Why meeting agendas are passé, and what you can do to improve them

Text RSVP on paper on light background with pen and glasses.

Bob: “Hey Wendy, I’m back. Do you want to continue our previous discussion? I think we finished the first point I wanted to go over, which is who we need to invite to the meeting so that we achieve the purpose and the outcome. Is there anything else you want to add?”

Me (Wendy): “Yes. I recently read an article on Forbes, titled “Five Reasons Employees Hate Meetings And How Leaders Can Improve The Process.” The suggestions they gave on what leaders can do to improve is basically having an agenda beforehand and capturing the action items generated with owners attached. And to have decent facilitation skills to keep the meeting time and move the agenda along without taking too much time on tangents”

Bob: “Oh, I think I saw that article. Yeah, it’s a good start – but it’s still behind the curve, IMO.”

Me: “Agree. I like how you laid it out last time. So, now that we know how we are going to determine who we need to invite to the meeting, let’s go to your 2nd point, which is, “How do I invite them?” Can you expand on that? What do you mean? Don’t we normally just send a meeting invite?”

Bob: “That’s the key. You mention being intentional earlier. As a meeting organizer, you must consider what you need from this person to achieve your outcome and, more importantly, what’s in it for them. Most people think about the former, but not the latter. If you think about what’s in it for them, you can then think about how you’ll phrase your invitation from that perspective. You can structure the invitation by explicitly calling out how they’ll benefit from the meeting. The people you invite have as much at stake as you in seeing the meeting succeed, so you need to ensure that they succeed as well in whatever they contribute to the meeting outcome.” 

Me: “That’s a good way of structuring invite – it’s not about you, but them. And yes, you, in the end, will achieve the outcome – but with their help and input, of course.”

Bob: “Right. Also, if you use this kind of thinking, you can also whittle down your invitee list. If you can’t figure out what’s in it for them, they’re most likely not needed in the meeting – they might only need to be informed.”

Me: “Ok, so I should structure the invitation first by laying down the outcome that we’d like to see achieved from the meeting, and what we need to whom (or what group of people), and also spell out the benefits of them participating in the meeting. In that order?”

Bob: “Yes, you got it!”

Me: “So, that’s why I need to be careful of what words I use and pay attention to the tone that I take when writing the invite! Unfortunately, I have to run this time. Can we discuss that next time?”

Bob: “Of course! You know where to find me.”


In the meantime, you can see all the articles I’ve written on the subject on meetings.

Read the rest of Wendy’s story here:

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