Meeting Agendas – Essential or optional?

Meeting Agendas – Essential or optional?

  • 22 June,2020

Last week I threw a question out on Twitter and I guess I hit a nerve!

 

I have long been of the belief that if you want me to attend a meeting then you really need to let me know what you need from me so I can do you the courtesy of fully committing or letting you know that I may not able to meet your expectations.

To do this I generally ask for information that sets out the following:

    • What is the objective of the meeting?
    • What preparation are you expecting me to have completed before the meeting?
    • What contributions are you expecting during the meeting?
    • What follow on activities are you expecting?

In the past, I have had colleagues who have supported the increased usage of agendas and some who have taken it as personal affront if I ask them for an agenda.

With that in mind, I thought the responses and discussion that my tweet elicited were very interesting.  In general, there is support for the increased usage of agendas to enable us to assess the effort required and make a call on whether we can deliver on those expectations, but the question of automating responses to meetings – well that is quite a different matter!

Some of the key points that came out in the discussions were:

    • Many people think agendas should be mandatory
    • Many people will decline meetings without agendas
    • Less people will decline client meetings without agendas – in general it depends on who sent it as to what the response will be
    • If you have spoken with the organiser up front, then maybe an agenda isn’t required
    • Some organisers will reserve time and then send an agenda later
    • Some organisers might get offended or think of you as arrogant if you automatically respond
    • Automated responses need to be worded effectively to set expectations

Before publishing the Power Automate Flow I have put together as a result of this, I am going to test it for a while and gauge the feedback as I am pretty sure I might offend, impress and inspire my colleagues, possibly in equal measure!

The rules I am using are as follows to start with:

    • Only internal invites
    • Only those that do not have the word agenda – there is much scope to extend the logic, but I have not really thought about it yet
    • Tentatively accept with a message if the invite body contains the word agenda
    • Provide a comprehensive message in the tentative acceptance with a link to a Microsoft Form to provide feedback
    • Follow up by declining the invite 24 hours later
      • Taking into account weekends

The message I will be using is as follows:

I would love to be able to attend this meeting, but I don’t have the context to know what you need from me with regards to

    • Preparation
    • Contribution
    • Follow up activities

Please can you add the word agenda and some details to help me understand what is needed from me to make this meeting a success?

All meeting invites are manually reviewed so if we have discussed this meeting in other channels or there is content that my automated process does not recognise as an agenda then I can still accept the meeting.

This is an automated reply sent in response to this invite in order to try to ensure that the meeting is a success.  An automatic decline will be sent if the agenda is not updated and I don’t accept the meeting.

If you wish, please provide feedback here.

As a result of this trial internally, I will tweak and tune the Power Automate Flow and then publish it when it is stable.

Note: I am not looking at meeting clashes and double-bookings as that would potentially be even more controversial!