The power of a set agenda

Ask any business guru and productivity coach, and they will confirm you the importance of a meeting agenda to make sure attendees can prepare.

Ask any person who regularly attends meetings and they might confess that they look at the agenda the moment they dial in for the meeting or walk through the door.

And yet, since leading a lot of meetings myself, I’ve come to love the agenda. Even the agenda that no one looks at. Even the agenda that was shared with me as a chore, not an opportunity.

To think outside a box – you first need a box

An agenda provides a certain structure for your thoughts, a certain focus for your ideas. By publishing the agenda with whomever is in the meeting with you, you share this focus with them. Even if they just glance at the agenda 3 seconds before entering the room, you’ve successfully defined where they are going to direct their attention and their creativity.

Agenda items denote priorities

If something is important to you and does not show on the agenda, make sure to add it. On the flip side, if you create the agenda and there is something you’d rather not discuss now, leave it out. Leaving things off the agenda, s just as powerful as adding things to the agenda. Agenda’s define priorities and future action items. Use this power!


Reading or setting an agenda allows you to prepare for the meeting, even if it’s just by setting you into the right mindset, remembering key data, checking a fact you aren’t sure about and thus setting your mind at easy before entering the room. Whether you are a social butterfly or prefer to keep to yourself as much as possible, knowing what’s coming can be very reassuring.

Does a 1o1 meeting need an agenda?

I have to admit, I started setting agenda’s for my team’s 1 on 1s, because “that’s what you do”. I only realized the power of the agenda when talking with Vera about my anxiety around a meeting with our division lead – a meeting I had requested myself.

Vera asked: Do they know what you want to talk about with them?

Obviously, I knew what I wanted to talk about since I requested the call. Or rather, I had a vague notion of what topics I wanted to talk about. Her question made me put those vague notions into words: get feedback, talk about career development and future plans of the division. The fact that I can summarise these topics is in big part due to the fact that I committed to send an agenda the night before the meeting, obliging my own brain to focus on what is really important to me. Ultimately this improved the quality of the meeting itself, because I was able to direct it much more confidently.

An agenda doesn’t need to be a list of 10 bullet points. A one line summary that sets the topic is just as valid. Writing it down helps you to get clear on what you want to get out of the meeting and lets the other part get into the right mindset too.

Knowing what’s coming helps the limbic system to relax and get out of the flight-or-fight mode. And that’s exactly what you need to move a meeting (and a project forward).

Take those 5 mins to decide what you want to do with your joint time. And share it!

[This post is part of my journey with my career coach Stephanie Vora, a perk offered by Automattic. You can find all posts here.]

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