Article Summary

The Best Meeting Agenda Format: How to Write an Agenda for a Meeting

iBabs’ State of Meeting Management report highlighted that a worrying 22% of meeting attendees do not know the agenda of most meetings before proceedings begin. More concerningly, 31% of meeting chairs found themselves in the same boat, even though they are meant to guide the direction of the meeting. 

The meeting agenda is essential for running productive meetings of all types, as well as being a key element of the board pack for board meetings. Sending this crucial document well in advance of a meeting helps attendees and chairs prepare fully, creating the best environment for better decision-making around the table. 

This article explores tips for writing an effective agenda, communicates what should and shouldn’t be included, and presents the ideal meeting agenda format for running better meetings.

What is a meeting agenda?

A meeting agenda lists the running order of the meeting, outlining the topics for discussion and designating responsibility to those who will lead each section of the meeting. It is usually written in chronological order, starting with the opening of the meeting and then laying out which subjects will be tackled and when, before noting any other business and closing of the meeting. 

Many organisations base their agendas on Robert’s Rules of Order, which sets out a specific running order for meetings. However, the agenda for meetings can vary from organisation to organisation. They generally contain timings for topics, descriptions of the agenda items and references to additional materials that are relevant to the subjects under discussion.

Meeting agenda templates

iBabs has created templates for different types of meeting agendas. These will help guide you towards creating intuitive and clear agendas that help you meet your objectives.

Board meeting agenda

This is a highly structured type of meeting that guides the strategy of the company, making a clear and comprehensive agenda essential.

Non-profit board meeting agenda

Board meetings at non-profits tend to cover a wide range of topics. The agenda should guide trustees through all of these important topics.

Annual General Meeting (AGM) agenda

The AGM is a key event when investors get to hold directors to account. As such, a structured agenda that allows for full and frank discussion is essential.

Formal meeting agenda

With formal meetings, there is a range of important topics that need to be discussed and a well-structured agenda helps to keep the momentum going.

Meeting terms of reference

Meeting terms of reference usually include the objectives, the people who are designated to make them happen, the decision-making process and the timeline for achieving the aims.

Save Time Creating Your Agenda with iBabs

iBabs board portal provides an agenda builder tool to help you create an effective and streamlined running order for your meetings with ease. You can easily turn this into a fully formatted document with your organisation’s logo and share it with participants directly in the cloud where they can collaborate and add comments.

How to write an effective meeting agenda

By creating a standard workflow for creating your agenda, you can ensure you produce a robust document that helps you hold effective meetings. Below is a typical process for creating and distributing the document in a manner that will allow for better discussions and well-informed decisions.

Prepare supporting documents

For many meetings, it is necessary to distribute supporting documents with the agenda so that attendees can better understand the matters at hand. For board meetings, this includes board papers, which outline information relevant to discussion points, such as an executive summary or recommendations from reports. 

Attaching information that provides more detail about the discussion points is important for aiding meeting preparation, which is why it is important to distribute it as early as possible.

Specify roles and responsibilities

Each agenda item should have a leader assigned to it. They will begin the discussion and add their own input for the attendees. They will be individuals who are knowledgeable in that subject area and who may have prepared a report for the meeting especially. 

Make sure it is clear who is the chair, who will take the meeting minutes and who to talk to if there are any queries about the agenda.

Time your agenda

Only around half (51%) of stakeholders are satisfied with their meetings and one reason for that is likely to be the feeling that meetings last too long and are not focused enough. This is why it is important to time the meeting agendas you create. You should strike a balance between maximising the benefit of having key stakeholders in one place at the same time with not keeping them away from their other duties for too long. 

You should set a time limit on the meeting as a whole, which will depend on the type of meeting. A board meeting, for example, is expected to be longer than a committee meeting or a quick catch-up on an ongoing project. 

Within this, assign specific time frames for each topic, dividing the hours you have according to the level of importance of the subject. Remember to allow extra time for additional discussions and unexpected business that arises during the meeting.

Identify specific meeting topics

Hone in on the agenda topics that you will assign to the meeting. Choose those that meet the objectives of the meeting and that are of relevance to the attendees. When plotting them in the agenda, consider which are of the highest priority and put them towards the start of the meeting. Otherwise, they might get missed if time runs out. 

On the agenda, list the topic and add in the importance and objective of each agenda item in the description. Outline some questions for discussion, helping attendees start to formulate their opinions in advance of the meeting so they arrive prepared.

Consult stakeholders

Collaboration is very important when creating a meeting agenda. Rather than trying to develop an effective running order on your own, consult with meeting stakeholders to gain their input on what is important and what is currently missing. 

This will help you develop a meeting that best aligns with the needs of attendees and creates more effective and relevant outcomes for the organisation as a whole. It can save precious minutes discussing topics that are low priority and can ensure the most pressing subjects of the day receive the time that they require.

Establish the meeting type

Due to the fact that working life involves a substantial number of meetings, it is key to establish the meeting type as a priority when writing the agenda to understand how long the meeting should be, the level of formality involved, the number of topics that should be included and other such considerations. 

This helps to create a structure that is appropriate for that type of meeting and sets expectations for attendees on how the meeting will run and what will be required of them.

Clarify meeting objectives

Before you note down anything on your document, think about what you want the meeting to achieve. Consider what needs to be achieved by the time the chair brings the meeting to a close. 

This helps you plot the content of the meeting and leave out anything that will not help you reach your goals. 22% of respondents to the iBabs meeting study revealed they spend more than half their working week in meetings, which shows why streamlining them so that they remain on topic is essential.

Keep All Meeting Documents in One Secure Location

iBabs board portal allows you to attach links from the agenda to the supporting documents. This means attendees have access to all the information they need on all their devices. All your documents are securely stored in a secure online board portal and you can easily find what you need using the search functionality.

Meeting agenda formatting

Here are the essential items to include in the meeting agenda

Meeting objectivesHelp attendees understand what the meeting is intended to achieve. This enables them to prepare better and tells them what to expect. 
List of topics to discussKnowing the topics for discussion allows the attendees to research them, formulate their opinions and work out potential solutions to problems that they can bring to the table.
Time allotted for each topicOur time is precious and having the timings on the agenda lets attendees plan their days more easily. 
Meeting participants’ roles and responsibilitiesIf someone is expected to play a role in running the meeting, let them know in advance so they can prepare their input. List the chair and topic leaders here. 
Documents or reports to reviewSave meeting time by providing supporting documents in advance, allowing participants to get up to speed before the discussion takes place.
Details of any pre-meeting tasksIf attendees need to carry out tasks ahead of the meeting, note it down to ensure everyone is ready to give their input on the day.


Did you know?
Newquay Town Council Saves Six Days Per Month with iBabs

The organisation conducts seven meetings per month. With iBabs, they are now able to prepare for a meeting in one hour instead of seven. This means that they save six full work days every month.

Tips to create an effective meeting agenda

Allow sufficient lead time

The earlier the attendees have access to the agenda, the sooner they can start their research and preparation. It also gives time for stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback on the content of the agenda with questions and suggestions. This helps you hone the document so that it is as efficient and effective as possible.

Confirm key participant availability

Once you have the list of the topics for discussion, you can start assigning leaders in those areas. Make sure you confirm that these experts are available for the meeting and have adequate time to prepare in advance. If not, seek out another lead for the topic or consider saving that subject for another meeting when they are free.

Encourage input before the meeting

The fact that the attendees are invited to a meeting featuring certain topics suggests that they understand those subjects well. This is why it is beneficial to canvas their opinion on the matters in the agenda and find out whether you have covered all the relevant topics or if you have included subjects that can be cut from the agenda to save time. Listen to feedback and shape the next draft accordingly.

Prioritise agenda items

Make sure the subjects on the agenda are front-loaded with the most important topics. Think about those discussion points that will best help the meeting achieve its goals. This is because these are likely to spark the most debate and discussion. 

Even with timings listed for each item, there is a risk that topics could overrun and you might need to drop some items. If you have dedicated more time to functional topics and don’t reach those that have the greatest impact, it makes the meeting less productive

Use clear and concise language

The agenda is important in outlining what will happen in the meeting and what attendees should discuss. If there is any ambiguity in the way the agenda is presented, it can cause confusion and participants may not be on the same page when they come to sit down around the table. 

This can affect the effectiveness of the meeting and reduce your chances of attaining your objectives. The answer is to be clear about how you phrase agenda content. Re-read the agenda and try to put yourself in the position of someone coming to it for the first time. Could they understand what you mean? Have a colleague check the agenda, too, before sending it out.

Plan for a recap

A meeting is not only deemed effective by what happens within the meeting itself, but also by what happens afterwards. This means putting in place a plan for bringing the decisions made in the meeting to life. As such, include time in the agenda for the chair to recap the decisions and to designate people to take on action items

You can also add some time early on for the chair to check on the progress of action items from previous meetings. This time helps to maintain a productive workflow in and between meetings.

Prepare for technological needs

When you have the final agenda and you have discussed the availability of key participants, you can work out your technological requirements. This might be audio-visual equipment for the meeting room so that attendees can show presentations or it could be a meeting portal to record decisions made in the meeting. 

You might also need to implement video conferencing capabilities for remote attendees when you are conducting virtual meetings. This will become clear once you send out the agenda and garner feedback from stakeholders.

iBabs meeting portal allows you to carry out the full meeting process within one platform

From creating the agenda to distributing it and the supporting documents, it all takes place in the tool, keeping attendees up to date with the latest versions and the items they need to prepare for the meeting.
Request a Demo Today

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Case studies: successful agenda management with iBabs

Itago, an independent Italian private equity firm, manages a fund focused on investing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Italy. The company sought out a way to organise and streamline its board meetings, agendas and document management processes. Gloria Pianta, the CFO at Itago, shared her experience and how the company discovered a solution […]
The World Lottery Association is an international member-based association of state-controlled lottery operators, licensed sports betting operators, as well as suppliers to the global gaming industry. As such, the ability to create agendas quickly and efficiently is vitally important. Agendas must be able to be presented to meeting attendees with enough time to allow them […]
Local Government

Bodmin Town Council

Meetings are an essential part of local government operations, but they can also be a significant source of inefficiency and frustration. This was the case for Bodmin Town Council, a local government organisation in the United Kingdom, which was seeking to find a better alternative organisation of its agenda and minute management across disparate programs. […]

Article Summary

What to include and what to avoid in the agenda


  • The type and name of the meeting
  • Date, time and location of the meeting
  • The objectives for the meeting
  • The chair’s name
  • A call to action at the start of the meeting
  • The topics for discussion during the meeting
  • Timings for the topics
  • Lead stakeholders for each section of the meeting
  • Links to supporting documents
  • Discussion points and questions that need to be addressed during the debate
  • A recap of the discussion and a review of action items
  • Any other business to be discussed after the agreed topics are completed
  • The close of the meeting.

Don’t include

  • Too many or too few agenda items

Keep in mind that the meeting should be efficient and not go on too long, as it loses some impact. But if there are not enough items for discussion, attendees could see the meeting as a waste of time. 

  • Your own views

The agenda should spark attendees’ thought processes so that they can come to their own conclusions about the topics for discussion. List points and questions for debate, but don’t push your viewpoint. Let participants consider their own arguments.

  • The same topics each time

You should keep your agenda fresh. If you have recurring meetings with the same topics for discussion it could be a sign that the meetings are not achieving their goals. Consider whether this meeting is necessary if this is the case. 

  • Vague descriptions of subjects

Be specific about what will be discussed. If it is not clear, the discussion will not be as effective. Attendees become unsure as to what is expected and this means they could end up talking at cross purposes. 

Make Sure Everyone Has the Latest Agenda with iBabs

By distributing the agenda through iBabs’ portal, it appears in each user’s account immediately. This saves time for administrators as it reduces the need to send emails, implement the feedback and then send emails again. The document updates for all attendees automatically when you make changes, ensuring everyone is working from the same version.

Digital tools for agenda management

Here are the digital tools that people often use when creating a meeting agenda:

Word documentsAt the very basic level, a Word document can be used to create and distribute meeting agendas. You can build tables to structure the running order and add columns to show timings and assignees. You can either print the document and send it by post or email the document as an attachment. 
SpreadsheetsSome people use a spreadsheet to create an agenda. It is similar to writing it in a document. In this case, you can also use a formula to check that the timings of each item fit the desired length of the meeting. 
Video conferencingIf you need someone’s expertise to form part of your meeting agenda, you might require video conferencing. This allows you to designate items to experts who cannot attend in person. 
Document sharing toolsIt is not just the agenda that you must distribute to attendees. There are supporting documents, such as reports and presentations. You can send these through document sharing tools such as Google Drive and Dropbox so all participants have access to the necessary information. However, you should ensure the security and privacy of the documents.
Meeting portalA secure meeting portal that encompasses the functionality of creating and distributing agendas, sharing supporting documentation, video conferencing and tracking action points. Portals often provide tools to build agendas easily and share them in the cloud with stakeholders for better collaboration.

Benefits of an effective meeting agenda

  • It structures the meeting in such a way that you meet your priorities and paves the way to achieving your goals. This makes for more effective meetings that get results, increasing meeting satisfaction and reducing the time required by participants in the meeting room. 
  • Having a comprehensive agenda allows for more even participation between attendees. You can distribute items across the cohort before the meeting begins. In addition, better preparation afforded by a well-written agenda allows attendees to feel well enough informed to contribute. 
  • An effective agenda prevents people from heading off on tangents that can derail the meeting. It is a roadmap for a productive meeting. 
  • The agenda maximises the time that you have by ensuring you discuss the most pressing topics as a priority. Allocating slots means it is easy to keep the meeting on track, increasing the feeling of positivity towards meetings
  • When a meeting agenda lays out the objectives and content of the meeting clearly, it means that only people who need to attend that meeting will turn up. This means there is less chance of someone wasting time in a meeting that has no relevance to them. By looking at the agenda, they can tell if they are needed.

Article Summary


Everyone involved in the meeting benefits from using an agenda as it provides a clear outline of topics to be discussed. This helps participants prepare and manage their time effectively, ensuring that the meeting stays on track and that all necessary topics are covered.

A meeting agenda can be too detailed if it restricts flexibility and overwhelms participants with information, potentially leading to unproductive meetings. An overly detailed agenda can make the meeting overrun or mean that too little time is spent on important topics.

To encourage participation, distribute the agenda ahead of time so participants can prepare and structure the agenda to include specific times for open discussion and feedback. Clearly state in the agenda which items require decisions and input and have the chair actively solicit views from the entire team during those times.

Robert’s Rules of Order agenda is a structured format for running meetings that ensures orderly and efficient proceedings. It typically includes the following elements: call to order, roll call, reading and approval of minutes, reports of officers and committees, unfinished business, new business, and adjournment. This format is commonly used in parliamentary procedures to facilitate clear and organised meetings.

The meeting organiser and the chair should take ownership of the agenda, but it is advisable to seek feedback from all stakeholders on the draft agenda as they might understand how better to achieve the aims of the meeting.

Types of agenda items include:
  • Informational items, which are updates or briefings requiring no action
  • Discussion items, which need participant input but not necessarily a decision
  • Decision items, which require a definitive decision or vote
  • Action items, which are tasks assigned to individuals for follow-up.

AOB stands for "Any Other Business." It is an agenda item typically included at the end of a meeting to provide an opportunity for participants to raise any additional topics or issues that were not included in the main agenda. This allows for flexibility and ensures that any urgent or unplanned matters can be addressed before the meeting concludes.

The 5 Ps of a meeting agenda are Purpose, Participants, Process, Prep, and Payoff. These ensure that the agenda clearly states the meeting's objective, identifies attendees and their roles, outlines the process for discussing items, prepares participants with required research and defines the expected outcomes or benefits of the meeting.

Simplify agenda management with iBabs

iBabs provides all the functionality you need to transform the way your board runs its meetings. It comes with ready agenda features, allows you to distribute and collaborate on your minutes in the cloud and even transcribes recorded video meetings.
Request a Demo Today