In Social Learning Spaces, all team members take turns creating fun, effective meeting agendas that spark amazing creativity and eagerness to attend.

Can Effective Meeting Agendas Be Fun? Yes, Through Shared Responsibility!

A cute toddler waddled into the room where the business meeting was being called to order. If you were at this meeting how would you have reacted? Shocked? Appalled? Intrigued? Amused? You may not think a toddler could contribute toward a team having more effective meeting agendas, but it actually did. You’ll find out how, later on in this article.

If you’re used to stuffy, boring meetings in a rigid boardroom structure, you might not think there’s any other way to conduct effective team meetings. As a result, your meeting agendas have probably been a little on the dull side…cover point 1, move to point 2, until everything has been hashed out. 

What I love about Communities of Practice (CoPs) is that they spark enthusiasm, innovation, and engagement because they function as a collective; the focus on Community is intentional. Therefore the meeting agendas are handled in a way that may seem foreign to you at first. But they are fun and highly effective.  In the following video, I share why fun is so important in the business setting.

Did you notice what makes CoP’s meeting agendas so effective is that no one person is solely responsible for owning or controlling the agenda? That’s right! The agenda is a co-constructed and collaborative affair. Something magical happens when a meeting agenda is handled this way. Everyone takes responsibility for the meeting outcomes. 

Now, I’m not saying that problems won’t arise. As long as there are two people involved there will be conflicts of interest, perhaps even confusion about the meeting topic, length, and so forth. 

This leads us to the question: How can Communities of Practice create quality agendas and have productive meetings, despite the challenges that come when working with a diverse group of people? 

I’ve outlined four questions you should answer when it’s your turn to create an effective agenda for your next CoP meeting:

1. Who will be the meeting facilitator? 

In a successful CoP meeting, all responsibilities are divided among several individuals, so the facilitator is not necessarily the team leader. For example, the role of knowledge management focuses on organizing and posting community documents—such as agendas.

Experienced CoPs rotate the job of the facilitator. That way, no one person is responsible for creating and presenting the agenda. In addition to creating the agenda, a facilitator in a CoP meeting will want to make sure each member has a chance to speak, that meetings stay on track, and meeting goals are accomplished. 

If it’s your turn to be the facilitator, ensure that everyone is on “the same page” through a well-written agenda. Word of mouth leaves too much room for error or misunderstanding. Get everyone involved in the creation of the agenda by asking for their suggestions. With online tools, it’s very easy to collaborate on a meeting agenda but you, as the facilitator, will be ultimately responsible for ensuring that it gets done.

Add some fun to your agendas to help build community, engagement, and creativity! I was at the community meeting where my colleague’s spouse arrived with their toddler. He had built a sandwich board that had the agenda written on it. It fit the toddler perfectly. She was so cute strutting in with it on. It made us all think about how we could jazz up our own agendas when it was our turn. Fun and team building all in one. 

This illustrates an important point, getting the group engaged sometimes takes some creativity. If you see that certain members aren’t engaged in the meeting, try to get them involved. Remember the reason why they’re there! 

2. What is the purpose of your meeting?

Have you ever been at a meeting when it feels like you’re going round and round in circles and never getting anywhere? Most likely, your meeting lacked a purpose. Productive meetings need effective meeting agendas! However, to create your agenda, you must know the clear purpose of the meeting. Only then can you focus all of your community members and give your meeting direction.

Give this serious thought well before the meeting. As you prepare the agenda, determine if the purpose is dealing with a short-term tactical problem or if it’s more of a long-term strategic issue. How much lead time do your participants need to be prepared to brainstorm solutions? Or do they just need to listen? If this hasn’t been clarified by the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, things can quickly break down. 

Make sure the first ten minutes of a meeting answers the question: Why does this matter? When everyone in the group knows why it’s important to them individually, they’ll be invested in finding solutions and bringing their best to the table. 

3. Why is each of you needed at this particular meeting?

If the meeting exists simply to disseminate information, put it in writing for others to read. One-way, informational meetings are an absolute waste of time. You’ll know if you need a team meeting if you need to discuss and make decisions that affect the whole community and issues the whole community can take part in solving. (If you find that people aren’t reading the information, that’s a deeper issue of engagement, which a true CoP, and a Social Learning Space specifically,  can solve.)

Have you thought about adding to your agenda the specific reasons why each person has been asked to be present? Also, it helps to write out the agenda topics as questions that stimulate the team to want to answer. This is so much more effective than statements. People are eager to attend so their voices can be heard.

4. How long should this meeting be?

People get bored and distracted when the meeting is too long. Conversely, if the meeting is too short, you could risk ending without a resolution of any kind, which stagnates future action. A meeting is correctly ended when all participants leave with clarity and commitment. 

As you prepare the agenda, estimate how much time each topic will take. As the facilitator, you may need to ask others how much time each item will take.

Finally, make sure to distribute the meeting agenda, giving enough time for everyone to prepare. This will speed the meeting along. When an agenda item takes longer than estimated, engage the group in a quick agreement to either: 

      • extend the time allotted for the item and reduce the amount of time for another topic, or 
      • move the item to ad hoc work, individual follow-up, or a subsequent meeting.

Are you ready for your next CoP meeting to be constructive, interesting, and fun for all involved? Remember, fun leads to better engagement and stronger community — hallmarks of CoPs. 

Are you new to the benefits of a Community of Practice and Social Learning Spaces? I invite you to sign up for my free email series: Social Learning Spaces for Teams. It’s a great introduction to the Masterclass I’m pulling together. Or if you’re ready to implement these suggestions in your workplace, contact me to schedule a free consultation

Agendas, Productive Team Meetings

Louise J Santiago, PhD
Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant

Where Leadership is Intentional Work

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