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SART Foundations: The Critical Role of the Agenda

If you’ve ever met me or worked with me, you know how much I love a highly structured agenda. I geek out over a good agenda. My bias for agendas aside, I want to share with you about the importance of having an agenda for your Sexual Assault Response Team meetings. With this blog, I’m going to ask you to consider why agendas are critical tools in the success of your SART’s work.

Agendas can look a number of ways. There are some key design elements that you should consider incorporating into your existing agenda or when you are developing your first agenda. Below are the major points:

  • Date, time, location of meeting, and team coordinator contact information. I usually put this information in big font at the top and center of an agenda. It serves as a reminder of date and time. The location gives people not only the name of the place but also the address—something they can easily plug into their phone’s map programs or into the computer. The contact information is a quick reference point if they are lost, running late, or need something else. When I started putting my contact information on the meeting agenda (that I sent out one week prior to the meeting), more people got a hold of me to communicate needs, issues, or other items. Good communication is key.
  • Content areas with key questions or issues to address. Providing a list of the things your team needs to address gives the entire team a better sense of why they need to come to a meeting. This can fight the feeling of “I don’t have time for another meeting.” If you can demonstrate how the team members’ time will be used, then, they know what to expect and why they should be there. Folks can prepare their comments and ponder questions. This gives introverts and more quiet members of the team some time to reflect and be ready to contribute. It also allows you to have some control over conversations if they run wild. You can bring people back to the main focus as needed. Ever had a meeting hijacked? I certainly have and the content areas helps get the meeting back on track.
  • Allotted time for each activity. When I first started leading my team, I always gave them content areas as I said above, however, I did not add allotted times. This foiled a lot of my best laid plans. Because I wasn’t estimating how much time something would take, the conversation frequently spiraled, got off topic, ran too short, or took up the whole meeting. When I added the estimated time to tackle the content, team members started figuring out what they most wanted to address about the content; when conversations were no longer producing new information or two members were in a bit of heated conversation, there was a natural way to diffuse tensions or move the conversation ahead. It also let team members self-correct—I didn’t always have to be the one to interrupt. This gave control back to the group in a positive way.
  • Next meeting information. Tell them when and where the next meeting will occur. It serves as a good reminder.
  • Team related items. This could be upcoming trainings, team ground rules, important dates for completion of outside tasks, group agreements, or anything else directly relevant to the team. Providing a physical reminder is really helpful.

These items are my go-to need to haves on an agenda. An agenda serves a vital role in helping your team focus and accomplish important tasks and discussions. It can serve as a wrangler when the team scatters in different directions and can work to develop better team cohesion and buy-in. Consider how you will achieve these outcomes through an agenda (or alternative format if you are anti-agenda). Additionally, if you want a look at my agendas, just send me an email—I’m happy to share the wealth!

Do you have must have qualities about your agendas? Any agenda no-no’s? Share your thoughts in the comments!