One of my pet peeves is attending a “mystery meeting”. You know the type, vague subject line and no agenda. Maybe you get a brief sentence in the invite saying “let’s meet to discuss XYZ”. No agenda, no goal. Your meeting has no requirements! An effective agenda takes a few minutes to pull together yet is a meeting management tool that can save you endless minutes, hours even, and sets you up for success to facilitate an effective meeting.
Meeting Agenda Tip #1: Identify the Goal of the Meeting
If you do only one thing when planning a meeting, be very clear about the goal. “Discuss XYZ” is not a goal, it’s an activity. Most meetings seem to have implicit goals for the attendees to decide something. If so, state what decision is needed and, if possible, describe the next action someone can begin once that decision is made.
The next action really gives your goal credibility because you have a valid litmus test for whether or not the decision was made at the end of the meeting.
But not all meetings are called for decision-making. Sometimes the goal is to simply review a requirements document for feedback, generate ideas about a feature, or determine the effort associated with a specific requirement or project. Think clearly about your expected outcome for the meeting and write it out in your agenda.
Meeting Agenda Tip #2: Identify Meeting Topics
Once you’ve determined your outcome, list out the topics (a.k.a. agenda items) that will help you achieve that outcome, preferably as a bullet list.
For example, if your goal is to make decisions about how to assign resources among projects, you might first ask the business stakeholders what their current priorities are, review who is assigned to what, then negotiate adjustments. This list provides a clear progression toward the desired end state. If you are generating ideas about a feature, you might facilitate a quick ice breaker, followed by a structured brainstorming activity, and closed with a review of the ideas generated.
No matter what your goal, there are usually a few activities you can list to support it. When running the meeting, it will be important not to let these activities become goals in and of themselves. If you are engaged in an “agenda item” and it’s not helping you achieve your goal then it might be worth discarding on-the-fly. Likewise it can often make sense to slot in a new agenda item when it becomes clear it’s needed to achieve your goal. Honoring serendipity is prudent.
Meeting Agenda Tip #3: Prepare Deliverables
Whenever possible, prepare a requirements deliverable in advance and send it out with your meeting agenda, or at least prior to the meeting.
Here are some examples of deliverables you could create:
- Scope Statement – to help clarify the business needs driving a project and the project scope.
- Business Process Model – to articulate an as-is or to-be business process
- Use Case – along with a corresponding wireframe, a use case documents software functionality and will help you get business and technical users on the same page about the requirements.
- Data Models – to clarify business terminology, database requirements, and data flow between systems.
- Business Analysis Plan – to identify your business analysis process approach, what stakeholders you need involved when, and gain buy-in on their involvement.
>>Get My Meeting Agenda Template
The BA Template Toolkit includes a meeting agenda template, along with templates for capturing meeting notes and 10 other common BA specifications such as a scope statement, business process model, use case, business analysis plan, and a few data models – so you don’t have to start from scratch.