How to Write and Distribute an Agenda for a Virtual Meeting

You have probably been in meetings where the participants are unprepared, participants veer off-track and topics discussed are just a waste of time. The main issue that brings about such meetings is poor agenda design. With an effective agenda, you set clear expectations of what is expected before and during your online meeting. It helps team members prepare, allocate time, get everyone on the same topic and indicates when the meeting is over. In case of problems in the course of a meeting, an effective agenda helps improve your team’s ability to quickly and effectively address them.

Here are a few tips on how to create an effective agenda for your next online meeting. Use the tips whether your meeting is set to last a few minutes or three days, or whether you are meeting of five or fifty.

Seek Input from Participants

If you want your colleagues to be engaged in your online meetings, ensure that the agenda has items they are interested in. Ask them to suggest agenda items, with reasons why they feel they are important for discussion. If you decide to remove an item from the suggestion, the best thing you can do is offer a reason to the team member who proposed the item.


Select Topics Affecting all the Participants

According to AskMen, time management is the key to your success. Time is not only expensive, but also difficult to schedule – especially in a busy work environment. The time allotted to the meeting should only be used to discuss and enable fast decision-making on issues affecting the whole team. This is where you will require the individual input of each team member and they have to coordinate their actions since many parts of any organisation are dependent on each other. There may also be issues that individuals may have different needs and information. If your team is not talking about these interdependent issues, they are likely to lose interest or decline to attend your audio visual meeting. Some of these issues include:

• The allocation of shared resources

• How to reduce response time


List Your Agenda Items as Questions that Require Answers

Many agenda topics are several words strung together to make a statement, for example, “Reducing travel time.” Team members will be left wondering, “What about reducing travel time?” However, when you list your topic like a question that requires answers, “Under what conditions, if any, should we reduce traveling time?”
The question offers your colleagues a chance to prepare better for the meeting and confirming whether their own and others’ comments are on topic. During your meeting, a team member who thinks a comment is off-track may ask for clarification and the connection of the comment to the topic. Once the question is answered, the discussion is complete and everyone can move on to the next topic on the agenda.


Note the Purpose of the Topic

Team members will not participate effectively if they have no clue whether they should be listening, giving input or they are part of the decision-making process. For example, if you only want their input and participants think that it is a discussion. The end result is likely to be frustration for everyone involved.

Video conferencing systems like that of BlueJeans offer you a means of distributing updates before the meeting. Use such briefings to address participant questions. If the purpose of the meeting is to reach to a decision, state it clearly in the briefing.


Estimate Time for Each Topic

This will help you achieve two things. For starters, you need to calculate how much time you will need to give for the introduction of the topic, question answering, resolving diverse points of view, giving possible solutions and agreeing on what has to be done. If your audio visual meeting has more than 10 people, you need to use the simple math to realise that each member has to have contributed before a decision is made.

Second, estimating time allows your participants to adapt their comments to fit within their allotted timeframe. Listing time should not be about stopping discussion when time allotted is over – doing that contributes towards poor decision making and frustration. The purpose should be at getting better at allocating time to your team to efficiently and effectively answer questions.


Briefing Distribution

Send out an Email stating that there will be a meeting, the goal of the meeting and administrative details like when. Ask participants to confirm attendance. Also make it clear that once they have confirmed, they are expected to attend. If you have offices in off-shore locations, you will need to take into consideration the time in their zone as you set about allocating a time.

Like contemporary meetings, videoconferences should be well organised and should have a PAL (Purpose, Agenda and Length), as explained by McLane Intelligent Solutions. The only difference between physical meetings and video conferencing is that meetings that are not well prepared for appear worse on video. Ensure that all participants are introduced before the meeting, even those who are not appearing in the camera. It would be helpful if each of your locations has a sign to help in identifying it.

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