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Meetings Management: Hidden Agenda

When we invite people to invest their time in meetings, the least we can do is to tell them what contribution we want of them at the session and ensure that background information is circulated before the meeting takes place. Of course, meetings don’t always run to pre-set agendas, and in such instances a meeting leader’s role is to ensure that discussions do not meander off-track and this is often best done with lots of preparation beforehand.

Part of the preparation process, which should occur well before any meeting actually takes place, of course, is to consider what the invited participants are going to need to be able to specifically contribute and whether or not they can take the necessary decisions or action, where required to do so. This means thinking about four categories of data or information that would be useful:

Pre-meeting data

Many people do not like being presented with detailed numerical information on a just-in-time basis at a meeting and would prefer to see facts or figures ahead of time, such as a spreadsheet with inserted financial or other relevant data. Pre-circulating this kind of information allows meeting participants time to absorb complex information and to discuss implications or detail. 

Background reading

Sometimes a topic is best understood by appreciating a wider context. Clearly, it is not time-effective to use a meeting for this purpose, so pre-circulating reports, articles, and other documents in advance of the meeting allows people time for reading to understand the bigger picture. 


Rather than presenting detailed or complex information verbally in a meeting (or perhaps on a rather cluttered flip-chart), it can be better to use hand-outs that can be read individually and easily taken away from the meeting as an aide-memoire. Hand-outs can summarize key facts, data-tables, checklists and bullet points, for example.

An Agenda

Last but not least, an agenda for the upcoming meeting is probably the most useful information of all for participants because it tells them what subjects will be discussed so as to be ready for them.  Although a detailed agenda is best, brief headings will suffice as a better alternative than nothing being circulated at all.

The featured video clip is drawn from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder Meetings Management Video Vignette Set.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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