Collaboration Toolkit

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Develop Effective Meeting Agendas

The agenda will serve as a road map to accomplish your meeting objectives. As a general rule, the amount of time spent preparing for a meeting should be much more than that devoted to the meeting itself. Before you can develop an agenda, you need to answer several questions. Each of these questions will provide information to help develop a strong agenda, which will help you achieve your objectives.

Why are you calling a meeting?

By first asking what you need to accomplish, you might determine that a meeting isn’t necessary and that you can accomplish your goals some other way (such as group emails or select calls). Some of the most common reasons for a meeting are:
  • Sharing information.
  • Solving a problem.
  • Making a decision.
  • Reviewing progress and evaluating results.
  • Celebrating achievements.

What do you hope to accomplish?

Structure your agenda topics to help you get the input you need. Are you looking for agree¬ment on an issue? Increased awareness of an issue to identify new collaborative opportunities or actions? If you can’t clearly outline the desired results, chances are you need to go back and focus on the purpose of the meeting.

Who needs to attend and what are their roles?

Based on your desired outcomes, determine who needs to be involved in the meeting. It can be frustrating to plan to discuss an issue in great detail, only to find the key people who can provide unique insights or make a decision are not present. Determine what the participants’ roles will be. Who is necessary to participate in the meeting? Who will lead the meeting? Do you need a facilitator? Who will take notes? How will decisions be made?

What topics need to be discussed to reach the desired outcome?

Deciding on topics will help determine if materials need to be sent out ahead of time so that an informed decision can be made. It will also help in allotting time on the agenda for discus¬sion. You might find that you won’t have time to discuss all the proposed topics and will have to narrow the list. Or you may ask participants to review materials and bring ideas to fast-track action-oriented discussions during the meeting.


Once you have answered the above questions, you can develop an agenda that is focused on the desired outcomes, allows enough time for discussion of key issues, and is structured so participants will feel they have contributed to the desired outcome. If co-chairs or a steering committee leads your collaborative, it can be helpful to get their input on draft meeting agendas.

See sample SWC meeting agendas:

Download a meeting agenda template here.

Click to download a PDF version of this page

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