If you have ever been stuck in a conference call that didn’t have a clear meeting agenda, you already know how crucial they are. An effective agenda lets all participants know the purpose of the meeting and the topics that will be discussed, the order in which those topics will be addressed, and how much time is allotted for each. This helps ensure that a conference call is both productive and efficient. The agenda also allows participants to prepare for the meeting and keeps the call more organized.
Whether you are hosting a training session, a board meeting, a project kick-off call, or any other type of meeting, writing a conference call agenda is, clearly very crucial. For many hosts, though, the task seems daunting. It isn’t always easy to know exactly where to start or how to figure out how much time to allot to each topic that will be discussed.
If you are struggling with creating an agenda for your next conference call, keep reading for some helpful advice.
Decide What Needs to Be Discussed on the Call
Before you can really dive into creating an agenda, you need to figure out the exact topics that need to be addressed during the call. It’s important to cover all relevant information, but it’s equally important to not go overboard. Time is valuable, and your participants won’t be impressed if the conference call is overly long.
Think carefully about your goals for the call. What exactly do you hope to accomplish? Are you trying to solve a problem? Close a sale? Update your staff about the progress of a project? Understanding exactly what you are trying to do is a crucial first step in determining the subject and deciding what needs to be discussed.
Decide on an overall subject, then break it down into individual topics. If, for example, you’re calling to talk about a project to build a new website for a client, you’ll want to address topics like general site requirements, deadlines, and budget. Get input from other people who will be involved in the call. This ensures that you won’t overlook something important.
Estimate How Long It Will Take to Discuss Each Topic
This step can be a bit tricky, but it is vital. You don’t need to calculate the time for discussing each topic down to the second, but you do need to come up with a rough estimate. Plan on making a concise statement and asking a follow-up question or two. Simple topics may only take a few minutes to discuss. More complex ones, though, will require more time.
Once you know roughly how long you’ll spend on each topic, add them all together to come up with an overall time estimate. Don’t forget to add some extra time for introductions, small talk, and questions.
If you know in the beginning that you only have, say, 30 minutes, use that as a guideline when selecting topics and preparing what to say. In these situations, you’ll want to keep questions to a minimum during the call to ensure that you make it through all the subjects that need to be addressed.
Create an Outline
When you create an outline of your agenda, it should include all of the topics that will be addressed and how long you will be spending on each one. There is no need to write out everything that you plan on saying about each topic, but it doesn’t hurt to include a few notes or bullet points. It is also smart to make note of any preparations the participants will need to make prior to the meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page when discussing a topic. Using the previous example of a conference call launching a new website build, you may want to ask the participants to review the client’s requirements prior to the call. This would ensure that everyone already knows what the client needs when you start talking about deadlines for deliverables.
Include action items on your outline, too. Make the steps that need to be taken both during and after the call clear. Again, this helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows exactly what needs to be done.
Consider Using a Template
The steps listed above should help you create an effective agenda for your next conference call. If you are still struggling, though, consider using a template. Meeting agenda templates are widely available on the web, and they can make the process of writing an agenda significantly easier. There are templates for just about any type of conference call imaginable. Find one that is well-suited to your needs, and customize it for your meeting.
Distribute the Agenda to all Participants
Send the agenda to everyone who will be participating in the conference call at least a few days prior to the event. Ask that all participants read through it carefully, and encourage them to contact you in advance if they have any major questions or concerns. This ensures that everyone has plenty of time to prepare, organize, and familiarize themselves with the topics being discussed.
On a side note, if you are hosting a video conference call and plan on presenting slides, don’t send those out until after the call. If you send them out in advance, you run the risk of having participants read through them and think they already know everything that you’ll be discussing. When this happens, they are likely to dial in and zone out rather than paying attention to what you have to say.
Writing an agenda is the best way to ensure that your next conference call is efficient and productive. Use the tips above to create and distribute an effective agenda, and you will likely be surprised at just how much more smoothly your next meeting goes. Whether you write it from scratch or use a meeting agenda template, your participants will be grateful for your forethought and organization.