Agenda Definition, Templates and Meaning: What Does Agenda Mean?

Agenda Definition

Noun 1. agenda - a temporally organized plan for matters to be attended to

schedule, docket

plan, program, programme - a series of steps to be carried out or goals to be accomplished; "they drew up a six-step plan"; "they discussed plans for a new bond issue"

fare, menu - an agenda of things to do; "they worked rapidly down the menu of reports"

2. agenda - a list of matters to be taken up (as at a meeting)

agendum, order of business

list, listing - a database containing an ordered array of items (names or topics)

agenda item - one of the items to be considered

order of the day - the order of business for an assembly on a given day


: a list or outline of things to be considered or done <agendas of faculty meetings>


: an underlying often ideological plan or program <a political agenda>

agen·da·less adjective

Examples of AGENDA

The committee set the agenda for the next several years of research.

There are several items on the agenda for tonight's meeting.

What's the first item on the agenda?

Such an idea has been high on the political agenda for some time.

He wants to push his own agenda no matter what the others say.

Origin of AGENDA

Latin, neuter plural of agendum, gerundive of agere

First Known Use: 1871

Meaning of AGENDA

Sense 1


A temporally organized plan for matters to be attended to

Classified under:

Nouns denoting cognitive processes and contents


agenda; schedule; docket

Hypernyms ("agenda" is a kind of...):

plan; program; programme (a series of steps to be carried out or goals to be accomplished)

Hyponyms (each of the following is a kind of "agenda"):

fare; menu (an agenda of things to do)

Sense 2


A list of matters to be taken up (as at a meeting)

Classified under:

Nouns denoting communicative processes and contents


agendum; order of business; agenda

Hypernyms ("agenda" is a kind of...):

list; listing (a database containing an ordered array of items (names or topics))

Meronyms (parts of "agenda"):

agenda item (one of the items to be considered)

Hyponyms (each of the following is a kind of "agenda"):

order of the day (the order of business for an assembly on a given day)

What Does Agenda Mean?

Ordered sequence of items to be discussed in a formal meeting. The objectives of an agenda include to (1) familiarize participants with the topics to be discussed and issues to be raised, (2) indicate what prior knowledge would be expected from the participants, and (3) indicate what outcome the participants may expect from the meeting.

An agenda is used in many schools to help students learn how to budget their time. Kids today have so many distractions that any help we can give them is beneficial to their learning. Also, the agenda planners are a good way to keep track of their assignments, homework and tests so parents can take an active role in helping their kids succeed.


An agenda is: - a list or program of things to be done or considered.

Most meetings will have an agenda which lays out the order in which topics will be discussed. This meeting agenda should normally be circulated to the people attending the meeting well in advance, so that they can brief themselves on the topics to be discussed. This makes the meeting more efficient.

Types of Agendas

Agendas are an integral part of a successful meeting.

Meetings can flounder without proper planning, even with a clear purpose and appropriate participants. Using an agenda to plan a meeting can help the gathering run smoothly and effectively address key issues or topics. Planning ahead gives those attending the meeting knowledge of what to expect, time to prepare, and provides an order in which things will be discussed. Another reason that agendas are popular is that they save everyone time.

But What is an Agenda?

Simply put, an agenda is a list or a plan. This list includes topics and problems or issues that will be discussed during a meeting. There are a variety of agenda formats; the purpose and type of meeting will determine which agenda format to use. Types of agendas typically used include informal, formal, prioritized and timed. Familiarizing yourself with each agenda format will allow you to effectively choose the proper type for your needs.

Informal and Formal

An informal agenda basically refers to an informal list of items that will be discussed during a meeting and is often thrown together at the last minute. A formal agenda follows more of a format. This format includes the type of meeting, lists the meeting facilitator and lists all of the attendees. The agenda then follows a specific order: call to order, roll call, minutes from last meeting, open issues, new business and adjournment.

Prioritized and Timed

Prioritized agendas follow a priority system. Items are given an order according to perceived importance to the group. The topics are then discussed in this order. Timed agendas refer to using a set time line for the meeting -- usually a time keeper is assigned to help stay on task. In this format, the agenda would be set up in time intervals. For example, 9:30-9:35: socializing/warm-up, 9:35-9:40: review purpose and desired outcome, 9:40-9:50: review minutes from last meeting.

Bottom Line

Don't hesitate to ask for input from other participants when building an agenda. Participants can provide valuable insights about which topics or issues need to be discussed. Having the appropriate participants is key to a well-planned and successful meeting. All agendas should contain the purpose of the session; have clear desired outcomes; classify agenda topics as either information sharing or information processing; and end with a topic wrap-up and a discussion of next steps.

Why an agenda is important

An agenda is much more than a list of things to do. An agenda is a meeting program designed to enable all important and relevant points to be dealt with in good order and good time.

An agenda is also a form of courtesy. It informs the chairperson and participants of the refined purpose of the meeting. This gives them time to prepare for the tasks, and enables them to make a meaningful contribution.

A well planned agenda can:

  • provide a logical guide for business and discussion 

  • bring harmony and efficiency to a meeting 

  • help restrain participants from speaking out of turn. 

Imagine a formal meeting without an agenda. What could happen? Make a list of six possible situations or outcomes. Compare your list with others. Did they identify similar problems?

Planning the agenda

Every participant should have an opportunity to contribute to the agenda. Planning an agenda may be as simple as posting a notice on a bulletin board and allowing participants to write down any items they want to discuss. In some cases, the agenda may be drawn up in the first few minutes of the meeting; however, for a formal meeting, an agenda should be included with the notice of meeting.

It is important to consider the timing of the distribution of the meeting agenda so that participants have ample time to prepare for the meeting.

There are three important consultative tasks you should undertake when planning a meeting agenda:

  1. include the questions and concerns raised at the last meeting and in the period before the next meeting

  2. consult with the executive and chairperson

  3. refer to the minutes of the previous meeting and include all those items which required follow-up.

With formal meetings, such as an annual general meeting (AGM), the agenda should be distributed with the notice of meeting. How would you call for items for inclusion on a formal meeting agenda?

Sequencing the agenda

A formal agenda schedule is commonly used because it is practical and efficient. However, you may be required to alter the sequence to include specific items such as those which arise from the previous minutes or general business.

There is a variety of approaches to sequencing an agenda, but in any case the order requires careful and logical planning. The approach you take also depends on the purpose of your meeting and how well you know the participants; for example, if part of your purpose is to build team spirit and unite your members, it may be better to begin with the items that will foster teamwork, then move onto the more difficult and potentially divisive items. It will depend on the mood of participants.

Sometimes you may put items that require minimal discussion at the start of the meeting. Groups often work better when they can move from simple to more complex items in a meeting. However, if you are running out of time and have placed decisions which require a lot of discussion and effort at the end of the agenda, the pressure may cause tempers to flare and hasty, ineffective decisions may be made.

Participants may be fresher at the start of a meeting or after a coffee break. Once you become familiar with your participants' working style, the task of sequencing the items for discussion or action will be easier.

Content of the agenda

If your agenda is too brief or too vague, you will deprive participants of the opportunity to be well prepared.

It is useful to include a brief reason why each topic has been included. This should be a simple explanatory note to help keep everyone informed and on track and guide the contribution participants make. 

Agendas for formal meetings such as AGMs and board meetings will generally:

  • have more detail 

  • use formal language 

  • have a more structured layout 

  • contain cross-references to other meeting documents. 

Agendas for less formal meetings such as ad hoc committees or department meetings will generally: 

  • be more brief 

  • use less formal language

  • contain jargon and concepts specific to the meeting participants. 

An agenda may contain these headings:

  • Welcome 

  • Sequencing of agenda 

  • Attendance/Apologies 

  • Minutes of previous meeting 

  • Correspondence 

  • Reports, such as Report from the Chair, Report from the Treasurer

  • Business arising 

  • General business: Topics for discussion/resolution 

  • General business: Topics for information 

  • Other business

  • Next meeting. 

Formatting the agenda

In addition to the standard headings that guide the structure of a meeting, an agenda may also include:

  • suggested time allocations

  • draft motions 

  • statements of action required

  • the name of each responsible agent

  • spaces for notes. 

Tips for formatting agendas 

Agendas should have a layout and format that is consistent and appropriate for all meetings of the same type. To make your task of developing regular agendas easier you could prepare a template document from which all agendas will be developed. Your template should be designed with:

  • a font that is easy to read 

  • a hierarchy of heading styles, so participants can easily see which items are most important 

  • plenty of white space 

  • very little use of bold or italic text

  • no underlining (underlining is now used to indicate hyperlinks). 

It is also useful to:

  • number the agenda items 

  • star items if necessary 

  • provide an estimate of the time allotted to discussion of each item 

  • clearly indicate starting time for the meeting, the time of any known adjournment and the finishing time 

  • schedule breaks (morning tea, lunch). 

What should the agenda have looked like? Discuss this before developing your final answer. Keep a record.

Altering the agenda

In a formal meeting, the chairperson cannot alter the order of the agenda without the consent of the meeting participants. A motion to suspend the standing orders to allow the altering of the agenda must be put and carried before the sequence can be changed. Similarly, the addition of other items for business requires notification. 

Many less formal meetings contain a specific opportunity to resequence the agenda. Some meetings allow time for altering the agenda after the chairperson's welcome. Other meetings may have a tradition that alterations to the agenda can be put forward under the item, General Business. If you want to alter agenda during meeting it's best to raise the issue as early as possible.

The legal requirements of formal meetings do not allow resolutions to be passed on items of business without notice. They do, however, allow for discussion and time for the meeting to decide whether to place the item on the agenda for the next meeting.

Using available the material, or after discussion with your colleagues, give some reasons why it is not a preferred option (although it is possible) to alter either the sequence of the agenda or the items listed on the agenda. 

Keep a record of your discussions and response.

What is a Political Agenda?

A political agenda is one when a certain political party, group or individual is interested in furthering a cause, perhaps at the expense of other causes. In some cases, that cause could be for personal gain, as is the case with politicians who are often accused of protecting key voting blocks. In other cases, that could be for a more idealistic reason, such as those who believe an aggressive environmental policy is good for the country and planet.

In many cases, the term political agenda is viewed in a negative context. Often, the term implies that someone has refused to listen to the majority of the population, or at least the voting constituency, and moved forward with an action that most do not approve of. The accusation of a political agenda often may involve conspiracy theories or other conjectures that may have no basis in fact.

There have been a number of political agendas over the years that have been clearly distinguishable and talked about. President John F. Kennedy had a political agenda to return America to superiority in space, and vowed to put a man on the moon. President George W. Bush sought to take a hard line against terrorism. Health care reform was one of President Barack Obama's main points of emphasis. In each of these cases, critics have suggested there were ulterior reasons why these agendas were chosen.

One of the keys to a great meeting is following a set agenda. Depending on your needs, there are different meeting agenda formats. Stay organized by learning which meeting agenda format is best for your next meeting.

Purpose of Meeting Agendas

The main purpose of meeting agendas is to keep the meeting focused. The agenda is basically an outline of all topics that need to be covered during the course of the meeting. In addition, there is typically a set amount of time in which to cover each topic in order to have a more productive, faster meeting. When given in advance, meeting participants have time to prepare any questions or comments before the meeting. Below, you'll find some common meeting agenda formats you can utilize.

Formal Meetings

Formal meetings require a set agenda. There is no room for change. The topic of the agenda should be clearly listed at the top along with the leader of the meeting. The date, time and location is also listed. Either at the beginning or end of the agenda, all major attendees are listed.

After the initial information, each major sub-topic is listed along with the person responsible for the topic, such as a team leader. Under each sub-topic, a formal meeting agenda lists details about what should be discussed including possible questions. There is a set time limit for each topic on the list, including a set time frame for questions and answers. Formal meeting agendas are about covering a topic as thoroughly, but as quickly as possible. These are usually board meetings or meetings between companies.

Informal Meetings

Informal meetings have a more flexible agenda. The topic, meeting leader, date, time and location are all usually listed. However, an informal meeting agenda does not have the same amount of detail as a formal agenda. The main sub-topics are listed, but additional details or topics are not required. A set time frame is not required, but a time frame for the entire meeting may be listed.

Adjustable Meeting

Adjustable meeting agendas are basically a rough outline of a meeting. These types of meetings do not have a set date or time and usually occur with last minute notice. A quick agenda is created to list the main topics to be discussed, along with any major questions pertaining to the topic. The final date and time of the meeting may be listed, but this is usually placed in the minutes.

This is the most lenient of the meeting agenda formats. Often times, only the meeting leader has a copy of the agenda in order to run the meeting more effectively. This type of meeting often occurs when a problem suddenly arises, a project task needs to be reviewed or you have a weekly meeting that varies based on the time members have available.

Project Meetings

Agendas for projects are typically very detailed, but are focused entirely on the project. No other topics are discussed. When a team meets, the agenda lays out each portion of the project, including the team members responsible for each portion. A team leader discusses their portion of the project.

The date, time, project title, project steps and time frame are all required. An expected start and end date for each project step or area is listed. Project meeting agendas can be used not only to keep project meetings on task, but to remind team members of what needs to be done and when.

Presentation Meetings

Most meeting agenda formats are restricted to the workplace or school environments, but presentation meetings can occur almost anywhere. Public and private presentations go smoother when an agenda is created. The agenda lets everyone involved know who the presenter is, the topic of the presentation and each sub-topic to be covered. The time frame for each sub-topic is listed to give attendees an idea of how long the presentation meeting will be.

Presentation agendas often have images for aesthetic appeal. Presentation meetings can be formal or informal, so the required details for the agenda may vary slightly. A copy of the presentation is often included with the agenda so attendees can be make notes or write down answers to questions they ask.

Creating an Agenda

No matter what type of meeting agenda format you need, you can either create one from scratch or use one of the templates found on the Internet. Many templates can be found by searching for meeting agenda templates in Microsoft Word. Use the help section and use the search term meeting agenda template or agenda template.
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