Points to reflect on when developing a workable agenda prior to the meeting:
Keep it flexible
The Agenda should always be negotiable at the meeting
Everyone should be clear about the purpose of the meeting, what is planned to happen and how long it is likely to take.
Prepared agendas save a lot of time but the meeting should always agree to the agenda and should have the opportunity to add or alter it at the beginning of the meeting.
Prepare in advance
The Agenda should be prepared in advance of the meeting by the president and secretary
While other members may also assist in preparation of the agenda, it is imperative that the president and secretary prepare together. They should have a shared view of the plan for the meeting and should share information about the content of the issues to be dealt with.
Some general tips for the president and secretary when pre-planning an agenda:
- Review last meeting to see which items need review or follow up
- Make tentative judgements about the importance of various items and deal with important/ urgent/ difficult items near the beginning, but after the group has warmed up a bit
- Estimate the time needed for each item and put it on the agenda
- Be realistic about what you can cover in the time available
- If necessary, have a summary item to clarify and capture decisions made and follow up action
- Have the agenda available for everyone to see.
All members should be notified before the meeting of the main items on the Agenda
Members need to have time to consider important business. Notification in advance will avoid business being postponed to another meeting because people haven’t had enough time to consider it and are therefore reluctant to discuss it.
Separate agendas don’t have to be sent to every member (except for the Annual General Meeting). Club members should decide if they wish to receive the agenda prior to the meeting. Members could be notified through the school newsletter. This may also encourage new parents to attend the meeting if the issue is identified by them as relevant.
Develop your own guidelines
Your Club may like to negotiate some guidelines on developing agendas which are used throughout the year. Review your agenda to see if it fulfils the set of guidelines you have finally agreed upon. Try changes to your agenda over a few meetings. Don’t be afraid to try something risky – e.g. change the order of the meeting and discuss “general business” first.
Important points to remember
- The Agenda needs to be seen by all members at the meeting e.g. whiteboard or butcher’s paper or individual copies.
- Business should be discussed in order of importance. i.e. try sorting correspondence and business into ‘information’ and ‘action’.
- Decide on the time to be spent on each item of business and stick to it.
- Review the Agenda part way through the meeting – reassess if necessary.
- Try to ensure representatives (e.g. School Council, Parents Victoria) have adequate time to report back to the meeting.
A format which may be followed when negotiating an agenda at the meeting:
- Use a whiteboard, butcher’s paper, data projector to display the agenda so everyone can see.
- Ask people what things they would be unhappy about if they weren’t discussed during the meeting and write them up.
- Don’t let people evaluate or discuss at this stage.
- When the ideas are exhausted, group the ones that link together.
- Get the group to rank them in order of importance, the time they will take or whether they can be left till later in the meeting.
- Ask for suggested time limits and write them next to the item. (In a large group you can split up into smaller groups to do steps 1-4 or steps 5-6, then reconvene to do 5-6 again to combine the priorities of the smaller groups.
Be careful not to spend too much time in negotiating an agenda at the expense of valuable meeting time. (Don’t forget to review the agenda during the meeting to ensure the meeting is going as planned.)
Here are two sample agendas which demonstrate how flexible and varied meetings can be.