 3 words: GREEN, YELLOW, RED.
                Below the status we would sometimes include "New", "Complete" or "Cancelled" that kind of thing.
                Green means everything is on track
                Yellow = some issues or delays
                Red = Major issues, behind schedule
                The comments had to be simple & short: something like: "Require client approval, expected by Dec. xx".

                For us the trick was that the entire upper management team used the same formats, and each manager used the same format with teams they led or managed. In team meetings, each individual brought their "Project Status Reports" in the same format. Most of the group meetings inevitably focused on discussion of items noted as Yellow or Red.

                I'm not sure this is what you're looking for, but hoped it might prove useful for you (or other readers).