The Long and Short of Agendas


Bob Lorriman | Oct 11th, 2013 | No Comments | Tags:

There is much debate about how many items should be included in a meeting agenda and, as you might suspect, there is no one clear answer. It all depends. It depends on, among other things, the type of group, the nature of the items on the agenda, the scheduled length of the meeting, the number of participants…

So let’s agree that there is no one simple answer but if you like lists, here are some that may help:meeting-start

The risks of having too many items on the agenda:

  • The meeting running overtime.
  • Some items getting squeezed, deferred or dropped.
  • Alienating some participants who do not have an interest in all items.
  • Loosing participants who cannot stay for the whole agenda.
  • Difficulty in finding committee members who can commit to long meetings.

The risks of having too few items on the agenda:

  • Alienating some participants who may have gone to considerable effort to attend, only for a short period of time.
  • Having group members decide not to attend for to avoid the above.

With this in mind, there are some options to consider when planning the agenda.

Things to do if you have too many agenda items:

  • Distribute information-only items in a separate report
  • Have more complicated items addressed by a subcommittee or task group to prepare a report which can then be considered by the whole group for final review.
  • Consider if your group is the right group to handle the list of agenda items. If not, have them referred to the appropriate body.
  • Place any items which can be handled by the group outside of the meeting near the end of the agenda so they can be sacrificed if necessary.
  • Consider stand-alone meetings for any items which are very involved or controversial.

Things to do if you have too few agenda items:

  • Cancel the meeting and have the items added to the agenda of the next meeting (assuming that they are not time sensitive)
  • If there are no key decisions to be made, prepare and send an information package in lieu of the meeting,
  • Combine the meeting with some other event which your group members may also be attending,
  • Use another more convenient meeting format such as telephone conference call, online meeting or email meeting.

Aside from covering the business at hand, one of the most important jobs of you, the agenda planner, is to keep your group energized and enthused. You can often achieve this by thinking outside of the box and designing your agendas to have effective and productive meetings.


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