How Clerks Can Structure a Meeting Agenda to Drive Efficiency

Lena Eisenstein
5 min read

An agenda is a written plan for a meeting that outlines topics for board discussion and formats them in the proper order. While creating an agenda sounds simple enough, the manner in which clerks structure the agenda drives the meeting’s efficiency. The structure of the agenda makes it easy for the board chair or meeting facilitator to keep the meeting flowing and on track. Agendas can be simple or complex, written or online. Municipal clerks can customize the agenda according to the needs of the council. With an online agenda software program like iCompass, a Diligent brand’s, Meeting Manager, the process couldn’t be faster, easier or more efficient.

Benefits of an Efficiency-Driven Agenda

An organized, efficient agenda doesn’t develop through happenstance. Thoughtful planning turns the hope for an efficient meeting into a reality.

Clerks will need to assess how much time to allow for each agenda item and make sure the council will be able to get through all the agenda items in the time allotted. They also need to list the items that need immediate attention first, so that time doesn’t run out on them.

Next to each agenda item, clerks should note who will be speaking about the item, and if the board will need to take some sort of action or if it’s an item for discussion or information.

Many councils find that it helps to place a consent agenda, or consent calendar, on the agenda. A consent agenda groups routine business and reports into one agenda item. The board can then vote to approve all items on the consent agenda with one vote, which saves much time. The types of items you might see on a consent agenda are meeting minutes, financial reports, committee reports, staff or volunteer appointments, or other items where the board has obvious agreement.

Get Organized With iCompass Agenda Manager

Clerks may have a certain format for their council meetings that they’ve used for a long time. The flexibility of iCompass’ Meeting Manager software tool allows them to use that format and improve it or customize it as needed. The ability to customize the agenda allows clerks to design either a brief or detailed agenda format within minutes.

The online template tool is the perfect tool for organizing agenda items, so the meeting has a good flow. Meeting participants can view the agenda online before the meeting, so they can prepare for it ahead of time and follow along with it during the meeting.

How Does Meeting Manager Work?

Meeting Manager is a software program that clerks can use to create an accurate and efficient agenda packet, including a cover sheet and attachments.

The program starts with a best practice template. It allows clerks to create a custom design for the cover sheet with custom fonts, layout and logo. Meeting Manager also starts with a template. Clerks can add or delete sections to adjust for changes in the agenda from one meeting to the next. All they have to do is drag new sections over to the agenda to create agenda items in a snap. They can also drag sections away from the agenda that they don’t need.

If a clerk needs to move an important agenda item closer to the top of the agenda, the drag-and-drop technology lets the clerk do it in seconds, even if it’s a last-minute change. Certain agenda items require additional documents or reports. Clerks can easily upload documents from the online document center or from their computer files.

Once the agenda is complete, clerks can preview the fully completed, formatted agenda and make any necessary additions or corrections. After the preview, the clerk can send out the agenda packet for various rounds of approvals using an automated workflow. When all approvals are completed, the agenda automatically gets added to the agenda packet.

The program also allows clerks to set user permissions so that only certain individuals can view sensitive or confidential documents.

Tips for Creating an Efficient Agenda

The Meeting Manager does most of the formatting work for you. This is a huge time-saver that gives clerks extra hours in their day to focus on the content for the agenda. The extra hours spent planning and organizing will pave the way for the most efficient agenda possible. Here are some tips to help:

Get started planning the agenda early.  The weeks following the previous meeting aren’t too early to start planning the next agenda. Early planning helps the agenda-preparer and the meeting participants as well.

Order your agenda items according to priorities. Council members and other attendees dislike meetings that run slowly and run overtime. Place the most important issues first and work with the board chair to keep items within a reasonable timeframe.

Certain agenda items may call for a breakdown of key points. Seeing the key points listed helps attendees focus on the main issues and should help to focus discussions.

One of the most difficult tasks is assigning a certain number of minutes for each agenda item. This is difficult because council members may bring up unexpected issues that may take up more time than clerks anticipated. It helps to build in a little time for flexibility if you can. This is why it’s important to place items with priority higher on the agenda. Complex issues sometimes arise later in the agenda that derail the plan for time management. If things get too far off the timeframe, an experienced board chair will know that it’s time to table the issue or move it to a committee for further exploration.

Note on the agenda the items that require a decision. Meeting Manager will allow you to get the agenda out to members in plenty of time before the meeting. This gives them enough time to review the issues that they need to vote on and do any research or ask questions before the meeting. This will cut down on the time council members will need to spend in discussion and debate.

List the names of those who will be presenting topics. Meeting members will have the agenda in front of them and be more prepared to follow quickly behind the previous speaker.

Be willing to accept feedback from members on how to improve future meetings. Some clerks find it helpful to leave some space at the end of the agenda for members to evaluate the agenda, so clerks can improve the process in the future.