A series of communications to help improve engineering and project management teams

  Many meeting organizers believe they can easily prepare an effective agenda, but for most of us, it takes
time and practice to perfect the art of agenda creation. Creating and issuing an agenda for recurring team
meetings can be tiresome and tedious –I have too often seen the all-so-human tendency to simply
reissue a slight variation of the previous agenda. There are an endless amount of topics that you could
cover, but beware: the cardinal sin in the meeting world is meeting just for the sake of meeting. If you don’t
have new or useful information to discuss, don’t schedule a meeting. Here are some suggestions to
spark some fresh yet pertinent ideas and topics:

a. What’s next? Look at your next or near-term team milestones or deliverables, and consider a topic to
review the activities and tasks to get there. We often get so caught up in our immediate problems and
issues that we sometimes forget to look ahead.
b. Guest speaker. Who from outside the team - a genuine stakeholder such as a sponsor, a user, etc – is
willing to sit in or call in for five or ten minutes to share their viewpoint, opinion, status, feedback, answer
questions, etc? An interested outsider can energize the team, especially if they have a stake in the team’s
c. Back to the Future. Go back and look at your meeting agendas from the not-so-recent past; hopefully you
have them available. What topics were never fully completed and deserve a re-visit? What topics really
engaged the team and might be useful to re-address? What have you overlooked during recent meetings?

Meeting Agendas: Topic sequence

When crafting the agenda you should anticipate topic sequence and flow. If your meeting is likely to last an
hour or more, remember that energy levels and attention spans will diminish greatly toward the tail end of
the hour. Studies have shown that the average person can pay attention in a meeting for approximately 20
minutes before becoming fidgety, starting to daydream or working other projects.

Consider setting topic sequence not by perceived “importance”, but rather according to degree of
participation required. Try to put any item that needs participative energy near the beginning of the agenda.
Or, conversely, if you know your group well, they might be inclined to do better listening earlier in the
agenda (listening topics where they can be still, quiet and contemplative), and be better at talking later in
the agenda (engaged topics where they can talk and move around and thus overcome fatigue). And if you
exceed an hour, be sure to allow break time to recoup energy and take bio breaks.

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Message#7 - Meeting Agendas: Get Beyond the Obvious/Sequence