How to Write a Meeting Agenda – Making PALs

by James on March 9, 2009

Waiting for the MeetingDo meetings make you crazy? Personally, I like them. When there’s an effective meeting agenda, it’s a chance to interact with colleagues and share ideas but, when they don’t have structure, when there’s no agenda, they make me crazy too.

Like most things, planning is the key to success. There are three broad elements to consider: purpose, agenda and limits or PAL.

I first came across PAL working with a major telco in the late 90s. They were meeting crazy and, because they were always in meetings, they had difficulty getting anything done. They started using PAL as a way to manage the excess.

Here’s how it worked. If you were invited to a meeting and the invitation wasn’t accompanied by the PAL then you didn’t have to attend. If it didn’t start within ten minutes of its official start time, you could leave. This discipline didn’t reduce the number but it did keep them focused and on time.

Hip Shots

  • Be clear about when the meeting starts, where it will be held and when it will end. Setting limits keeps the discussion focused.
  • State the purpose of the meeting, both in the invitation and at the onset of the discussion. Keep the conversation tied to the purpose. Tangents are fine but identify them as such and move them to a Parking Lot for discussion at the end if there’s time.
  • Use an agenda, ideally with timing, to keep the discussion on track. The agenda should also be included in the invitation and stated at the onset of the meeting. Determine a time keeper, someone to manage the agenda during the meeting, so you don’t run out of time. Project Managers are good at this.
  • The duration is an often overlooked aspect of the meeting invitation. Including the planned duration allows attendees to more effectively manage their time. This will be appreciated by all.

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