Agenda Factors

by Tree Bressen

First, some basic agenda planning principles:

  • Use meeting time efficiently by being in sync with natural urges and by planning well
  • Keep an ongoing agenda collection list
  • Rotate the agenda planner roles
  • Assist new members in learning how to use the system
  • Screen items to determine which things should be on for a particular meeting and in what order (see below)
  • Consult with the people involved in each item to ensure seasoning and preparedness
  • Turn in items by 1/4 ahead (e.g., a week ahead for a monthly meeting), and post agenda ahead of time
  • Approve agenda at start of meeting
  • When an item comes up in meeting that isn't on the agenda, put it onto the ongoing agenda list unless the group agrees to change topics
  • Don't go more than 90 minutes without a break

Here is a list of useful questions to ask as you consider what agenda items to include. This list is intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive; you may come up with other questions for your group.

WHO will be present:

  • to sponsor or present an item?
  • to participate in making the decision?
  • to facilitate the meeting?


  • How long has an item been waiting?
  • Are there deadlines for action?
  • Where are people at with this issue, are they ready for it?
  • What else is going on for individuals and the group?
  • Find a balanced mixture of "light" and "heavy" items.
  • Consider the length of meeting.


  • What are the priority issues for the group right now?
  • Does this really need everyone's time?
  • Should it be handled by a smaller group or a manager either before or instead of going to meeting?
  • Would it be addressed better by posting something in writing?


  • Is there research that needs to be done ahead of time?
  • Is there documentation that needs to be posted ahead of time?
  • Is the sponsor ready to present the item?

Tree Bressen, facilitator and teacher, has been assisting intentional communities, nonprofits, and other organizations with group process since 1994. Pages from her website are available for copying and distribution free of charge as long as you continue to include these credit lines and contact information.

Tree Bressen
Eugene, Oregon