How to Build a Meeting Agenda from Scratch

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 16, 2010

Build an Agenda

You’ve decided to have a regular staff meeting and you want to make it relevant, interactive, and meaningful.  So gather your folks together and ask them to help you build the agenda for the meeting.

Grab a marker and ask “What do we need to accomplish at this meeting?”  On an easel chart, legibly write down each idea the way it was stated and the name of the person who suggested the idea.  Note:  You are asking the team to identify outcomes or expected results — not just a laundry list of topics.  Before you move on to the next step, ask if everyone understands the outcomes and clarify if necessary.  Combine similar items — if there is any dissent, assume that the ideas are distinct and should remain separate.  Elapsed time to list the outcomes: no more than five minutes.

Next, take each item and ask the suggestor how long it will take to achieve the outcome.  If the team disagrees, allow a few seconds for discussion and write down the most agreed-upon time.  Remember:  An agenda is just a roadmap and the time limits are guideposts.  If the team later agrees that they need more time, they will have the flexibility to adjust the agenda.  Also ask the suggestor if he or she would like to lead the discussion.  If not, then ask the team for a volunteer.  Beware: If just one or two people are leading all the items you’ll end up with a one-way conversation!  Elapsed time to identify time limits and leaders: two minutes.

Lastly, prioritize your list.  Most teams have too much to do and not enough time, so it is critical to start with the most important.  Some teams simply rank the agenda items with number one being the most important, two as the next most important, etc.  Or try the ABC concept – where “A” is vital — we must accomplish this outcome at this meeting, “B” is important — we should accomplish this outcome, and “C” is trivial — we could do this, but the world won’t come to an end if we don’t accomplish this today.  When prioritizing, quickly go through the list and ask: “Is this an A, B, or C?” and write down the most agreed-upon letter.  Some teams continue to prioritize by sequencing each group of letters — identifying A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, C1, C2, C3.  Elapsed time: one or two minutes.

You have now built your agenda!  Start with the A1 and move through the list.  Total time:  no more than ten minutes —  a worthwhile investment to the team’s work.

Question:  Do you have a system that works for your team?  If so, please share with us.

To book Kristin to speak or view her products go to

Skip to content