Efficient Meetings with Topic Tags

I love efficient meetings. I love meetings that were scheduled for 30 minutes but instead take 8 minutes. One of the tricks I use to hold efficient meetings is to put topic tags into each agenda. Oh, and the other trick I use is to always have a meeting agenda. Friends don't let friends accept meeting invites without an agenda!

An agenda topic tag consists of a bullet point about the topic, prefixed with who brought up the topic and a quick word on what can be expected. For instance, this is an agenda entry with a topic tag:

  • (Scott:Discuss) New Secure SDLC process diagram

This tells anyone reading the agenda that they can expect me (Scott) to discuss the new secure SDLC process diagram. But that's the obvious part, what it also does it tell any meeting organizer approximately how much time I will take and what I expect to get out of the agenda topic.

I use different tags for various types of agenda topics. While it may change from time to time, the following list contains my favourite tags, what the expected outcome is, and how much time could be consumed. I'll use myself as the person bringing up each topic.

  • (Scott:Discuss)
    • this is a full discussion of a topic that either needs fleshing out, or further investigation.
    • 10-30 minutes
  • (Scott:FYI)
    • this is for information-sharing only. It could elicit follow-up questions, but typically these are not necessary.
    • 1-5 minutes
  • (Scott:Feedback)
    • this is for me providing feedback to someone else. It may elicit follow-up questions.
    • 5-10 minutes
  • (Scott:Question)
    • this is a question raised by me in the meeting, and I am looking for answers from the meeting participants.
    • 1-10 minutes
  • (Scott:Decision)
    • this is a quick overview of the issue and a request for a decision to be made by the meeting participants.
    • 5-15 minutes
  • (Scott:Action)
    • this is an action for me and can be expected to be completed after the meeting. If it is a task that is really simple and takes relatively no time to complete, it can be done during the meeting.
    • 1 minute

And that's it. Simple tags to help meeting organizers understand who is expected to bring forth topics, plus what outcome they are expecting. For anyone staring down a long list of agenda topics, these tags will quickly tell you whether you are in for a blissful 8-minute meeting full of FYIs and Actions, or a thought-provoking 60-minute meeting filled with Discussions and Feedback.