Meetings can be a waste of time if not run properly. A 2019 study revealed that poorly organized meetings cost $399 billion dollars in the United States alone. This is even more true for virtual teams who don’t have the opportunity to walk over to someone’s desk and clarify the meeting goals beforehand.

Often participants join a meeting not knowing how to prepare, or what the meeting will be about.

An important way to ensure virtual meetings run smoothly and efficiently is to set an agenda prior to the call.

In a hurry? Download our template to start planning.

Why you need a virtual meeting agenda

Agendas will save your team and make sure your meeting is productive.

Setting an agenda is crucial so that all attendees come prepared and goals are met.

As a result, a follow-up meeting is needed, making the first meeting more of a time-suck than a productive call.

What to consider when creating an agenda

Before setting an agenda, consider these three things:

1. Focused meetings are better than ambitious meetings

Understand that you don’t have to solve every problem in one meeting. Think about what can be accomplished.

Meetings have different goals and priorities.

While some are brainstorm meetings, others are status updates, or presentations on collected information or metrics. Learn more about types of meetings in project management. The list goes on.

A single meeting shouldn’t try to fit everything into one. Before you set an agenda, understand what type of meeting you want to have. This will aid in how attendees prepare beforehand and in knowing how long to set the duration of the call.

2. Keep it short

Consider making meetings shorter. Participants are more engaged and less likely to multitask in a shorter meeting, knowing they can get back to their work.

Video conferencing calls don’t have to be set at 30 minutes or one-hour long.

Sometimes that amount of time is needed, but consider other approaches.

how to keep meetings short

For example, consider a brainstorm call.

Try setting the meeting for 20 minutes and have participants come prepared with ideas they can share for the first 10 minutes. Then, in the second half of the call, have people try and think of additional ideas as a group. After the call, you can narrow down the ideas and send them out, and let people vote. Or set up a second, 10-minute call to walk through the top three and do a final vote.

For a metrics call, the conversation can go too in-the-weeds if there is not a clear direction given.

Consider setting a shorter call and instruct the presenter to give the top three bullet points and top three lessons learned. Or, the top three things that can be improved upon. This will shorten calls and keep people focused. If people are interested in more information, they can follow-up outside the call.

3. Test it out

Don’t be afraid of trial and error. Try various methods of meeting planning to see what works best for your company.

After a meeting, ask for feedback or ways to improve the process for the next team. Maybe your team needs more time in advance to brainstorm, or maybe the status calls should be more or less frequent.

How to create a perfect meeting agenda for virtual teams

There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re creating a virtual meeting agenda. How long will it be, and what’s the main goal?

Here are five tips for creating an effective agenda for meeting with your team, regardless of the meeting type.

1. Set the objective of the meeting

List the one main goal you need to accomplish. Maybe you need to review the previous month’s sales goals, or determine three projects to tackle that quarter.

When you’ve reached that goal and picked your three projects, the meeting ends. It’s that simple.

2. Choose the meeting duration

This depends on the type of meeting and number of attendees. Most meetings should be half an hour or less, but some warrant a longer timeframe. Especially if you have multiple people presenting.

To keep track of meetings and schedule for the right amount of time, have your team use a time tracking app. That way, you’ll be able to look back at past meetings through the dashboard or in timesheets and know how long to schedule them for in the future.

3. Double-check the invite list

It helps to decide who is critical to the meeting and who can skip it if needed. Often, those who can miss it are the ones who probably don’t need to be there in the first place. Keep meetings small when virtual, so that everyone participating can contribute.

If virtual meetings get too big, you’ll have people sitting on the call just listening. If that happens, not only are you keeping them from precious work time, but you’re also risking tangents that naturally come up in large group meetings.

4. Know who will present and notify them in advance

Decide who is leading which part of the meeting, and let them know in advance so they can prepare.

5. Give each presenter a set amount of time

Specify time frames in your agenda and stick to them. If one person has five minutes to go over goals, don’t spend 20 minutes debating them. Respect the agenda, and use this information for future meetings so that your estimates are accurate.

Virtual meeting agenda template

Here’s a simple downloadable format you can follow for your own meetings. Simply fill in the fields and send out to your team before the call or video chat.

At the bottom of the agenda (or within it), you can request what each person needs to do to prepare, or what they need to bring to the meetings.

For example, do they need to send slides over beforehand? Should they come with one question to ask?

Additionally, it’s important to let presenters/participants know how much time they have beforehand.

Virtual meeting template

In fact, to keep a meeting on track, you can give a 2-5-minute warning before the transition to the next topic and presenter.

Because everyone will have seen the agenda and time allocated, it won’t feel like someone is being cut off.

Remember, meeting templates can look very different based on the type of meeting. Create yours to fit your business needs and add as much or little information as it needs. You can experiment to see what works better with your employees.

You’re up

Preparing for every meeting with a clear objective and thoughtful agenda will ensure a more productive and efficient use of time for everyone involved. Taking the time upfront will go a long way to ensuring you get the most out of each and every meeting.