How much time have you spent in terrible meetings?
For most of us, it’s probably too many hours to calculate.
But do you know how much these poorly organized meetings cost?
Well, in 2019, it cost a colossal 399 billion dollars! And that was in the United States alone.
Shocking and terrifying, isn’t it?
And this figure can get even worse, especially in the mostly remote setup that we are now in.
After all, it’s not like the moment you get a meeting invite, you can just walk up to the meeting host and clarify things. Sure, you can send an email or shoot them a message, but it’s nothing like an impromptu conversation at a workplace.
This is why a virtual meeting agenda can make a huge difference.
Not only does an agenda define meeting goals, but it also gives participants an understanding of what to expect and what is expected of them. An absolute win-win!
Why You Need a Virtual Meeting Agenda
“The best remote meetings have a session agenda [set] beforehand so that people come in knowing what it is they will be talking about. If the meeting doesn’t have that, then you spend 15 to 20 minutes just figuring out what it is you are even trying to do.”Bryant Galindo, co-founder and CEO of CollabsHQ, in an interview with Slack
And Galindo has a point. Without an agenda, things can go horribly wrong.
Remember meetings that have wholly strayed away from the course of discussion? Or meetings that have descended into chaos because everyone deems different things essential? How about sessions that have dragged on for hours when they could have ended in 30 minutes?
A well-crafted virtual team meeting agenda means your meeting stays on course, has a prescribed structure, defines the theme of discussion, and determines timelines.
And isn’t that what we all are striving for?
What Should Your Virtual Meeting Agenda Include
So, here’s the thing! Creating a structure for your meeting is actually pretty simple.
But there are a few things you should always try to do.
When you are in a remote team, it’s a good idea to engage fellow team members. Think about asking them for suggestions on discussion topics. Create a shared document for this.
Also, always send out your meeting agenda at least 24 hours in advance. This is super important because it will help team members prepare for the meeting.
Now, that’s the big question. Isn’t it?
What do you put on an agenda? Here’s what your meeting schedule should definitely include:
Always include the date, time, and meeting link in the schedule or at least with it. Attendees often need to have quick access to these details. While they can always refer to the calendar invite, having a second reference doesn’t hurt, does it?
Oh, and also include a list of the attendees.
What is the goal of the meeting? Including this in the agenda helps attendees understand what kind of a session it is. It also gives them insight into what the discussion will be centered around.
Another pro of including the objective? Once you accomplish the meeting objective, everyone knows it signals the end of the meeting.
Mention the objective at the top of the agenda, below the meeting title.
Topics of Discussion
You know all that meandering that happens at meetings? It’s because the topics to be discussed aren’t adequately defined.
Make a definite list of every subject you need to touch upon during the meeting, and give each one a time slot.
Are different team members responsible for various topics? List that piece of information, too.
It isn’t enough to define what you will be discussing. It’s also essential that you determine the order in which the different meeting pointers will be tackled.
Also, don’t forget to timebox everything. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overscheduling a meeting. After all, most calendars give you a 30-minute time slot by default.
Instead, fix the time for each point on your agenda. Yes, even icebreakers and Q&As. This ensures precise timing. On Toasty, this is super simple. Our agenda tool allows meeting hosts to time each point.
Do team members need to prepare anything? Are there relevant files and documents they need to access? Do they have specific responsibilities for the meeting (for example, someone taking the minutes)? Include all of this information in the virtual meeting agenda you send out.
Creating the Perfect Virtual Meeting Agenda
Now, you can find a thousand virtual meeting agenda templates online. Or you can even refer to examples to craft your own schedule. But that can be time-consuming, and none of these examples add any real value.
Think about it. How are most agendas structured? Generally, it’s a list of talking points that the group follows sequentially. And while it does the job, does it make the meeting host’s job any easier? Does a regular agenda make the meeting more effective?
We think not. Which is why we created an agenda tool that’s not limited to talking points. Our revolutionary agenda-creation feature lets you pre-plan engagement. And what does that mean?
Meetings that are interactive, collaborative, and not led only by conversations.
Eric Tsang, our CTO, talks about this in detail in his e-book, Meeting Right Virtually.
“It’s not enough to just provide “tools” that assist with the science of facilitation (i.e., we have breakout rooms, we have whiteboards, we have templates), we need to care about the environment design (i.e., what artifacts are available), so participants can be themselves and enjoy cues and prompts that enable them to facilitate themselves, without having to actively think about it.”
What Eric is referencing is a consciously designed virtual meeting agenda. Think about when to give people time to think independently during a meeting, how to use polls to get quick consensus, and when to divvy up a team into smaller groups.
Now your question could be, ‘do I really need this for every meeting?’ Well, probably not.
A daily stand-up may not really need a detailed plan. But some meetings can only become more effective with well-designed schedules, especially project co-ordination meetings, brainstorming sessions, workshops, and retrospectives.
Remote Meeting Agenda Template and Example
Let’s take a project co-ordination meeting, for example.
Imagine this. Your team has a new project to start. As the team leader, you have all the details from the client. You now need to share this with your team, discuss the project, identify challenges and critical pointers, and designate responsibilities. So you decide to send an invite to a team meeting.
Without a well-thought-out agenda, that remote meeting is bound to be chaotic.
Instead, what you need is an agenda that defines every aspect of the meeting. Take a look at the virtual meeting agenda template below.
1. Welcome. Connect.
– Goals for the day
2. Discuss Project Logistics
– Whiteboard responsibilities
– Whiteboard timelines
– Discuss the impact through Toasty’s “Cards”
– Discuss possible pitfalls and failures through Toasty’s “Ask”
4. Bring everyone back to the Main Group
– Discuss responses from each group
5. Revise Project Logistics
– Whiteboard timelines and responsibilities
6. Open up for Q&A
7. Review Steps
8. Close Meeting
On Toasty, not only can you list down objectives and topics of discussion and timebox these. But what makes it even more compelling is that you can pre-plan engagement activities, craft them, and keep them ready, all at once. Thanks to our pre-built templates for icebreakers and team building activities.
What Else Should You Know
A remote meeting agenda should be focused. Don’t combine two goals into one. A brainstorming session shouldn’t be a status update meeting. A training session shouldn’t be mixed up with an all-hands.
Keep meetings as short as possible. Remote work is a cognitive overload as it is. Add to this long virtual team meetings with Brady-Bunch style screens… and it becomes all too much. Your teammates will be more engaged in a shorter session.
Doing a quick standup? Cap it at 15 minutes. Hosting a status update and feedback meeting? Don’t overshoot the 30-minute mark.
Of course, there are going to be long sessions. But break those up with breakout room sessions, pre-scheduled breaks, icebreakers, or team engagement activities.
And one thing that will always hold you in good stead? Review the meeting once it’s over. Did you allocate enough time for each topic? Where did people stray from what was being discussed? Did you accomplish your objective?
Reviews of previous meetings will help you craft a clear and thoughtful virtual meeting agenda for next time.
📝Virtual meeting agendas are the secret to running successful remote team meetings. At Toasty, we are super kicked about our agenda feature which makes organizing meetings a lot easier and more fun. Check out how you can use this feature and more much more on our website!