Meetings. We all have them, but most people hate them. Why? Well the biggest complaint is that they’re a waste of time. What could be said in 20 – 30 minutes often takes a full 60.

And as busy association professionals, you SURE don’t have time for that.

So what’s the secret to shorter, more efficient meetings? Well it all starts with the agenda. To keep your team on track, make sure your meeting agenda has the following five elements:

1. The meeting’s purpose

First and foremost, your meeting agenda needs to state the purpose – and it needs to be specific. Is the purpose of your meeting to share information? To seek input for a decision? To actually make a decision?

Whatever it is, make sure that purpose is listed at the top of your agenda – to guide the conversation and ensure whatever it is you want accomplished actually gets accomplished.

2. Questions the team needs to answer

Are there any key questions you need answered during your meeting? For example, “What should our next webinar topic be?” or “What photographer are we going to use for our end-of-year trade show?” If so, list those at the top of your agenda, below the meeting purpose.

It’s so easy to forget questions during a meeting, particularly once the conversation gets rolling. By listing those at the top of your agenda, you’ll avoid that “Oh shoot, I should’ve asked them this” post-meeting feeling. (We’ve all been there.)

3. Time for each topic

It’s hard to guestimate how much time something will take, but it’s important that you at least try. Beside each topic that you need to discuss, place a specified amount of time. For example:

  • Webinar topics (20 minutes)
  • Photographer (10 minutes)
  • Monthly newsletter (15 minutes)

You may not hit each mark by the minute, but by at least giving yourself a time frame, you’ll avoid (hopefully) any excessive chatter. Plus, this allows you to physically see where a bulk of your time needs to be spent (in other words, what your biggest priorities are).

4. Next steps

As a sub-point under each topic on your meeting agenda, there needs to be a line (and time dedicated to) next steps. So for example:

  • Webinar topics (20 minutes)
    • Next steps
  • Photographer (10 minutes)
    • Next steps
  • Monthly newsletter (15 minutes)
    • Next steps

By making sure everyone knows what next steps are for each project, everything should continue to move forward. (The last thing you want is for people to leave a meeting not knowing where something stands or what to do next.)

5. Parking lot/open discussion

In point #3, we talked about designating a specific period of time for each section. Again, the point of that is to prevent excessive chatter. But sometimes people WANT to add their thoughts/extra commentary – or even talk about something that’s not on the agenda – and you should always try to honor that.

Which brings us to point #5. By having a “parking lot” section on your agenda – a section for open discussion – you can allow people to add their thoughts/opinions/concerns. And if someone wants to talk about a topic that’s not on the agenda at all, you can either talk about it during this time, or if time doesn’t permit, add it to the next meeting agenda (to give it the time and attention it deserves).

So in essence, your meeting agenda would look something like this:


  • Purpose (5 minutes)
  • Key questions
    • Question 1
    • Question 2
    • Question 3
  • Discussion topics
    • Topic 1 (20 minutes)
      • Next steps
    • Topic 2 (10 minutes)
      • Next steps
    • Topic 3 (15 minutes)
      • Next steps
  • Parking lot (10 minutes)

Now you’ll notice we didn’t list a time frame next to the key questions section. Why? Well those questions should tie into one of your meeting topics. (In other words, question #1 might correspond with topic #1, and topic #1 has 20 minutes allocated to it). The point of pulling out those key questions is so you don’t forget them when talking about those individual topics.

Once your agenda has been made, you’ll want to send it to your team members at least 24 hours before the actual meeting. This allows everyone to gather their thoughts, brainstorm ideas, and come prepared – which is of the utmost importance when it comes to meeting efficiency.

What hacks do you have to make your meetings more efficient? Let us know in the comments below!