8 min

5 Agenda Rules to Make Meetings Shorter & More Productive

Unproductive meetings are costly for a company. Discover the 5 rules of an action-oriented agenda to minimise the financial impact of unproductive meetings.

Productive meetings are a vital component of every team's success. They are an opportunity to foster collaboration and creativity, set and achieve goals, and strengthen relationships.

However, most meetings are not productive — the time spent in them is usually wasted on unproductive conversations, getting lost in confusion due to lack of clarity, or just going over the same thing repeatedly.

One of the most effective ways to make your meetings shorter and more productive is by having an agenda. An agenda helps keep your meetings organised and on track because it provides a way for people to contribute their thoughts or ideas in a structured way.

However, not all agendas are created equal. In this article, we will cover five rules of a results-oriented meeting agenda that makes meetings more productive so your team can spend more time doing the work that matters most.

How Much Time Are You Spending in Unproductive Meetings?

Before diving into the five rules of a results-oriented meeting agenda, let's briefly go over some eye-opening research on why companies must prioritise productivity in meetings.

According to research published in MIT Sloan Management Review, workers in the United States can spend up to over 50% of their working week in meetings. Here are some key findings:

  • The average employee spends about 6 hours per week in meetings
  • Senior managers spend nearly 23 hours per week in meetings
  • People working in larger organisations tend to have more meetings than those in smaller ones

That’s a lot of time spent in meetings. Now, the more important question is—are they productive? The research goes on to reveal that:

  • More than half the employees surveyed complain about their meetings
  • 17% rated meeting productivity as "good to excellent."
  • 42% rated meeting productivity to be "good."
  • 25% rated the meeting productivity to be neither good nor bad.
  • 15% rated meeting productivity as "poor" or worse.

Bottom line: Over 50% of staff are disgruntled with meetings, and up to 40% of meetings are considered unproductive.

What Are Unproductive Meetings Costing You?

A study by STL estimated the average financial impact of meetings in the United States to be:

  • $527 per meeting for Fortune 500 companies
  • $547 per meeting for Fortune 500-2000 companies
  • $412 per meeting for other companies

That's a pretty high cost to run every meeting. It shouldn't be surprising that a Forbes report revealed that unproductive business meetings cost companies an estimated $541 billion in lost productivity and employee time, which does not include the costs associated with travelling for meetings.

Forbes had based their findings on Doodle's 2019 State of Meetings Report, which studied 19 million business meetings across the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland.

How Can an Effective Agenda Improve Productivity?

In the same study by Doodle, employees had cited “lack of an agenda” and “failure to stick to an agenda” as some of the reasons they considered meetings to be wasteful. And they’re not wrong to feel this way.

A study published in the Journal of Staff Development called "Results-Oriented Agendas Transform Meetings into Valuable Collaborative Events" reported that the suitable agenda template:

  • Saves time
  • Develops teams
  • Increases productivity

It’s important to note that the key focus of this study was on results-oriented agendas.

So what makes an agenda “result-oriented”? We have identified five rules that make an agenda results-oriented. Let’s dive into them now.

Rule #1: Clear Purpose to Ensure the Right People are On-Board

The first rule is ensuring your agenda has a clear purpose and pre-stated desired outcome. A clear purpose ensures that only participants crucial to the outcome are present.

Many employees are frustrated when they're in a meeting that doesn't need their input. The STL study mentioned earlier also reported that 60% of employees worry about their other work responsibilities piling up when they're stuck in meetings that don't need their involvement.

To make sure you have a clear purpose and the right people on board, ask yourself:

  1. What decisions need to be made?
  2. Who needs to be present to brainstorm the decision?
  3. Who will own the final decision?

AgendaLink makes it easy for you to communicate the purpose and invite the right people in one streamlined view:

Rule #2: Clear Topics & Timeframe to Minimise Time Spent in Meetings

The next step is to plan out the logistics of the meeting beforehand. This includes breaking down what topics will be discussed, who needs to be involved with each discussion, and the time set aside for each subject.

Having this clear agenda that all participants can preview before the meeting allows employees to optimise their work time and only jump into the discussion when needed.

In AgendaLink, you can create a clear, visual agenda that shows each topic, the set timeframe for discussion, and icon visuals of the people that need to be involved in each topic discussion.

Planning your agenda this way can help minimise the time you spend in meetings because you:

  • Eliminate confusion on what needs to be discussed next.
  • Make sure that only the people who need to be involved with a topic discussion are present.
  • Have clear time frames that prevent idle chat and unproductive conversations.

Rule #3: Real-Time Access to the Latest Agenda for Effective Preparation

Next, you’ll need to send out the agenda to all invited meeting participants so each person can:

  1. Prepare their input and questions for more efficiency during the meeting.
  2. Ask clarifying questions about a topic before the meeting to prevent wasting time in meetings due to confusion.
  3. Give input on the agenda. For example, a participant might feel that a specific topic requires more time for discussion or that another person needs to be invited for a certain discussion.

With these reasons in mind, it's critical that meeting participants can easily access the latest agenda. This means the agenda should remain always accessible online and is not distributed as a physical sheet of paper or an attached file in email.

Suppose you send out a physical agenda or an agenda in a static document such as a PDF file. In that case, whenever participants give input to the agenda, you'll need to update the agenda and redistribute it to everyone invited to the meeting.

You'll end up wasting more time preparing for the meeting. The back-and-forth communication can be confusing when there are long email threads and multiple iterations of an agenda to sieve through.

This is why having an online agenda tool like AgendaLink makes it a breeze for everyone to effectively prepare for the meeting because everyone can have online access to view the latest agenda.

Rule #4: Capture Action Items and Decisions During the Meeting

Many assume that a meeting agenda is only helpful before and during a meeting. In truth, a meeting agenda's purpose continues even after the meeting.

A practical, action-oriented agenda gives meeting participants an outline to capture items and decisions for each topic discussed. You can achieve this in one of two ways: manual or online.

The first way is manual. Each participant uses their preferred note-taking method, whether with pen-and-paper or digitally. Using the agenda, they can structure their notes and tasks to each agenda item.

The most significant disadvantage of this method is that everyone has separate notes. Participants are more likely only to write down what's relevant to them. The team and meeting organiser can't see all the items and decisions made, which can make it inefficient to follow up on each task or get everyone on the same page with discussion outcomes.

When it becomes inefficient to follow up on tasks post-meeting or remember discussion outcomes, the meeting did not achieve its pre-stated desired result. Not meeting the desired outcomes can often lead to organising another meeting—just to recap the previous meeting, get everyone on the same page, and follow up on tasks!

This is highly inefficient. Hence, we believe a more effective agenda is an online agenda that lets you capture action items, decisions, and key insights during the meeting in real-time.

AgendaLink's function to keep track of decisions and tasks in real-time during the meeting simplifies how you keep everyone on the same page after the meeting, helping reduce unnecessary future meetings and get things done faster!

Rule #5: Follow-up Mechanism to Make Sure All Action Items are Complete

Finally, an effective agenda makes it easy for meeting organisers, managers, or supervisors to follow up on tasks and ensure all action items get done.

Similar to the previous point, following up on tasks manually is inefficient, time-consuming, and prone to mistakes.

However, when you have an interactive agenda like AgendaLink that lets you see all post-meeting tasks assigned to each person and their progress. With everything on one page, it becomes easier and faster to follow up on action items and ensure they are completed on time.

Each meeting participant will also save time because they can see their tasks and due dates in one place.

Improve Your Agenda, Improve Your Meetings

In summary, the five rules of an action-oriented agenda are:

  1. A clear purpose of ensuring the right people are on-board.
  2. Clear topics and timeframe to minimise time spent in meetings.
  3. Real-time access to the latest agenda for adequate preparation.
  4. Ability to capture action items and decisions during the meeting.
  5. A follow-up mechanism to make sure all action items are complete.

AgendaLink makes meeting all five rules easy for your team to stay productive before, during, and after meetings.

Check out our latest offer on AgendaLink to make your next meeting efficient, productive, and effective.

Agendalink Team
Manage projects like never before
Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.
Get started
Share on socials -

Get the full Agendalink experience with our desktop & app

Get access to all functionalities
Take screenshots
Easier video recording
More notification settings