Tips for Top Virtual Meetings 3 - WHAT?

I have previously looked at WHY you are having the meeting (defining carefully its purpose), and WHO it is constructive to ask. Today I’ll take a quick look at WHAT? What are you proposing to cover?

Most of us have heard that it is a good idea to circulate an agenda to participants in advance of a meeting. But, be very honest, do your agendas tend to be a hastily put together list of 15 – 20 items for discussion. How does it make you feel when you receive an agenda like this yourself? I find myself exhausted and bored before I’ve even logged in! So how do you create that perfect agenda that will promote positive expectations, even enthusiasm for the meeting?

Remember from my first blog, without a clearly defined purpose you may well be trying to cover too much in one meeting. So that is your starting point. Then the agenda should be focused and structured, in line with the purpose.

Try to adopt a structure of no more than three or four major issues or topics to cover: a shorter, focused agenda is going to be more motivating and likely to lead to better discussion and collaboration. The smaller points you may have been tempted to put in your agenda can be covered incidentally, or not at all, but perhaps they didn’t need to be in this meeting!

If you have a really demanding or challenging issue to discuss, consider putting a lighter topic first to ease people into the meeting and warm them up. Challenge them only once their attention has really kicked in. Conversely you may think that if you don’t put the challenge first, nobody will really be paying attention to anything else because they know what’s coming! My point being: it is important not only to ‘chunk’ the meeting into focused discussion points, but also to consider the best order in which to introduce them.

Estimate the amount of time to spend on each issue and at the same time consider carefully how long you want the meeting to take overall. Any meeting, but particularly virtual meetings where attention spans are friable, should not be infinite: ‘as long as it takes’! I would suggest a maximum time is 1.30mins, and 45mins would be good.

Put the timings on the circulated agenda. It will indicate the relative importance of each issue, and set some expectations helping you to steer the meeting and prevent it getting bogged down in minor issues. It could also be quite motivating for participants to see a meeting scheduled for a mere 45mins. Hurray!

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