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The perfect team meeting agenda template for 15-minute meetings

a team meeting agenda for fast, effective meetings

Imagine you walked into a room and had virtually no idea why you were there. You recognized some of the other people there, but not everyone. Someone just began speaking and you weren’t really sure what they were saying -- although you note there are a bunch of acronyms being tossed around -- and you’re so confused and just trying to make sure you land in the right seat. 

Sounds like a bad dream, right?

Indeed, and it’s also very commonplace at work for many people, because many meetings -- which take up a good chunk of work time (somewhere between 35-50%) -- lack an agenda. A team meeting agenda is incredibly important to get people on the same page, get some consistency in layout and process of team meetings, and keep projects moving forward without a lot of unnecessary distractions and sidebar conversations. 

In this post, we’ll look at some approaches to a team meeting agenda and then provide some templates you can use, as well. 

Table of contents
The stats on meetings are … well, not great
How to structure the team meeting agenda
A quick note on action items
“That meeting could have been an email”
The core tenets of an effective team meeting agenda
A brief note on various types of team meeting agendas
Download a free team meeting agenda template
The bottom line on the team meeting agenda

The stats on meetings are … well, not great

  • 10% annually: Every year since 2000, the amount of time that white-collar professionals spend in meetings has increased roughly 10% YOY. [1]
  • $40,000,000,000: Unproductive meetings cost the global economy around $40B per year. [1]
  • 21%: Of workers say the biggest thing that would help them be more productive throughout the week is less meetings. [2]
  • 62%: Of employees say wasteful meetings get in the way of real work. [2]
  • 47%: Of employees believe meetings are their “No. 1 time-waster” at work. [3]
  • 31: Hours are spent on unproductive meetings monthly in a standard org. [3]
  • 91%: Of employees have day-dreamed during meetings. [3]
  • 300,000: One weekly meeting at one company took up 300,000 working hours across all staff members; that’s the equivalent of 34 people spending their entire year working on one weekly meeting. [4]
  • 80%: The good news! A detailed meeting agenda can reduce meeting time by upwards of 80%. [5]

How to structure the team meeting agenda

There are many theories on this, and some of it will vary depending on your overall project methodology. You might use the increasingly-popular standup method, or you might convene for functional team meetings in a conventional sit-down format. 

A general structure may look something like this:

  • The “why” behind the actions in each functional area and how they relate to the larger team and company goals
  • Challenges each team is facing
  • Top projects of each team
  • Team-wide retrospective on what’s been working, what’s not (think of this with a remote-first motivation lens)
  • Mission, vision, and values and give examples of how a specific value impacts an every-day decision (sometimes this is a discussion, sometimes it’s a presentation)

If you’re using a standup model, which is designed to move faster, each person should go around and say:

  • What they are working on that day
  • Roadblocks or challenges to that work
  • Anyone they need time with/from that day

Another model for structuring a team meeting agenda is:

  • Icebreaker (5-10 mins): This is helpful in dispersed or highly-remote teams, but can get tedious if you do it constantly.
  • Big picture (10-15 mins): What is this meeting about, what are the goals of it, and how will it eventually be deemed successful?
  • Highlights/recent wins (5-10 mins): Frame up some positivity. Feedback and recognition of co-workers can go into this area. 
  • Priorities/focus right now (10-15 mins): What needs to be achieved?
  • Challenges (10-15 mins): What is holding back that achievement?
  • Action Items (10-15 mins): Who does what, and by when? What are the next steps?

A quick note on action items

Many meetings, unfortunately, end without action items -- and because so much of white-collar work is meetings, people will run to the next meeting, and then another meeting after that, and eventually memories of what was discussed in the first meeting will fade away. 

Without action items, there is no possibility of follow-up, and then quite possibly another meeting will need to be called to level-set on the lack of action items so far. A better approach:

  • Only call a meeting if it absolutely needs to be called
  • When you call it, attach relevant docs to the invite and explain to everyone (a) what the meeting is and (b) who is invited and why
  • At the meeting, listen to the flow of ideas and discussion
  • Course-correct if necessary
  • Hard-stop the dialogue 10 mins before the meeting end time
  • Recap for 2-3 minutes
  • Propose 3-4 next steps
  • Get agreement on those next steps
  • Assign out the work
  • Toss follow-through due dates on the next steps
  • Break the meeting with 1-2 minutes to spare (“passing time”)

“That meeting could have been an email”

That’s a popular meme about wasteful meetings. But is it true? In some cases, yes. But others, like management professor David Burkus, have argued that it’s not true:

“There’s a lot that happens in a meeting that can’t be replaced with a digital memo,” says Burkus. “A long-standing maxim on communication has it that only 7 percent of information communicated in person is verbal – the actual words that could be conveyed in an email. The remaining 93 percent are contextual elements like non-verbal cues, tone of voice, context, and feedback.”

Another management expert, Lara Hogan, has argued similarly:

“Sensitive, difficult, or surprise information—like the context for a big roadmap upheaval, a staffing change, or anything else that involves managing emotions—is best communicated in person first (and followed up with an email),” says Hogan. “This way, you can pivot your message based on the questions or reactions in the room, and you can add extra color with your words, your body language, and your tone of voice.”

So yes, sometimes meetings do need to happen. And you need a team meeting agenda when they do. 

The core tenets of an effective team meeting agenda

Those would be:

  • Make the meeting objective clear: Why is this a meeting? What is the end goal? Why are these specific people on Zoom or in the room together?
  • Agenda topics should be questions or tasks: In this way, people know what to be thinking about or what the resultant task work might be.
  • Clarify expectations and responsibilities: Ideally you will send out the team meeting agenda before the meeting itself, and if you put team member names in parentheses near their items -- i.e. {David} -- people can begin to understand their specific role in the meeting.
  • Estimate realistic amounts of time for each section: You obviously want to keep it within the time frame that everyone accepted (1 hour, etc.) but don’t skirt important parts, i.e. the action items or the beginning/icebreaker period. “Getting down to business” is great and important, but people also need room to breathe on both ends of a meeting.
  • Design slots for feedback and recognition: Keep the work human!

A brief note on various types of team meeting agendas

Here we don’t mean “scrum” vs. “stand-up” vs. any other model. Instead, what we mean is that meetings serve different purposes. For example, meetings can be:

  • Information-driven: “You need to know this stuff to succeed.”
  • Action-driven: “We are going to do work and achieve an output in this session.”
  • Discussion-driven: “We are going to talk through issues and figure out the basics of a plan.”
  • {Some meetings may contain elements of all three of those at once.}
  • Training: Meetings where people learn new skills or processes.
  • Personal development: These are often 1-on-1 managerial meetings, or review meetings, but some meetings take the format of developing an employee.
  • All-hands: Updates from founders/executives, recognition, big-picture view of the company, ability to ask questions

There are numerous types of meetings, and when we get into templates right now, the templates do vary by the type of meeting you are attempting to construct. 

Download a free team meeting agenda template

Here’s our favorite project meeting agenda template:

Click here for your free copy (download for an editable version)

These are the main points we typically cover in team meetings:

  1. Team Check-in: Ask the team how they are feeling.
  2. Important Updates: Share any important news and announcements.
  3. Wins & Insights: Have everyone discuss their key wins or learnings from last week.
  4. Priorities: Ask what will be everyone’s main focus this week.
  5. Roadblocks: Ask if anyone has challenges or concerns about their work.
  6. Action Items: Have everyone discuss and write down their next steps.

The bottom line on the team meeting agenda

No one wants to spend a chunk of their week in worthless, unproductive meetings -- although during the worst weeks in some organizations, it can feel like that’s what you’re ultimately doing. 

Meeting planning has hardly been mastered by most orgs, but it can be helped along dramatically with a team meeting agenda that focuses on why people are together, what needs to be done, and how it will ultimately get done. It’s not easy, no. But it’s doable if you stick to a consistent format using some of the ideas and team meeting agenda templates above.

One of the core goals of Fingerprint for Success is improving team dynamics, and while this doesn’t tend to happen in meetings -- it happens more in one-to-one interactions and coaching sessions -- meetings can be an effective team-building model if you do it right and keep it standard. 

Book a free demo to learn how F4S can improve team performance via world-first AI coaching and People Analytics.

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