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Creating a meeting agenda: How-tos, templates, and tips

Get the most out of your meetings with a well-crafted meeting agenda. Browse examples, find practical tips, and learn how to format a meeting agenda for different types of meetings.
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What is a meeting agenda?

A meeting agenda is a document that summarizes the main objective and discussion points of a meeting. Agendas are used to set attendees’ expectations, structure meetings, and keep everyone on track throughout the discussion.

Example of a one-on-one meeting agenda with a purple and mint green theme

Example of a one-on-one meeting agenda with a purple and mint green theme.

Meeting agenda vs. meeting minutes

Meeting agendas and minutes are often confused for one another. But they each have their own separate functions.

Whereas meeting agendas are written and sent to participants before a meeting, meeting minutes are taken during a meeting and delivered afterwards. Minutes serve as a record of all discussions, decisions, and deliverables agreed upon in a meeting. Unlike agendas, which are written in chronological order, meeting minutes can be organized by topic, issue, or action item.

Meeting agenda vs. meeting notes

Just like minutes, meeting notes are written during a meeting. However, notes don’t have to abide by any strict format or structure. They’re more of a free-form collection of ideas rather than a formal document. Meeting notes are also considered personal documents, meaning they aren’t usually shared with others.

Who writes the meeting agenda?

Simply put, the owner of the meeting agenda is the meeting organizer. They’re in charge of preparing and sending the agenda to participants before the meeting.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re the sole person responsible for creating the agenda. While the meeting organizer is in charge of the meeting agenda template, the team is expected to pitch in by brainstorming talking points and adding action items. This way, everyone can participate and be prepared in the meeting.

Besides, having only one person talk during the meeting isn’t just a good use of your team’s time. With a collaborative effort on the agenda, you can ensure that the meeting becomes a vital part of everyone’s productivity.

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Why are meeting agendas important?

To get to the root of why meeting agendas matter, we first have to talk about the importance of meetings.

Meetings get a lot of flak for being tedious, time-consuming, and even unnecessary. Who hasn’t heard that age-old saying, “this meeting could have been an email”? And it’s not just anecdotal.

There is enough data to suggest that badly run meetings can have major repercussions on both a macro and micro scale. One report showed that poorly run meetings(opens in a new tab or window) cost US firms roughly $37 billion annually. Employees also bear the brunt of bad meetings. It’s estimated that bad meetings can cost employees(opens in a new tab or window) roughly 31 hours a month or four whole work days.

But despite the near universal disdain for meetings, they exist for a reason. Effective meetings can propel organizations forward. They offer teams a means to exchange knowledge, brainstorm, collaborate, problem-solve, and make big decisions in real time. Meetings also help build rapport, especially in remote teams, and give teams an avenue to provide support and encouragement in tough times.

Collaborate with teammates via comments and emoji reactions to build a solid meeting agenda

Collaborate with teammates via comments and emoji reactions to build a solid meeting agenda.

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It’s easy to keep your team in the loop. Create teams in Canva and share your meeting agendas through your team folder. Keep and organize all your designs and docs in one place.

And that’s where meeting agendas come in. A well-executed agenda can help make your meetings more productive by:

Providing clarity and structure to a meeting

There are few worse things than taking time out of a busy work day to attend a meeting with no coherent purpose or direction. With a meeting agenda, everyone goes into a meeting with clear goals and expectations. And if the meeting goes well, participants can walk away feeling empowered and ready for the next step.

Encouraging participants to contribute

Sending an agenda ahead of a meeting helps participants prepare and gives them the confidence to contribute more to the discussion. With a list of action items and responsibilities, meeting participants can not only prepare their individual presentations, but note down pertinent questions, ideas, and concerns they’d like to raise during the meeting.

Keeping everyone on track and on the same page

Meetings can easily stray from their intended purpose, especially during lively (or heated) discussions. Having a meeting agenda on hand helps everyone remember what they’ve set out to accomplish in the meeting. A clear agenda ensures that important topics won’t get overlooked and helps participants decide which discussions can be shelved for another day.

To recap, the purpose of a meeting agenda is to help participants bring their A-game, serve as a trusty roadmap in case discussions veer off-course, and, ultimately, save everyone time and energy to get more done both in and out of the meeting.

What to include in a meeting agenda

How a meeting agenda is structured often varies depending on the meeting’s purpose. Still, it should have these key elements to ensure the meeting stays on track and achieves its goals.

You can add highlights, objectives, updates, blockers, and specific actions items for a more comprehensive meeting agenda

You can add highlights, objectives, updates, blockers, and specific action items for a more comprehensive meeting agenda.

The meeting purpose serves as an overview informing all participants what the meeting’s objectives are and its focus. It also establishes the goal or desired outcome to keep the meeting running smoothly. With this, everyone has enough context of what will happen at the meeting before it begins.

The meeting participants is a list of people expected to attend the meeting, with each of their roles and responsibilities stated. In this section, participants are immediately provided with information about who the meeting facilitator is, the note-taker, the presenters, and the stakeholders.

At the heart of the meeting agenda is the list of items that will be covered to keep everyone on the same page. These can be topics to brainstorm, questions to discuss, or decisions to finalize. This section also includes who will be responsible for each topic so participants can prepare and have a part during the meeting.

Essentially, the timeframe indicates how long each discussion point will take during the meeting. This nips unnecessary delays and distractions in the bud, helping ensure the meeting stays on track and that participants don’t spend too much time on a single topic.

The action items are a list of what needs to be done after the meeting. It also specifies who will take a particular action and sets the deadline for each task. This section not only ensures that the meeting’s outcomes are implemented but also guarantees the accountability and productivity of each participant.

The supporting documents are the necessary materials that participants can peruse or refer to during the meeting. These can include slideshow presentations, data, project details, wireframes, prototypes, or previous meeting minutes.

Common types of meeting agendas

Meeting agendas can be formal or informal, depending on the kind of meeting they’re written for.

Formal meeting agendas are more structured and inflexible, and include elements like set time blocks for agenda items and brief introductions for each presenter. Many formal agendas, like board and city council meeting agendas, follow Robert’s Rules of Order, a framework for running organized and equitable meetings.

Meanwhile, informal agendas reflect the loose and casual nature of informal meetings. They’re not as detailed as formal agendas and allow more space for open discussions — usually looking like simple bulleted lists of action items and discussion points. Informal agendas are often used for brainstorming sessions, daily huddles, and 1:1 meetings.

Below, we list 10 formal and informal meeting agenda formats and what they typically include.

Example of a daily scrum meeting agenda

Example of a daily scrum meeting agenda where you can showcase your team members using their photos.

Board meetings are formal meetings where a board of directors discuss their firm’s performance, policies, and strategies.

Board meeting agendas include:

  1. Call to order: This formally opens the meeting and is followed by a roll call.
  2. Approval of previous minutes: The last meeting’s minutes are read for possible amendments.
  3. Reports of officers: Leadership members present their reports. Participants can raise motions, enter debates, and cast votes.
  4. Reports of committees: Committees present their reports.
  5. Unfinished business: This includes important matters that were postponed or left unresolved.
  6. New business: Participating members propose new issues or recommendations.
  7. Announcements: Members share important dates and choose the next meeting’s schedule.
  8. Adjournment: The meeting formally closes.

The goals and contents of a leadership team meeting will vary from team to team. But generally, they involve discussions of each team’s progress, any blockers they’re experiencing, and what kind of support they can get from other teams.

Most leadership meeting agendas include the basic elements of a meeting agenda listed above, along with:

  • An overview of the organizational goals for the current phase/month/quarter/cycle
  • Status updates from each team
  • Key performance indicators for every department
  • Team milestones and achievements
  • Challenges and threats
  • Business opportunities
  • Discussions on key learnings
  • Feedback sessions
  • Action items, appointed point persons, and cadences

“Staff meeting” is a broad term that encompasses a variety of different meeting types. Staff meetings can be one-off meetings or recur daily, weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly.

Team meeting agendas usually include the basic elements, plus any of the following components:

  • An overview of team goals and key performance indicators
  • Important dates and announcements
  • A list of priorities to be completed by the next meeting
  • Any challenges and how they can be resolved
  • Kudos to exceptional team members

Brainstorming meetings are a great way to get creative juices flowing when conceptualizing a new project or solving a problem as a team.

Since there are no hard and fast rules to running brainstorming sessions, it can be challenging to reign in discussions sometimes. Try the following agenda items for more efficient sessions:

  • A clear, actionable goal: Think about what a successful meeting would look like and how you can get there.
  • A set of ground rules: To ensure a productive and stress-free meeting, lay down rules like “no interruptions when someone’s speaking” and fixed break times to avoid burnout.
  • Prompts and activities: Prompts can help jumpstart creative thinking. Pose a question/s or ask your team to chart ideas in a mind map.
  • Voting: Use majority rules to settle on an idea democratically.

Also known as 1:1 meetings, these are regular meetings held between a manager and an employee. They’re done so the latter can give coaching and feedback, explain a task, or let employees discuss any personal developments and challenges.

Here are common elements of 1:1 meeting agendas:

  • Check-in: Hosts usually start these meetings with a quick mood check. This helps to break the ice and make attendees more comfortable.
  • Call-back: Where the manager asks for updates on action items that were agreed on in the previous meeting.
  • Roadblocks: An invitation to discuss challenges that are keeping the employee from reaching their goals.
  • Wins: Where the manager gives kudos to the employee for any achievements.
  • Expectations: Where the participants express what kind of progress they want to see after the discussion.

Also known as standups, scrums are time-bound meetings designed to align teams or a specific group of people within an organization. They can occur daily or weekly, with team members sharing updates about what they did and what they plan to do for the upcoming day or week.

Meeting agendas for scrums typically include the basic elements. However, the discussion points are only focused on answering the following questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are your goals for today?
  • Do you have any blockers?
  • How close are you to meeting your goals?

A post-mortem meeting is an essential part of a project’s life cycle, typically held at the end of the project. This type of meeting provides the opportunity for a project team to discuss what went right and what can be improved. Essentially, it’s a way to celebrate wins, reflect on mistakes, and improve processes to make things better for future projects.

Post-mortem meeting agendas often include the key elements, along with the following components:

  • Recap: This is where you and your team review the original project objectives and goals.
  • Outcomes: Here, you go over the project’s final results, discussing whether your team met the expected goals and metrics for the project to be successful.
  • Improvements: In this section, you break down the reasons for the project’s results, detailing what went well, what didn’t, and what can be improved moving forward.

Onboarding meetings bring new employees or members up to speed on the organization’s mission, goals, and structure. When done right, it can make new hires feel reassured that they have all the resources and tools they need to do what’s expected of them in their roles.

While the meeting agenda for onboarding meetings vary depending on the company or organization, it can include the following components:

  • Company general history
  • Company life
  • Role responsibilities
  • Team introduction
  • Reading and training materials

Performance review meetings may occur annually or semi-annually between a manager and an employee to discuss the latter’s overall job performance, strengths, and areas for improvement. In this type of meeting, a manager will provide specific and actionable feedback to encourage an employee to do a better job.

Here are some common components found on performance review meeting agendas:

  • General assessment: This is a brief overview of an employee’s work performance, noting what’s going well and what isn’t in their processes.
  • Accomplishments: This is a deep dive into what an employee has accomplished in their work for a certain period.
  • Areas for improvement: This is a space for exploring solutions for improving work issues.
  • Goals: This is an invitation to discuss and establish realistic goals for the next review period.

Also called a town hall, an all-hands meeting is a company-wide gathering where leaders, stakeholders, and employees come together to share essential information about company-related matters. These may include updates and announcements to encourage alignment throughout the organization.

Given the large audience, the structure of an all-hands meeting agenda often looks different from other meeting types. Here’s what you can expect from an all-hands meeting agenda:

  • Initial check-in
  • Ice breaker activity
  • Quick announcements
  • Company updates
  • Org-wide topics
  • Q&A session
  • Reminders and check-out

How to write a meeting agenda

An effective meeting agenda ensures the success of a meeting by outlining the discussion points and keeping the participants’ focus on the topic at hand. While writing one may seem like a straightforward task, it requires thorough planning and consideration to provide great value to people’s time.

Whether you’re planning to run a quick staff meeting or a two-hour board meeting, create an effective meeting agenda using these six simple steps.

How-to write a meeting agenda

Creating a meeting agenda begins with determining what you want out of the meeting. To do this, you can ask yourself questions like:

  • Do you want to update your team about a project?
  • Do you require your colleagues’ insights or feedback?
  • Do you need to make a decision with your team?

Knowing your goal not only informs the participants what they need to do to arrive prepared but also guides you in creating a meeting agenda that will drive the meeting forward. With this in mind, you can figure out the type and purpose of the meeting, as well as who should be attending it.

Be clear on your goals
The more clarity you offer on what you want the meeting to accomplish, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve it fast.

Save yourself the time and effort of creating a meeting agenda from scratch by using a template that serves as a baseline for you to expand on.

Find free and professionally made meeting agenda templates from Canva for the type of meeting you’re planning to hold and customize it on Canva Docs. Inject a little creativity in your document and make it more engaging to read by playing around with colors, fonts, and other graphic elements.

When writing a meeting agenda, it’s important to keep in mind that collaborative effort is key. Check in with your team and encourage them to suggest topics they would like to cover at the meeting. These can include questions about a project, solutions for blockers, or fresh ideas for a new launch. Doing so allows your team to be active participants and ensures your meeting will be productive for everyone involved.

Once you have a list of ideas, review them and decide which ones will be included in the agenda. Make sure these items map back to your meeting’s objectives and goals. Then, arrange them in priority order so participants know which topics must be addressed immediately and which ones can be left out for last.

Make sure the meeting stays on track by allocating a certain amount of time for each topic you want to discuss. This may be challenging for the first few times, but you can avoid the pitfall of underestimating time limits through careful consideration. Take into account how much time it will take to introduce a topic, answer questions, and agree on the follow-up actions. Once you have a timeframe in mind, add a few more minutes than you think you’ll need in case there are concerns that still need to be addressed.

To ensure the meeting runs smoothly, it also helps to assign leaders for each topic. This not only allows them to prepare beforehand but also guarantees their active involvement during the meeting.

Before sending the meeting agenda to attendees, make sure you include helpful materials necessary for the meeting. It helps to give everyone some time to familiarize themselves with certain documents before the meeting goes in session. This way, you can set the right context for every participant and empower them to contribute to the discussion.

As much as possible, you want to encourage and steer a meaningful discourse towards your meeting’s goals. To do this, share the meeting agenda with participants in advance so they can have time to prepare their thoughts and questions.

Note that a meeting agenda’s job doesn’t end there. You can still use it to note and track action items that come out of the meeting. Don’t forget to include the corresponding owners and deadlines for these follow-up tasks to ensure the meeting achieves its goals.

Get inspired with meeting agenda templates

Get a head start and increase efficiency with these customizable meeting agenda templates. No matter the type of meeting you plan to hold, you’re sure to find a suitable design from our collection. Choose a template below, customize every element according to your vision, and share the document with your team members.

All you need in a meeting agenda creator

Create a meeting agenda that serves as a roadmap of your team’s goals. With Canva’s meeting agenda maker, you can maximize every tool and feature to seamlessly collaborate with your team members and set clear expectations of what the discussion will be. Access our media library and make your document a visual treat to keep participants engaged throughout the meeting.

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Meeting agenda best practices

Whether you’re planning a regular staff meeting, a project brainstorming session, or a company-wide town hall, a carefully constructed agenda sets the stage for a focused and meaningful discussion. Follow these best practices to achieve just that.

Create checklists of action items

Create checklists of action items to ensure that your meeting agenda is easier to keep track of.

Organize with visual elements
Use visual elements such as shapes, tables, and graphics to sort agenda items into clearly defined groups.

Sort agenda items by importance

Agenda items can be sorted and presented in three groupings: informational items, discussion topics, and action points. Categorizing agenda items like this — and highlighting priority items — can make it easier to communicate which tasks need urgent attention and which ones can be put on the back burner.

Lead discussions with open-ended questions

When it comes to the discussion phase, it can be easy to fall into the trap of writing a vague list of topics like, “playbook revamp” or “approve brand guidelines.” Instead, use open-ended questions that encourage discussions. For example, you can ask participants, “Why is it necessary to revamp our playbook? What’s missing from our current playbook and which chapters should we prioritize? How can we divide this task more efficiently?”

If asking questions feels awkward, use action-oriented language to flesh out what you want to achieve with each agenda item. Rather than writing passive phrases like “playbook revamp,” write “update playbook to reflect character limits and best practices identified by global.”

Define a process for tackling agenda items

This means providing a clear, step-by-step process for addressing agenda items — particularly ones that require problem solving and decision making. For example, say you have to choose between three logo redesigns for your brand.

Your process could look something like this:

  • 10 minutes to present each logo pitch
  • 5 minute break for solo deliberations
  • 10 minutes to discuss pros and cons for each design
  • 5 minutes to decide on a final design

Having a formal process gives meetings more structure and helps participants focus more on the task at hand.

Finish your agenda with a “reality check”

Once you’ve finished your meeting agenda, give it a quick once-over to assess whether it’s actually feasible given the time allotted for the meeting. Don’t try to overstuff your agenda. Even if you technically can address everything within your estimated timeframe, you’ll want to give yourself and your team some room to breathe too. Nobody wants to walk away from a meeting feeling drained after all.

Stay on time with our timer
Turn your meeting agenda into a presentation with Docs to Decks. Then, use our built-in timer in the lower left-hand corner to limit how much time is spent on each agenda item.

Meeting agenda FAQs

For a meeting agenda to be effective, it should communicate the purpose of the meeting, clarify responsibilities, empower participants to contribute, and keep the meeting on track. Remember that an effective meeting agenda can be a game changer to your team’s productivity, delivering great value to everyone’s time and making meetings a lot more efficient and rewarding.

Although meeting agendas are a vital part of project management, they have their pros and cons. On one hand, meeting agendas help standardize how meetings are conducted and establish clear expectations and goals to invite a more productive discussion. On the other hand, they can sometimes be too rigid or structured. Because of the set time limit for each discussion point, there may not be enough room for further brainstorming or creative thinking.

When planning a meeting, it helps to answer the following questions to ensure it’ll be a productive use of everyone’s time:

  • Why are you meeting?
  • What information should be shared?
  • What are the goals for the meeting?
  • Who should be invited?
  • Who should speak?
  • How long should the meeting last?
  • What documents should be shared in advance?

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Make your meetings more productive with meeting agendas

Keep everyone on the same page and ensure the success of your meeting with an effective meeting agenda. Use Canva’s customizable templates to establish meeting goals and keep the meeting productive.
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