Expert meeting facilitators know that one of the most useful tools at their disposal for a productive meeting is a detailed, well-planned and organized meeting agenda.

Facilitating meetings that begin and end on time, stay focused and on-topic and get participants involved all begins with setting the right agenda. Follow the practical suggestions below to create an agenda for your next meeting that will help steer your meeting towards success.

Be Selective About Topics

Make sure that only pertinent issues relating to the main topic of discussion are included in your agenda. Opt for timely issues that impact your group in the present versus resurrecting old issues that have little or no relevance to the matter at hand. If someone brings up unrelated issues, inform them that his or her concerns can be taken up at another meeting; keep the discussion focused on the agenda topics.

Provide Relevant Supporting Materials

Distribute materials that you want your participants to be familiar with for the meeting ahead of time. Note the issues in the agenda these materials relate to or explain. In this way, your participants will be able to discuss the topics on your agenda intelligently and meaningfully since they are all familiar with the support materials. This also makes it easier for them to stay on topic.

Include Action Steps

Although the specific steps to be taken will often only be arrived at after the group has reached a consensus at the end of the meeting, be sure to factor in time in your agenda to discuss what these steps should be. Note clear and measurable action steps as well as who is responsible for them and a time for completion.

Set Clear Expectations

Not every meeting will change the direction of your company; however, every meeting should achieve the goal for which it was called in the first place. Achieve this by being very clear about your goals and objectives in your agenda. This will help keep your participants focused and engaged.