How to Write a Meeting Agenda: All You Need to Know

How to Write a Meeting Agenda: All You Need to Know

Munir Ahmed

May 3, 2024

5/3/24

5/3/24

19 min read

Manager writing a meeting agenda
Manager writing a meeting agenda
Manager writing a meeting agenda
Manager writing a meeting agenda

The average number of meetings that happen per day in the US ranges from 62 to 80 million. But how many of those are actually productive?

With countless hours wasted in directionless discussions, the importance of meeting agendas is undeniable.

This detailed article provides a step-by-step guide to writing a meeting agenda, best practices, and a variety of meeting agenda examples. Read on and discover how to transform your next meeting into a productive one.

What are the benefits of using a meeting agenda?

Meetings are inevitable, but we can make each of them more productive with a meeting agenda.

Meeting agendas do the following:

Improve focus

Ever been to a meeting where you’re unsure of what’s going on until the meeting actually starts? A meeting agenda removes that confusion by framing the discussion.

With a clear agenda to follow, everyone arrives at the meeting knowing its purpose and the key topics that will be discussed. This helps your team stay focused and on the same page from the get-go. Your discussions are also far less likely to stray off course and spiral into tangents that disrupt the meeting’s flow.

Keep track of your meeting discussions and decisions. Learn how to take effective meeting notes.

Increase participation

An effective meeting often relies on input from multiple perspectives. But it can be difficult to get employees to engage. In fact, 53% of leaders are frustrated with low meeting engagement due to attendees who don’t speak up or provide input.

Knowing the meeting topic beforehand allows the attendees to prepare for the meeting. It gives them time to gather relevant information, come up with questions, and arrive ready to meaningfully contribute.

A well-crafted agenda can also foster active listening since attendees can anticipate the upcoming topics and adjust their focus accordingly.


Manager and employee provide input


Efficient decision-making

When all attendees are clear about the meeting’s purpose and goal, the team can make good decisions swiftly. Instead of rambling discussions that circle the issue, a meeting agenda directs the conversation toward a resolution.

Focused discussions allow you to evaluate options systematically, consider different perspectives, and arrive at well-informed solutions.

Better time management

We all dread meetings that drag on, especially when the discussions seem to amount to nothing. A meeting agenda helps you better manage your meetings. By setting clear time boundaries for each agenda item, you reinforce the importance of staying on track.

With an agenda, you’re less likely to go overtime on one subject and eat into the time allotted for another. Moreover, an agenda shows the attendees that you respect their schedules and time. This can boost morale and prevent the feeling of wasted time that leads to meeting fatigue.

How to write a helpful meeting agenda in 7 simple steps

A shocking 69% of employees say the lack of a clear agenda is their biggest meeting pet peeve. But crafting an effective meeting agenda is easier than you think.


Employees want clear meeting agendas


Follow these seven steps to write a meeting agenda that drives action:

1. Define the meeting’s purpose

This sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many meetings happen without a clear purpose.

First, you need to know why you're having the meeting at all. Also, ask yourself, “Does this even need to be a meeting? Could the topic be handled through an email or quick chat instead?”

Once you're sure a meeting is necessary, narrow down its focus and goals. Is it meant to discuss a new project, address an employee's performance, or something else? Knowing the meeting’s purpose helps you shape its agenda accordingly.

Try techniques like the “5 Whys” to help you get to the root cause of the issue you need to solve. For example, if the meeting is about a marketing campaign launch being delayed, your 5 Whys could be as follows:

  • Why is the marketing campaign launch delayed? Answer: The assets aren't ready.

  • Why aren't the assets ready? Answer: We're waiting on the final copy from the product team.

  • Why is the copy delayed? Answer: The product specs changed at the last minute.

  • Why did the product specs change? Answer: Customer feedback led to a feature adjustment.

  • Why didn't we anticipate this feature change earlier? Answer: There was a communication gap between the product and marketing teams.

By asking "Why?" five times, you get to the core issue that needs addressing. In this case, the purpose of the meeting might be to discuss how to improve cross-team communication.

2. Determine who should attend

It doesn’t always have to be a company-wide or even department-wide meeting. Having more people than necessary only delays decisions and wastes time — time that could otherwise be spent working.

By inviting only essential and relevant employees, you significantly improve the meeting’s efficiency.

A smaller, targeted group can more effectively discuss the topic at hand and make faster progress without getting sidetracked. Lark Calendar makes it easy for you to see team members' availability. This means you can quickly identify the right attendees and avoid scheduling conflicts. You can even invite custom groups instead of adding attendees one by one.

Remember to gather insights from those not directly involved in the meeting, too. Send a brief email to anyone on the fringe, outlining the meeting's purpose and asking for any relevant input or questions to consider. This ensures their perspectives are heard without sacrificing the meeting’s focus.

3. List your topics

What will the session cover? Create a list of key discussion points related to the meeting’s purpose. This will act as a guide for your discussion and keep the attendees on track.

If you’re unsure of the exact topics the meeting will include, start with a brainstorming session. List potential issues that need discussion, then prioritize them based on their importance and relevance to the meeting's purpose. Be sure to avoid overly broad topics or trying to cover too much.

Use these two popular methods to prioritize your discussion topics:

  • MoSCoW method: Categorize topics into “Must Have,” “Should Have,” “Could Have,” and “Won't Have.” The MoSCoW method helps you focus on the most important items for the meeting while also acknowledging other aspects that can be discussed later.

  • Eisenhower Matrix: Visualize topics based on their urgency and importance. This helps you identify tasks that need immediate action and those that can be scheduled, delegated, or deleted.

Another good practice is to break big topics down into smaller ones. For instance, for a meeting addressing team communication problems, your sub-topics could include delayed responses, tool overload, and missed deadlines.

Doing this allows you to address each issue at hand with more depth and clarity.

4. Estimate time allocation

To avoid overly long and unproductive meetings, allocate specific time frames for each subject that will be discussed. It’s important to assign a realistic amount of time for each agenda item, too. Think about the complexity of the topic, who and how many will contribute, and how long the meeting as a whole is set to last.

Allocating specific time slots helps ensure you don't rush through the more important topics or leave things unresolved. Moreover, it keeps discussions from going off on tangents or getting lost in irrelevant details.

Here are some strategies for better time allocation:

  • The lightning round: Set a tight time limit, like two minutes per person, for daily status updates or quick input.

  • The parking lot: For topics that might derail the agenda, designate a "Parking Lot" section at the end of the meeting to briefly address those if time allows.

  • Time check announcements: Have the meeting facilitator periodically announce a "10-minute time check" to raise awareness and make adjustments as needed.

However, keep in mind that some discussions might need more or less time than anticipated. Keep your schedule flexible and leave some buffer time in case of delays.

5. Include supporting materials

A little planning goes a long way. So, prepare everything you need for your meeting beforehand. Include any relevant information that attendees should review before or during the meeting, such as project proposals, competitor analysis reports, or marketing campaign materials.

Keeping a checklist is a great way to make sure nothing essential gets overlooked. Be sure to share these materials with the meeting participants in advance to give them time to prepare and actively participate in the discussion.

For teams spread across different locations and time zones, this pre-meeting prep is essential to keep everyone on the same page. Advance Intelligence Group (AIG) saw a major boost in meeting efficiency and collaboration by using Lark's shared documents and real-time collaborative editing features across their global workforce.

Pro tip for a more productive meeting: Indicate which sections are most important for the attendees to review to help your team prioritize their preparation.

6. Assign roles and action items

Make sure your meeting has a purpose beyond discussion by strategically assigning roles and responsibilities. Designate a discussion leader, a notetaker, a timekeeper, or a specific speaker to present each topic.


Assign different meeting roles


If you have recurring meetings, consider rotating roles among the attendees. This is a good way for your team to develop their skills and foster a sense of shared responsibility.

Another key element in this step is to pre-determine action items that need to be completed after the meeting. That way, the decisions made during the meeting turn into actions whose progress can be tracked.

Tools like Lark make this process simple. Take your meeting notes directly in Lark Docs and use the “@” function to assign tasks to specific team members. Then, use Lark’s Tasks feature to track action items, set deadlines, and monitor progress in a centralized location.

7. Proofread and share

After you've finalized your agenda, take the time to proofread it to avoid having to send out multiple versions. Check for:

  • Clarity: Is the wording easy to understand?

  • Accuracy: Are all the details (dates, times, and participant names) correct?

  • Time allocation: Are the time frames you've assigned realistic and appropriate?

  • Logical flow: Do the topics transition smoothly and build upon each other?

Once it's polished, share the agenda with all attendees well in advance of the meeting.

With Lark, you can quickly share documents f folders using a simple link. If your meeting has a long list of attendees, you can choose to grant view-only or editing access, depending on your meeting's purpose.

Ideally, aim for 24 to 48 hours beforehand to give everyone time to review the topics and come prepared with their questions or contributions.

5 examples of productive meeting agendas

Here are five examples of meeting agendas to give you some inspiration:

1. Project kick-off meeting agenda

Meeting Goal(s): Align team members, gain stakeholder buy-in, and launch a successful project.


Employees participate in kick-off meeting


Attendees:

  • Project sponsors

  • Project manager

  • Project team members

  • Key stakeholders

Agenda:

Welcome & Introductions (5 minutes): This is Important if the attendees are from different departments or haven't worked together before.

Project Overview (15 minutes)

  • Background and purpose

  • Project goals and objectives

  • Scope

  • High-level timeline

Roles & Responsibilities (10 minutes)

  • Clarify each key team member's role and sphere of work

Communication Plan (5-10 minutes)

  • Discuss how the team will keep each other updated on progress and keep stakeholders informed

Risk Management (5-10 minutes)

  • Discuss a list of potential risks

  • Determine how those risks will be managed throughout the project

Next Steps & Action Items (5 minutes)

  • Summarize immediate tasks to jumpstart the project

  • Assign responsibility and deadlines for those action items

Q&A & Open Discussion (10-15 minutes)

Welcome the opportunity to clarify uncertainties and address concerns

2. Weekly sales team meeting agenda

Meeting Goal(s): Track performance, share updates, tackle challenges, and motivate the team for the week ahead.

Attendees:

  • Sales manager

  • Sales reps

Agenda:

Announcements (5 minutes)

  • Celebrate wins from the previous week

  • Share important company or team-wide updates

Individual Updates (20 minutes)

Have each team provide a brief update on the following:

  • Key deals closed

  • Pipeline progress (deals that they are close to closing, any new leads they might have)

  • Any challenges they’re facing

Metrics Review (15 minutes)

  • Review individual and team sales from the previous week

  • Discuss trends, areas for improvement, and goals for the current week

Challenges and Solutions Discussion (15 minutes)

  • Discuss the challenges the team is facing

  • Brainstorm solutions to overcome these obstacles

Action Items & Next Steps (5 Minutes)

  • Summarize key takeaways and action items for each sales rep

  • Set focus areas for the upcoming week

3. Performance review meeting agenda

Meeting Goal(s): Evaluate performance, provide feedback, and set goals

Attendees:

  • Employee

  • Manager/reviewer

Agenda:

Employee Self-Assessment (10 minutes)

  • Review accomplishments and challenges

  • Self-reflect on strengths and areas for improvement

Manager's Feedback (10 minutes)

  • Provide a general performance assessment based on goals and expectations

  • Include specific examples of strengths and weaknesses

Two-Way Discussion (15 minutes)

  • Discuss the self-assessment and the manager's feedback

  • Let the employee ask questions and express their viewpoint

Development Planning (20 minutes)

  • Identify areas for growth and professional development

  • Set new goals that align with both company and employee objectives

Career Goals and Aspirations (10 minutes)

  • Have an open conversation about the employee's long-term aspirations

  • Explore how the company can support the employee’s career path

Summary (5 minutes)

  • Recap key points, action items, and development plans

4. Cross-departmental meeting agenda


Cross-functional teams working together


Meeting Goal(s): Analyze a specific process that spans multiple departments, identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies, and develop solutions.

Attendees:

  • Key representatives from each department

  • Process owner

  • Meeting facilitator

Agenda:

Welcome and Introductions (5 minutes)

  • Introduce attendees from different departments

Meeting Purpose & Process Overview (10 minutes)

  • Identify the process under examination

  • Explain why this process needs to improve

Process Mapping (20 minutes)

  • Visually map out the current process across all departments (use flowcharts)

  • Go over each step, hand-offs between departments, and decision points

Bottleneck and Pain Points (20 minutes)

  • Discuss where the process gets stuck, takes too long, or leads to errors

  • Encourage each department to share their perspective on these challenges

Root Cause Analysis (15 Minutes)

  • Figure out the underlying reasons for the issues mentioned above

Solution Brainstorming (15 minutes)

  • Encourage creative ideas for process improvement

  • Consider different solutions or tools for process improvement

Action Items, Next Steps, and Timeline (10 minutes)

  • Prioritize solutions and assign tasks for further testing

  • Set a timeline for implementing changes and measuring results

  • Schedule follow-up meetings as needed

5. All-hands meeting agenda

Meeting Goal: Share crucial company updates, celebrate wins, address challenges, and unite and align the company.

Attendees:

  • Everyone in the company

Agenda:

Welcome and Opening Remarks (5 minutes)

  • Company leader (e.g., CEO) sets the tone, welcomes everyone, and emphasizes the purpose of the meeting

Company Updates (15 minutes)

  • Key announcements and major updates

  • Consider having different executives cover specific aspects of the business

Team Successes and Recognition (10 minutes)

  • Shout-outs to teams and individuals for outstanding work

  • Share examples of how these achievements align with company values

Challenges and Opportunities (10 minutes)

  • Transparent discussion of current challenges and how they're being addressed

  • Frame opportunities for growth and improvement

Q&A (10 minutes)

  • Open forum for employees to ask questions

Closing Remarks (5 minutes)

  • Reinforce key takeaways, reiterate company goals, and thank everyone for attending

6 best practices when creating meeting agendas

Make sure your meetings achieve their goals with these six best practices:

1. Focus on outcomes, not just topics

Don't just list topics for discussion. Clearly define the desired outcome for each agenda item. Ask yourself:

  • What specific choices or approvals need to come out of this discussion?

  • What concrete steps or tasks must be initiated as a result of this topic?

  • What essential knowledge needs to be communicated, and for what purpose?

By framing each agenda item around a desired outcome, you make sure that every discussion contributes to the meeting objectives. This keeps your discussions goal-orientated. Moreover, it clarifies who is responsible for what after the meeting ends.

2. Prioritize discussion points

Start your meeting with momentum. Figure out the discussion points that need the most focus and attention, such as those that require decision-making, problem-solving, or brainstorming.

The sequence in which you organize your agenda items also has a big impact on meeting flow. Don't make the attendees jump between unrelated subjects. Instead, group related topics to create a cohesive structure for the meeting. This makes it easier for participants to follow along, stay engaged, and build on previous ideas throughout the discussion.


Group similar agenda topics together


3. Be realistic about time allocation

An overstuffed agenda is never a good idea. You need to allocate enough time for each topic based on its importance and complexity. Plus, always leave room for the attendees to ask questions, clarify information, and have unexpected discussions.

For better meeting time management:

  • Ask the contributors how much time they need for their agenda items

  • Set strict time limits for each topic to keep things moving

  • Designate a timekeeper to help the group stay on track

Be willing to adjust the agenda spontaneously if necessary. Some discussions might deserve more time, while others can be summarized later or discussed in your next meeting.

4. Welcome input

Don't wait until the meeting itself to find out what the attendees want to say. Ask them for their input on agenda topics or any questions they have beforehand. Doing this will help you craft a more focused and relevant agenda.

During the meeting, encourage the attendees to offer their own ideas to create a more inclusive meeting environment.

Try out these ideas to improve employee participation during meetings:

  • Set the tone: Emphasize the value of group discussion at the start of the meeting.

  • Ask open-ended questions: Instead of saying, “Does anyone have any thoughts?” frame the question as “What are some other ways we can approach this?”

  • Call on individuals gently: If you notice someone hasn’t spoken up, try saying, “I'd love to hear your insights.”

  • Create a positive feedback loop: When an employee contributes, acknowledge and show appreciation for their idea.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel

If you hold recurring meetings, like weekly team updates or monthly project reviews, create a master agenda template or take one from our examples above. That way, you won’t have to start from scratch at every meeting.

Your template can include standard items, like a welcome message, routine reports, and time for open discussion. Before each meeting, customize the template with specific topics, speakers, and time allocations based on that week's needs. Consistent meetings help the attendees get familiar with the meeting structure and know what to expect.

6. Use the right software

Sometimes, we need extra help with making our agenda to make the process smoother and more efficient. The right software takes the hassle out of agenda planning. It can also help with writing, formatting, time allocation, distribution, and even sending automated reminders to attendees.

Collaborative platforms like Lark can streamline the process even further. For example, multiple team members can contribute directly to the agenda document within Lark Docs. Plus, Lark automatically tracks any changes that are made so that you always have the most up-to-date agenda.

How Lark Suite can help you write better agendas and improve your meetings

Looking for a shortcut to better meetings? Lark streamlines the entire meeting process, from planning to execution.

Lark Docs

Don't let your meetings fall into the trap of rambling discussions— ditch the solo struggle of writing agendas.

With Lark Docs, your entire team can contribute ideas and refine the agenda together in real time, ensuring your meetings have a clear purpose. Capture every important detail and maximize participation even before your meeting starts.


Collaborate on weekly report


Additionally, you can keep your agendas organized and accessible on Lark. No more searching through scattered emails or outdated files — everyone can easily access the agenda whenever and wherever.

Need a jumpstart? Choose from our pre-built agenda template or meeting template to get started, or contact Lark to learn more.

Lark Mail and Messenger

Want a more efficient way to send out meeting agendas and attachments? Lark integrates communication tools to simplify the process. There’s no need to switch between different apps or platforms.

Lark chat connects with everything. Once you’re done drafting the agenda, share, schedule, and assign without leaving your chat feed. Plus, Lark keeps teams informed with automated reminders to nudge attendees about upcoming meetings.


Integrated communication channels


Lark Meetings

Host meetings directly within Lark. With screen sharing, collaborative whiteboarding, and even real-time polls, Lark Meetings keeps teams focused. This is particularly important since, according to 63% of employees, having multiple ways to engage in meetings would make them more productive.


In-meeting collaborative whiteboard


Lark Meetings even supports subtitles that are translated in real time, helping global teams collaborate without language barriers. Each meeting attendee can express themself in their native tongue. Moreover, with Magic Share, meeting participants can easily present content, switch between presenters, and even co-annotate during brainstorming sessions.

Link your meetings directly to Lark Calendar so that attendees have a centralized view of their schedule and meeting details. You can also schedule recurring meetings with custom intervals and automatic reminders.

Lark Minutes

Never miss an important detail in your meetings with Lark Minutes, which automatically transcribes your meeting discussions into easily searchable text. Free your team from the responsibility of taking meeting notes and focus on active participation.

Need to review something quickly? Play meeting recordings at your own pace. Fast forward, rewind, and even skip silent parts to easily find the content you need.

With Lark Minutes, everyone on your team has access to comprehensive meeting records. Easily review discussions, track decisions, and stay aligned.


Automatic meeting transcription


Lark Base

Lark Base lets you automate routine tasks related to your agendas and meetings — without code. Based on meeting discussions and decisions, trigger follow-up emails to attendees, create project tasks, and more.

You can also keep track of your action items through Lark. Set deadlines and monitor your team’s progress to make sure the momentum continues even after the meeting ends.


Build workflows and processes


Common FAQs about writing meeting agendas

Let's clear up some lingering questions you may have about writing meeting agendas.

How do I write an agenda for a board meeting?

Board meetings tend to be more formal than regular company meetings. They often have specific requirements and a greater focus on high-level strategy. So, the agenda should reflect this formality.

Including items mandated by your company’s bylaws is a must. Additionally, leave ample time for in-depth discussions, financial reports, and approval of major decisions.

Remember to distribute the agenda and supporting materials in advance to give board members enough time to review everything they need to.

How do I write an agenda for a first meeting?

The goal of a first meeting is to introduce new team members, build rapport, and set a positive tone for a project or company. The agenda typically centers around introductions, establishing roles, and clarifying meeting objectives.

It could also be a good idea to build time for icebreakers or have each person share their role in the project or company and what they're most excited about. Even a simple activity like this can help ease any nerves the attendees might have.

How long should an agenda be?

While there's no ideal length for a good meeting agenda, try to keep things as concise as possible while covering all the necessary topics. An important hour-long meeting might have a more detailed agenda than a quick 15-minute check-in.

If you have an agenda that seems too packed, estimate the amount of time needed for each item and then remove anything that you deem non-essential. Consider whether certain topics could be discussed in an email update or a brief discussion at the start of the next meeting instead.

Does every meeting need an agenda?

Yes! A simple agenda prevents discussions from going off on tangents. Even short, informal meetings can benefit from a few bullet points outlining their purpose and desired outcome.

Use Lark for all your business meeting needs

Craft effective meeting agendas and host productive meetings in our all-in-one platform. Try Lark now.