Stop Going to Meetings That Don’t Have Agendas
Cameron Herold is known around the world as “The Business Growth Guru.” He is the mastermind behind hundreds of companies’ exponential growth, helping to guide organizations to double their profit and double their revenue in just three years or less. With current clients that include a “Big 4” wireless carrier, and even the monarchy, Cameron speaks not from theory, but from experience, providing tactical and tangible lessons for all audiences. He was recently even called “the best speaker I’ve ever heard”, by Rich Karlgaaard, publisher of Forbes magazine. Below, Cameron shares an excerpt from his celebrated book, Meetings Suck:
Without question, every meeting must have a clear agenda distributed to attendees in advance.
If you skip creating an agenda, then your meetings can quickly go off track, get hijacked by a random topic, or include people who shouldn’t be attending.
I’ve found that without an agenda guiding the discussion, it’s also common for attendees to ramble, or engage in simultaneous side-conversations — all outcomes detrimental to taking your company to the next level.
Here are the five benefits of meeting agendas.
1.Introverts are engaged: When it comes to your more introverted team members, more often than not, they won’t speak up unless you ask them a question directly or they’re passionate and engaged in the subject.
Giving introverts an agenda in advance allows them the time they need to think through answers, frame their thoughts, write them down, prepare a statement, or whatever else they need to do to raise their ideas.
If an agenda is not given to these individuals ahead of time, you will likely lose great ideas that will remain unspoken and will walk out of the room with them when the meeting is finished.
2.Time is maximized: Creating an agenda in advance gives you the distinct advantage of maximizing your time. When you include how long each item is up for discussion, you realize whether you’ve allocated too much or too little time for certain subjects. This gives you flexibility to adjust and split topics into separate groups before the meeting begins, instead of trying to navigate this on the fly.
You can also save time in the beginning of the meeting by skipping an introduction in which you cover what will be addressed. By giving attendees the agenda in advance, you can immediately dive into the discussion the moment the meeting begins.
Plus, if an agenda item is scheduled for three minutes and you know the next one is for fifteen minutes, then you can control your time, the flow of ideas, and communication more efficiently.
3.Only essential employees participate: Creating your agenda in advance forces you to think critically about who you’re inviting. Often I see leaders show up for a meeting only to realize they’ve invited too many people or the wrong ones.
I firmly believe it’s vital only to invite individuals for the portion of the agenda for which they’re needed.
When you’re creating your agenda, it’s helpful to ask two questions about attendees:
- Do I need to have all these people I’m thinking about inviting?
- Do these people need to sit through the entire meeting, or do I only need them for a portion of the meeting, on a particular subject?
Imagine that everyone who shows up represents fifty dollars. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you invite the wrong two people, or two people come to an unnecessary meeting every day, then you’ve wasted one hundred dollars and prevented two people from providing more value by remaining at their desks and getting their work done.
Say this happens once a day; that’s $100 a day, multiplied by 250 operating days. That is $25,000 a year that disappeared because you invited the wrong people to a meeting.
If this goes on for years, then it could cost your company hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that’s only if you’re inviting two people wrongly. Imagine if the majority of people attending meetings in the company shouldn’t be?
4.People learn to opt out: Providing an agenda before the meeting makes people feel like there’s a good reason for them to attend. But giving people the agenda before the meeting also gives people the chance to opt out if they don’t feel they can provide or extract value.
This is a great skill to teach people, because you want them to evaluate and decide how best they can serve and provide value to the organization. If they see the agenda before the meeting, it gives them the chance to say, “Well, there’s a bunch of stuff here, but I have no ideas, don’t really care, or don’t think I will get or receive any value.”
But sometimes opting out isn’t all or nothing; people may come for either the entire meeting or none of it. When you send out the agenda, topics, and the duration for each item, then people can look at it and say, “Hey, there’s an hour’s worth of time allocated, and we’re covering seven topics. It looks like only items three and four are valuable, so I will just show up for those points.” Or they can say, “I will come at the beginning, but I will leave right after item four, skipping items five, six, and seven so I can get back and do my other work.”
When people make these choices, we should cheer them for their decision to stay focused on their responsibilities and priorities instead of becoming involved in everything. They’re looking through the lens of how best to generate value for the company through their time and resources,and this is exactly what we want to encourage all our people to do.
5.Your team comes prepared: When you include the meeting style (information sharing, creative discussion, or consensus decision) in the agenda, you’re telling your team what to expect and how best to prepare. These three styles define the format of any meeting, whether it’s on strategy, finance, operations, coaching, or another topic.
Giving the meeting style to your team ahead of time is a crucial piece of information, because then they will know whether they need to listen, offer ideas, or debate the merits of a decision on a given agenda item. People get frustrated when they are uncertain how to act. If they don’t know what they’re supposed to do on each subject, then they might wonder what is happening.
For example, if someone doesn’t know a meeting is an information sharing session, they might be confused about why a topic wasn’t open for discussion. Or in a creative discussion, they may sit and question why a decision isn’t being made.