New: Vowel AI: AI-powered Q&A, catch me up, AI summaries, AI action items, & Zapier!
Learn more

Better Meetings

How to run quarterly planning meetings [with agenda]

Quarterly planning meetings guide-featured image

The end of the quarter is approaching, and you’re supposed to start preparing for the next quarter and have a proper quarterly planning meeting. But — panic! — you don’t even know where to begin. 

Procrastination can quickly take over when it comes to planning – it’s totally understandable, especially when you’re so busy with your daily to-do list. 

But there’s a way to tackle the quarterly planning dread and, if you’re a manager, get your team on the same page.  All you have to do is efficiently organize your quarterly planning meetings. 

In this guide, we’ll unpack the basics of quarterly planning and tell you all you need to know to run successful planning meetings. 

Table of contents

  • What is quarterly planning? (and why it’s important)

  • Quarterly planning vs. annual planning

  • 4 things to include in a quarterly plan

  • How to run an effective quarterly planning meeting

  • Free quarterly planning meeting agenda template

What is quarterly planning? (and why it’s important)

Quarterly planning is a strategic way to break down your annual key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKRs) into more manageable quarterly objectives. 

Quarterly planning lets you create and track long-term goals in a more manageable way and guide your team members so they know what to prioritize. Following a (roughly) 90-day plan is easier because it makes quarterly goals more approachable (and breaks them down into smaller projects). 

A well-made quarterly plan connects short-term work goals with the big picture while giving everyone a sense of continuous progress and achievement. 

So, instead of doing one long and time-consuming planning and review meeting, you hold four smaller ones every three months. Depending on your company, the first quarter might begin in January or February (quarters are typically referred to with the letter Q and the number of the quarter in sequential order, such as Q1 or Q3). 

Quarterly planning vs. annual planning

The main difference between quarterly planning and annual planning is, as the names suggest, the time frame they focus on. The quarterly planning process deals with goals and focus areas in the next three months (or 90 days) while annual planning is about setting goals for the entire year. 

Both of these approaches to planning offer their own set of benefits.

The pros of quarterly planning include: 

  • A sense of urgency to complete tasks because deadlines are closer 

  • A higher level of specificity in KPIs and OKRs 

  • The opportunity to identify issues earlier and change course proactively

Annual planning has its strengths, as it helps: 

  • Set the overall timeline and vision for the entire year

  • Provide the foundation for quarterly planning

  • Make strategic intent and initiatives clear 

4 things to include in a quarterly plan

Now that we’re clear on what a quarterly plan is, let’s see what you should put into it and the things to consider during your quarterly planning session. 

1. Review of the previous quarter

You can’t effectively plan for the upcoming quarter before first examining the last quarter’s performance. The objective here is to take stock of what went well and what didn’t in the previous period.

This is your chance to review and learn lessons and check on the overall trajectory of your projects and the business overall. 

It’s important to conduct this retrospective honestly. This isn’t the time to exaggerate wins and sweep losses under the rug — it’s a good time to take a closer look at your customer experience, customer retention, and customer satisfaction in general. 

Use this chance to keep doing what you did well. And, of course, make improvements where you can.

2. Objectives for the next quarter

With the lessons from the last quarter learned, it’s time to shift the focus to the upcoming period. 

You could start with a brainstorming session where you ask questions like: 

What would you do to take things to the next level in the upcoming quarter, if time and budget were unlimited? (If you’re having trouble getting people to contribute, there are many different brainstorming techniques to try.)

After the blue-sky ideas, it’s time to come back to earth. Prioritize, analyze, and see which ideas can be realistically included in the roadmap for the next period, and which ones tie back to core business goals. 

These things will be your quarterly objectives, like “increase social media engagement” or “bring down the user acquisition cost by 20%.”

During this stage, you’ll want to keep notes to capture all of your team’s great ideas. 

Shared meeting notes in Vowel

Vowel can help with this thanks to its collaborative notes feature. Any meeting attendee can jot down notes that everyone gets a copy of afterward, making the whole process faster and more useful.

3. Projects to tackle

Now that you’ve set goals, choose the projects that will support them. 

Projects that you decide to take on during a quarter should be aligned with your quarterly objectives.

For instance, if your goal is to optimize user-acquisition costs, you could start a product-led marketing strategy that might require the hiring of a new product manager and establishing a cross-functional team between marketing and sales.

Of course, the projects you take on shouldn’t just support the quarterly objectives but also your company’s annual goals and your overall mission.

4. Potential obstacles that can impact your plan

When you have your goals, focus areas, projects, and metrics set, devote some time to analyzing potential obstacles. You can then divide obstacles into blockers and impediments

Blockers are the problems that obstruct project progress, meaning that the project can’t continue until they’re removed. 

Impediments are things that slow down progress but don’t entirely block it. 

When you’ve identified potential obstacles, make contingency plans on how to avoid them.

How to run an effective quarterly planning meeting

Running an effective quarterly planning meeting isn’t that different from running any other team meeting.

The key, as always, is to prepare for the meeting as best you can beforehand and follow some best practices that we’ll outline in this section. 

✅ Set a focused meeting agenda

A focused, clear, and concise meeting agenda is the result of good meeting preparation. It outlines the discussion topics for the meeting and any other activities like brainstorming sessions. 

Having an agenda is important because it lets every meeting attendee prepare for the meeting on time. When people have time to think about the meeting objectives and topics, they come into the meeting with better ideas. 

Also, meeting agendas eliminate surprises so no one will be caught unaware.

Meetings without agendas tend to go off the rails, the discussions hampered by pointless digressions. The result is an unproductive or boring meeting that fails to end with clear next steps and action items.

We’ll share a quarterly meeting agenda template with you later in this guide. For now, the thing to know is that you should include all the topics you want to discuss and apportion enough time for each agenda item. 

Vowel meeting agenda

Vowel can help you create good meeting agendas either from scratch or by using a customizable template. Plus, Vowel enables you to add agenda timers to make sure the conversations stays on track and you avoid having meetings that are too long.

✅ Break the ice

When people are invited to important meetings (and make no mistake, quarterly planning is important) they may feel anxiety and trepidation. 

The best way to get everyone in the mood to share and brainstorm is to start with a quick round of icebreaker questions

Icebreaker questions are fun and make meetings more interactive but don’t get carried away. They should last 10 minutes at most to avoid dragging the meeting out.

✅ Set clear responsibilities

At the meeting, be clear about roles and responsibilities. For instance, who will take notes, who will be the moderator, and so on. 

The same goes for the quarterly plan itself. Make sure to assign clear tasks to everyone. You can use Vowel’s action items feature to remind everyone of what they’re expected to do and by when. All Vowel users can easily see their action items in the Vowel dashboard.

✅ Write down previous goals that weren’t achieved

As part of the retrospective on the past quarter, you should write down the previous goals (or milestones of goals) that your team didn’t achieve. 

Create a list of failed goals and find out what went wrong. That way, you can incorporate these missed goals into the new quarterly plan. 

The idea here isn’t just to copy and paste the missed goals and hope for the best. You may need to analyze the metrics you used in the previous quarter and adjust them to be more realistic. Or perhaps, there were other blockers and impediments that you and your team will have to work on removing.

Previous notes in Vowel GIF

Using Vowel’s global search, you can look through the transcripts, notes, and agendas from previous quarterly planning meetings. 

For instance, you can search through the transcripts of your project kickoff meetings (meeting transcription in Vowel is automatic and built in) to get more information and context.

✅ Encourage brainstorming and creativity 

Coming up with new ideas and ways to tackle problems is an important part of the quarterly planning process. 

Brainstorming is a great way to generate these ideas, so be sure to encourage your team members to share. 

You can use techniques such as brainwriting, rapid ideation, round-robin, and many others. Sometimes, the best solutions are not immediately obvious, and brainstorming as a group can help tease them out. 

At the end of the session, you’ll have a list of the best ideas that you can then refine and include in your quarterly plan.

✅ Don’t make the meeting too long 

There is an optimal length for a quarterly planning meeting — it’s about an hour. Going over this time limit will result in people getting tired and losing focus. 

Especially when you take into consideration that brainstorming, while very useful, is also mentally draining. 

So, timebox all the agenda items and keep to the schedule. That way, you’ll have your team at its best and sharpest to have productive discussions.

Free quarterly planning meeting agenda template

Since having an agenda for your quarterly planning meeting is so important, we thought we’d include this template to help you organize the meeting and keep your team informed and prepared. 

quarterly planning meeting template Vowel

Get our quarterly planning meeting agenda for free!

(You can also use our OKR-setting meeting agenda template)

Take your quarterly planning meetings to the next level with Vowel

Quarterly planning meetings require a lot of – you guessed it – planning. All of that can be time-consuming and take a lot out of you.

Luckily, with the right tools, you can make your job easier. 

Vowel isn’t just a video conferencing platform — it’s a meeting OS that turns your meetings into searchable, shareable knowledge. Perfect for remote and distributed teams, and for meetings where you want to go back and revisit the key points!

Send meeting agendas alongside your meeting invites, record and automatically transcribe (in 9 languages!), and keep everyone on track with the agenda and talk timers. Once the meeting is done, nail that perfect follow-up with an AI-powered meeting summary you can share via Slack or email. 

Post-meeting in Vowel with automated summary

Try Vowel for free and see what it can do for your team's productivity — sign up now!