A great script is the key to a play's success. Do you think Romeo and Juliet would have achieved the same acclaim if it had been written by anybody other than Shakespeare? In the same vein, a well-structured, informative agenda is as vital to a meeting's success as a script is to a play.

Too many meeting agendas consist of one or two vague statements about the meeting's purpose. It's time to work on your scriptwriting techniques if your agenda looks anything like this:

Agenda: Discuss advertising
Time: 1 hour

If you want an organized, structured meeting, you have to script it. After all, a script contains dialogue, characters, stage directions and props. Your meeting agenda should outline the specific items to be discussed, the person responsible for leading each agenda item, the time allocated to each item, any supporting information to be reviewed, the desired outcome of the meeting and any preparation required. For your agenda to be really effective, you should distribute it (along with any supporting information) a day or two before the meeting.

A meeting agenda should:
ensure all participants are adequately prepared for the meeting
ensure each agenda item achieves the desired outcome
save time during the meeting

Given these goals, consider the following agenda:

Meeting purpose:
Determine the marketing required for a new product launch
Agenda item: Determine a timeline for the launch
Lead Elizabeth
Supporting information Tentative timeline included with agenda
Preparation All participants to review timeline prior to meeting and come prepared to discuss possible conflicts
Desired outcome Finalize the schedule by the close of meeting
Time allocated 20 minutes
Follow-up tasks To be determined during the meeting

Agenda item: Decide what combination of print/radio/newspaper advertising will be used during the launch
Lead Simon
Supporting information Advertising budget
Advertising rates for three print publications
Rates for two radio stations
Rates for four newspapers
Preparation Chris from accounting to review and approve budget prior to meeting
Marketing group to review media rates and determine their preferred combination
Desired outcome Finalize advertising schedule (during meeting)
Gain budgetary approval (next day)
Time allocated 40 minutes
Follow-up tasks Chris to approve media budget the day after meeting
Other tasks to be determined during meeting

A comprehensive agenda like this will save time and increase productivity in the meeting. One of the key components is the inclusion of supporting information. Too many meetings involve a group review of relevant information. It's much quicker and easier to ask participants to review this information prior to the meeting. That way, the meeting itself can be used to resolve problems and make decisions. And that should be the goal of every meeting.

1. From Better Business Meetings by Robert B. Nelson and Peter Economy © 1995 by RICHARD D. IRWIN, INC.

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