How to Create an Online Meeting Agenda and Run Helpful Meetings

Online meetings have become the norm in an age of remote work, especially should you want to communicate effectively with your virtual staff. However, creating a well-structured meeting agenda ensures these virtual gatherings prove effective. Here, we will explore how to create an online meeting agenda and run productive virtual meetings.

Define the meeting’s purpose.

Every successful meeting begins with a clear objective. Before scheduling the appointment, ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of this meeting?
  • Is it for decision-making, brainstorming, project updates, or team-building?

Clearly define the outcome you expect from the meeting and share it with the participants in advance. Also, remember that if it’s a one-on-one, you, the boss, should not dictate the agenda ─ your virtual assistant should.

This is a valuable time for them to ask you questions and discuss their challenges, allowing them to set the agenda for those types of meetings. However, it would help if you clearly defined the purpose of the meeting for other general meetings.

Steps needed to define the meeting’s purpose

  • Identify the reason for the meeting.
  • What do you want to achieve by the end of the meeting?
  • Consider the audience: who will be attending the meeting?
  • What are their needs and expectations? Define the desired outcome.
  • What do you want the participants to do or know by the end of the meeting?

Write a concise meeting-purpose statement that is clear, specific, and actionable.

Example of a meeting-purpose statement

This meeting aims to brainstorm ideas for our upcoming marketing campaign. By the end of the session, we should have a list of at least ten viable ideas.

Tips for writing a meeting-purpose statement

  • Use active voice instead of passive voice.
  • Be specific and measurable.
  • Avoid jargon and technical terms.
  • Make sure that the statement is actionable.
  • Focus on the desired outcome, not the process.

Once you have written a meeting purpose statement, please share it with the participants so they can come prepared for the meeting.

Set a realistic time frame.

Respect your participants’ time. Check the participants’ calendars to find a time that works for everyone. Then, determine how much time is necessary to achieve the meeting’s objective and schedule the appointment accordingly. Keeping appointments concise and on schedule helps maintain engagement.

Steps Needed to Set a Realistic Time Frame for a Meeting

Check the participants’ calendars to find a time that works for everyone. Determine how much time is necessary to achieve the meeting’s objective. Consider the following factors:

  • the complexity of the topic
  • the number of items on the agenda
  • the need for discussion and collaboration
  • the need for breaks.

Schedule the meeting for an appropriate duration for the agenda and according to the participants’ availability. Buffer some time at the beginning and end of the meeting to account for unexpected delays. Send a meeting invitation to all participants in advance, including the meeting start and end times.

Tips for Setting a Realistic Time Frame for a Meeting

Be realistic about how much time is needed to achieve the meeting’s objective/s. Consider the participants’ availability and schedule the meeting at a time that works for everyone—buffer time at the beginning and end of the meeting to account for unexpected delays.

Send a meeting invitation to all participants in advance, including the meeting start and end times. By following these steps, you can help ensure that your meetings are productive and efficient.

Prioritize Agenda Items

Identify the most critical topics to discuss and prioritize them. Ensure that the most important matters are covered early in the meeting when participants are most attentive. Your virtual assistant can manage all those tasks for you.

Steps Needed to Prioritize Agenda Items

Review the agenda items and identify the most critical topics to discuss. Group the agenda items into categories of high urgency, high importance, medium urgency, medium importance, low urgency, and low importance.

Start the meeting with high urgency and high-importance items. Be prepared to adjust the priorities as needed during the conference.

Here is a More Detailed Explanation of each Step

Review the agenda items and identify the most critical topic to discuss. When reviewing the agenda items, consider the following factors:

  • The urgency of the topic: Does the case need to be addressed immediately?
  • The importance of the issue: How significant is the topic to the meeting’s objective?
  • The complexity of this issue: How much time and discussion will the issue require?
  • The interdependence of the topics: Are some topics dependent on others? Once you have identified the most critical issues, you can prioritize them accordingly.

Group the agenda items into categories of high urgency, high importance, medium urgency, medium importance, low urgency, and low importance. This will help you see which topics are most important and must be discussed first. You can use a matrix or list to categorize the issues.

Start the meeting with high urgency and high-importance items. This will ensure that the most critical issues are discussed when participants are most attentive. Be prepared to adjust the priorities as needed during the meeting. Sometimes, unexpected problems may come up during the conference. If this happens, be prepared to change the priorities accordingly. Following these steps can help ensure that your meetings are focused and productive.

Assign Time Slots

Allocate specific time slots for each agenda item based on the estimated time required for discussion and decision-making and considering the interdependencies between agenda items. This not only keeps the meeting organized but also helps prevent overruns. Stick to the schedule as closely as possible to respect participants’ time. Steps needed to assign time slots for agenda items, considering the interdependencies between agenda items:

  • Identify the interdependencies between agenda items. This could involve creating a dependency map or simply brainstorming a list of how the different agenda items are related.
  • Order the agenda items in a logical sequence based on the interdependencies. For example, if item A is a prerequisite for item B, item A should be discussed first. Estimate the amount of time required for each agenda item, including time for discussion, questions, and decision-making.
  • Allocate specific time slots for each agenda item, considering the interdependencies and the estimated time required. Review the time slots and make adjustments as needed. For example, you may need to allocate more time to specific agenda items or leave more buffer time between items.
  • Update the meeting agenda to include the time slots for each agenda item.
  • Share the updated meeting agenda with all participants in advance.

Here is a More Detailed Explanation of Each Step

Identify the interdependencies between agenda items. When identifying the interdependencies between agenda items, consider the following:

  • Does one agenda item need to be completed before another can begin?
  • Are there any shared resources or dependencies between agenda items?
  • Do any decisions need to be made to proceed with other agenda items? Order the agenda items in a logical sequence based on their interdependencies.

Once you have identified the interdependencies between agenda items, order them logically. This will help ensure the meeting flows smoothly and each agenda item is discussed appropriately. Estimate the amount of time required for each agenda item. When estimating the amount of time needed for each agenda item, consider the following factors:

  • The complexity of the topic.
  • The number of participants who will be involved in the discussion.
  • The likelihood of disagreement or debate.
  • The need for decision-making. Allocate specific time slots for each agenda item, considering the interdependencies and the estimated time required.

When allocating time slots, be realistic about the time available for the meeting and leave some buffer time for unexpected delays. Review the time slots and make adjustments as needed. Once you have allocated time slots for each agenda item, review them and adjust as needed.

For example, you may need to allocate more time to specific agenda items or leave more buffer time between them. Update the meeting agenda to include the time slots for each agenda item. Once you have finalized the time slots, update the agenda accordingly. Share the updated meeting agenda with all participants in advance.

This will give participants time to review the agenda and prepare for the meeting. It will also help ensure everyone is on the same page and the meeting is productive. By following these steps, you can help to ensure that your meetings are organized and efficient and that the agenda items are discussed in a logical and productive sequence.

Share the Agenda in Advance

Distribute the meeting agenda to participants before the meeting. This gives them time to prepare, gather relevant information, and come to the meeting with valuable insights. It also helps participants know what to expect. Therefore, attach the meeting agenda to the meeting invitation. Steps needed to share the meeting agenda in advance:

  • Send the meeting agenda to all participants at least 24 hours before.
  • Attach the meeting agenda to the meeting invitation.
  • Provide background information.

Include relevant background information, data, or documents for each agenda item. This certifies that participants are well-informed and can contribute meaningfully to the discussion. Additionally, consider the purpose of the meeting when determining which information is relevant.

Critical Steps Needed for Providing Background Information to Participants

  • Identify the purpose of the meeting.
  • Identify each agenda item’s relevant background information, data, or documents.
  • Present the information clearly and concisely.
  • Share the news with participants before the meeting.

Encourage Participation

Encourage your meeting participants to contribute. Include discussion or question periods after each agenda item. This fosters collaboration, brainstorming, and idea sharing.

Stick to the Agenda

During the meeting, follow the agenda closely. Stay on topic and steer the conversation back to the agenda if it starts to veer off course. A clear structure helps maintain focus.

Time Management

Appoint a timekeeper to monitor the clock and ensure each agenda item stays within its allotted time. This individual can gently remind participants if discussions start to overrun.

Document Action Items

At the end of the meeting, document action items, decisions, and responsibilities. Afterward, share this document with participants, recording what was discussed and what needs to be done.

Gather Feedback

Gather feedback from participants to continuously improve your meeting process. Ask for their input on the agenda’s effectiveness and the meeting’s efficiency, and ask what could be done differently.

Adapt and Evolve

Online meetings are not one-size-fits-all. Be open to adapting your meeting format and agenda as needed. If certain agenda items are consistently unproductive, consider re-evaluating their relevance or the approach to addressing them.

In Conclusion: How to Create an Online Meeting Agenda and Run Helpful Meetings

Creating compelling online meeting agendas and running productive virtual meetings is a skill that can significantly enhance communication and collaboration within your remote team. By defining the purpose, setting a time frame, prioritizing topics, sharing the agenda in advance, encouraging participation, and maintaining time management, you can ensure that your virtual meetings are efficient and fruitful. In the digital age, mastering the art of online meetings is a valuable asset for any organization.


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