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An agenda is a list of meeting activities in the order in which they are to be taken up, by beginning with the call to order and ending with adjournment. It usually includes one or more specific items of business to be discussed. It may, but is not required to, include specific times for one or more activities. An agenda may also be called a docket.
Agenda is an abbreviation of agenda sunt or agendum est, gerundive forms in plural and singular respectively of the Latin verb ago, agere, egi, actum "to drive on, set in motion", for example of cattle. The meaning is "(those things/that thing) which must be driven forward". What is now known in English as an agenda is a list of individual items which must be "acted upon" or processed, most usually those matters which must be discussed at a business meeting Although the Latin word is in a plural form, as a borrowed word in English the word is singular, and has a plural of "agendas"see Discussion. (See also: Memorandum, Addenda, Corrigenda)
In business meetings of deliberative bodies, the agenda may also be known as the orders of the day. Optimally, the agenda is distributed to a meeting's participants prior to the meeting, so that they will be aware of the subjects to be discussed, and are able to prepare for the meeting accordingly.
In parliamentary procedure, an agenda is not binding upon an assembly unless its own rules make it so, or unless it has been adopted as the agenda for the meeting by majority vote at the start of the meeting. Otherwise, it is merely for the guidance of the chair.
If an agenda is binding upon an assembly, and a specific time is listed for an item, that item cannot be taken up before that time, and must be taken up when that time arrives even if other business is pending. If it is desired to do otherwise, the rules can be suspended for that purpose.
In a workshop, the sequence of agenda items is important, as later agenda steps may be dependent upon information derived from or completion of earlier steps in the agenda. Frequently in standard meetings, agenda items may be "time boxed" or fixed so as not to exceed a predetermined amount of time. In workshops, time boxing may not be effective because completion of each agenda step may be critical to beginning the next step.
Typical layout of an agenda
A simple meeting agenda may be headed with the Calendar date|date, time and location of the meeting, followed by a series of points outlining the order of the agenda. Agenda items should focus on the deliverable from each step. Steps on a typical agenda may include:
- Welcome/open meeting
- Review of prior minutes meeting(s)
- Purpose of the topic of discussion
- Old business or open issues
- New business such as specific points to be discussed — this section is where the bulk of the discussion as well as decisions in the meeting usually takes place
- Other issues; allowing a participant to raise another point for discussion.
- Close meeting to include review of key points, discussion of assignments, communications plan for what to tell others not in the meeting, and confirmation of the next meeting, if any.
- Cassell's Latin Dictionary, ed. nMarchant & Charles