Meetings can be the most productive part of your day, or a complete waste of time. It all depends on the structure of the meeting, and on the skill of the leader conducting the meeting. If it is your job to set up a meeting, one of your most important goals is to create the agenda. Properly labeling the agenda items for the meeting is essential, since those agenda items set the tone for the meeting and help keep the discussion from going off track.

Step 1.

Label an agenda item as "informational" if its purpose is to provide a background for the other attendees at the meeting. For instance, a member of the project team might need to explain the scope of the proposed software changes at an initial kick-off meeting. This type of meeting agenda item is informational. The attendees do not need to agree or disagree on this item; they simply need to absorb the information.

Step 2.

Create advisory meeting agendas for items that require discussion but are not expected to be solved at the meeting. Advisory agenda items give the participants a chance to share their concerns and give their opinions about the items being discussed. For instance, a meeting about a proposed computer hardware upgrade might include several advisory agenda items, including a discussion of the hardware solutions under consideration. The project leader might give a brief overview of each proposed solution, followed by a general discussion by the remaining meeting participants.

Step 3.

Label a meeting agenda item as "problem solving" if its purpose is to actually come to a resolution during the meeting. This label is based on the goal for the particular meeting you are planning. An agenda item could be labeled as advisory at one meeting and problem solving at the next as the project moves from start to resolution. For instance, the advisory agenda item about hardware choices could turn to problem solving at the next meeting, when the participants are asked to actually choose a hardware solution.

Step 4.

Create a meeting agenda item labeled "request for help" if its purpose is to ask the other meeting participants for assistance. These items can serve as followups for the next meeting, with each member of the project team providing an update and giving the rest of the team information on the status of the project.