What to Do With Agenda-less Meetings?

Meetings have to have an agenda. We’ve said it time and time again. Meetings without an agenda are mostly useless. Your time is wasted, the other people participating also have their time wasted, and everyone goes home feeling that they’ve accomplished nothing.

So when YOU organize a meeting, you have an agenda, you have goals, you invite the right people, and you certainly don’t leave the meeting without letting everyone know what decisions were made, and what they need to do to get those decisions moving.

But what happens when someone else organizes the meeting, and they don’t have a clue? Do you go the the meeting, and grind your teeth through twenty minutes of pointless chit chat, 30 minutes of last-meeting-rehashing, and ten minutes of wondering when the minute will be over? Or do you follow these three simple tips?

1. Help with the agenda

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In most cases, it isn’t that the meeting organizer doesn’t have a meeting agenda or goal – he simply hasn’t thought about it. Nobody calls meetings for no good reason. The reason might not be good enough (it might be a strictly updates meeting, which can be done by sending an email), but the meeting organizer believes that a meeting is necessary.

Talk to them. Understand the goal of the meeting, and make sure that they understand the importance of an agenda, that a meeting without an agenda is like shopping without a list. At the very least they should have some idea of what the meeting will be about, and send it in advance, so that the other meeting participants can come with a bit of background preparation.

2. Create your own agenda

In some cases, you can’t get the meeting organizer to come up with a goal, or purpose for the meeting, nor can you successfully explain to them the importance of an agena. If you have managed to understand a little bit about what the meeting organizer wanted from the meeting, then YOU write the agenda.

Be diplomatic about it, but when the meeting starts, steer the discussions into the direction of your own agenda. As the meeting will be directionless, people will probably welcome some sort of structure in the meeting, and at least you’ll be able to get some work done.

3. Don’t go

I realise this isn’t always an option, but if all else fails, simply don’t go. Meetings that not even the meeting organizer knows why they are taking place are a waste of your time, their time, and anyone else who attends the meeting. No decisions will take place, and even if by some chance they do, they’ll probably be overturned five minutes later.

If the meeting has no agenda, and try as you may you can’t explain why an agenda is needed, help write an agenda or write your own – just say ‘No’.

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