One of the obstacles to getting a meeting set up can be getting buy-in from those involved. Taking time in your meeting agenda to show each participant why they're important can go a long way toward ensuring attendance, participation, and productivity. Further, if you're looking to justify the overall cost to the company of the meeting you're putting together, an agenda can do exactly that. Show the appropriate people that the company's time and money is safe in your hands.
Set Goals For Yourself
As the person putting together the agenda, it's likely you were also the person who proposed (or is proposing) the meeting. With that in mind, it's good to know what you intend to get out of the meeting, and accomplishing this is best done through setting goals. Before you even begin putting together the agenda, before you decide who should attend or even where it should be held, write down your goals. This is vital, as knowing your goals will influence the remainder of your decisions.
Allow Others to Prepare
You can set all of the goals you want and invite the right people at the right time to the right place, but the business meeting can be ruined if these people do not know what is expected of them. Meeting preparation leads to great meeting execution, so setting the agenda and sharing it at least 24 hours in advance can allow you to avoid an "I didn't know I had to bring that" situation.
Pick Up Where You Left Off
This is particularly important if your meeting is recurring, but picking up the meeting where you left off can be vital to productivity. Spend a little time reviewing the minutes of your last meeting, then get right to work on creating new ones. Since you've already let everyone know what you plan to discuss and made sure the right people are there to discuss it, you'll be able to accomplish the action items from your last meeting and create new ones for your next one.
Get Everyone in the Same Room
When you have to stop mid-meeting to try to get that one person you forgot to invite (or, because you didn't set up an agenda, you've gotten off-topic and now need the knowledge of people you didn't foresee needing), you not only take away from the valuable time of the meeting, but you take away from the valuable time of the person you're calling. That person has a job to do today, and at the moment, they are probably not doing something for the meeting they didn't know they would be attending. You are taking away time from the person for whom they are working, whether that is a client or the company as a whole, and either way, you have not run the tight, purposeful meeting you could run with an agenda.
Everyone Knows What's Expected After the Meeting
Creating an agenda is not only about ensuring that everyone has done their due diligence before the meeting but also about making sure that they know what is expected of them afterward. Every productive meeting has action items to be completed either before the next meeting or before the next phase of the project can be completed. Accomplishing the action items of a company's collective business meetings is essentially the definition of doing business, so make sure you've not only covered what is expected of people before and during the meeting but after as well. Make an actionable agenda from the beginning, and reap the rewards after.
Power to the People
Getting off topic during a meeting is often not the result of being unfocused or undisciplined but is rather due to people wanting to be heard. You need to see this need not as a hurdle to be overcome but as a strength to be harnessed. By creating an effective business agenda and inviting the appropriate people to ensure that your goals can be accomplished, you are letting participants know that you intend to address their concerns as long as they stick to the meeting agenda. People are naturally more willing to follow a business agenda if they can see in advance how the business meeting benefits them. This might seem like a bit of office politics, but it works.