Creating an Agenda

How do you decide what to put on the agenda? Before the meeting date, the chair or secretary should mail, e-mail, or fax a notice to members that asks them to respond with new items they wish to have brought before the membership. There are groups that require members to notify the secretary about new business in writing. These items can be added to the agenda under either new or unfinished business (sometimes called “old” business).

The minutes of the previous meeting should also be consulted to see what needs to be brought forward. Is there unfinished business to put on the agenda? Were any motions pending at the time of adjournment? Are there special orders or motions that have been postponed to this meeting? Are there any nominations or elections? Are there new members who need to be voted in? Are there any general orders?

It can be an interesting tightrope walk learning how much business, new and old, can reasonably be conducted in a meeting. Experience is the best guide. Whether you're a longtime member or a new one, experienced with running meetings or new to the challenge, asking others for their advice about your group and its needs regarding an agenda is always a good idea.


Whether new business has been put on the agenda or not, most chairs will ask the membership at a meeting if there is any new business. Members have the right to present their ideas about what the group should do, at the time that new business is discussed.

There are a number of styles for agendas, depending on what works best for your group or organization. Here are some sample preliminary agendas your group or organization might use:

  • Reading, correction, and approval of minutes of previous meeting

  • Officers' reports (such as from the treasurer)

  • Executive committee report

  • Standing committee reports (such as membership)

  • Special committee reports (such as annual convention or conference)

  • Unfinished business (sometimes called “old” business)

  • New business

  • Announcements

Another group or organization might use an agenda that looks like this:

  • Reading and approval of minutes

  • Reports of officers, boards, and standing committees

  • Reports of special (select or ad hoc) committees

  • Special orders

  • Unfinished business and general orders

  • New business

Some organizations that are fraternal or more social might choose the rather formal style shown below:

  • Opening ceremonies or exercises (Pledge of Allegiance or prayer/invocation)

  • Roll call

  • Good of the order (or general good and welfare)

    This is a general discussion about the work of the organization, announcements, and so on (not business or motions).

  • Announcements

  • Program (good of the order is sometimes considered a program)


The term program is often used to list events such as informative or entertainment talks or lectures, films, and so on outside the business meeting. It can be included with the agenda or order of business for the meeting or convention.

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