Creating an Actionable Agenda

The agenda is the framework that supports the meeting. Agendas have been compared to road maps, blueprints, flight plans, recipes and musical scores. These all suggest that the agenda helps a group achieve a desired outcome.

To help ensure that all important issues are addressed, the agenda should be created with input of members. Some groups ask a sub-committee of 2 or 3 people to help the chair plan agendas. Some groups spend time at the end of a meeting planning the next agenda. Some groups send a call for agenda items via mail or E-mail from the chair. It is generally not advisable for a chair to create agendas in isolation.

Writing Agenda Items

Each item on the agenda should begin with an action word (verb). These items should frame the expectations of attendees.

Common action words

  • decide
  • discuss
  • review
  • select
  • finish

Example agenda items

  • Decide best methodology for student follow-up survey (phone, web, E-mail, etc.)
  • Discuss after-hours building security
  • Review recommendations from accreditation report
  • Select speakers for symposium
  • Finish reviewing graduate applications

The table below illustrates some well and poorly written agenda items.




  • TA Assignment
  • Retreat
  • Decide on TA Assignments for spring.
  • Decide on agenda and activities for faculty retreat.


Although the committee chair or group leader usually has the final say on the agenda, it should be created with at least some input from other members.

Ways to Involve the Membership in Agenda Creation

  1. Create a subcommittee of two or three people to help the chair plan agendas.
  2. Spend time at the end of each meeting identifying key issues for the next agenda.
  3. Send out a call for agenda items before the meeting.

Regardless of how input is elicited, the involvement of the membership in agenda creation can help ensure that the group addresses issues that might not even be on the "screen" of the chair.

Here is an agenda template (MS Word format) for you to use.

For committees or organizations operating under Robert's Rules of Order, the rules suggest another agenda format. See