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Better Meetings

How to hold an effective strategy meeting [with sample agenda]

How to hold an effective strategy meeting blog post featured image

We've all felt the sting of poorly run meetings that drag on and on and never seem to reach any actionable conclusion. While you don't want this to happen in any meeting, you definitely don't want it to happen in strategy meetings. Why? They're usually high-cost meetings that involve senior members of your team AND they involve tackling important business problems.

To be clear: A strategic planning meeting isn’t a classic team meeting where the focus is on participants giving reports or updates. Instead, the objective is to get clarity on a specific problem and make a plan for action. To hold an effective strategy meeting, you need preparation and thoughtfulness. 

Let’s get started!

Table of contents

  • What is a strategy meeting?

  • What’s the purpose of a strategic planning meeting?

  • Who attends a strategy meeting?

  • When should you hold a strategy meeting?

  • How to prepare for a strategy meeting in 4 easy steps

  • How to run a strategy meeting 

  • What to do after a strategy meeting

  • A sample strategy meeting agenda template

What is a strategy meeting?

A strategy meeting, also known as a strategic planning meeting, is a group conversation on how to best use the resources of a company to meet its specific goals and objectives. These are mostly high-level meetings that involve the leadership team, or a cross-functional team of managers and senior individual contributors.

These meetings can have different names such as:

  • Business performance review

  • Strategic review

  • Strategic planning session

A typical board meeting also involves elements of strategic planning and review. No matter what you and your team call them, strategy meetings are, as the name implies, all about business strategy.

There are two main purposes of a strategic planning meeting:

  1. To diagnose a problem/opportunity and gather information and feedback from team members, executives, and other stakeholders

  2. To come up with an actionable strategy and next steps to tackle the problem, then share that information with the wider team

Who attends a strategy meeting?

In strategic planning, it's important to involve all the key stakeholders in an organization. 

That said, inviting too many people can lead to a lack of focus — and even lead your meeting into unproductive chaos.

Spongebob Panic Omg GIF

GIF Source: Giphy

Company-level strategic meetings include the CEO, their direct reports (directors or senior managers), and the relevant department leads and project managers (if the meeting will discuss a particular project).

Meanwhile, if you’re holding a department-level strategic planning meeting and the team is small enough, there’s no reason not to invite everyone. It's also company to have cross-functional strategy meetings that involve representatives from different teams.

In all cases, it’s a good idea to include some staff-level/individual contributor participants, as they can provide valuable context for discussions. But think of them more as a special team you bring in occasionally, rather than people who need to be included all the time. 

When should you hold a strategy meeting?

As a rule of thumb, you should always try to make sure that the meetings you hold are timely. When you’re scheduling them, try to do so after new data (like reports, sales figures, etc.) becomes available. 

Strategy planning likely involves high-level and long-term planning and brainstorming sessions, so companies often choose to run them as recurring meetings, either monthly or quarterly.

For example, if you’re holding quarterly meetings to discuss strategic direction and execution, you could schedule them within 30 days of the end of the quarter. Monthly meetings should happen within 10 days of the end of the month. That way, there’s enough time for everyone to prepare and the relevant figures and metrics for the period will be ready. 

Scheduling strategy meetings also depends on what level of the company they relate to. For high-level strategic planning that involves the entire company — quarterly is a perennial favorite. For departmental or thematic meetings (dedicated to a specific issue or project) consider holding them more often, every month or six weeks.

How to prepare for a strategy meeting in 5 easy steps

Strategy meetings can be daunting. After all, they often include the high-level thinkers in a company, and even seasoned facilitators don’t walk into them lightly. 

Still, there are things you can do to make preparing easier by following the steps below. 

Step #1: Schedule the meeting

When scheduling the meeting, check the organizational calendars and see where your strategy meeting would fit in best. 

Remember that strategy meetings tend to rely on data, so asking people to meet before that data is ready won’t be productive. 

As for your invite list, you need to first consider the goal and purpose of the strategy meeting. If you’re supposed to discuss a new strategy for the sales team to hit critical KPIs, you’ll probably want the entire team there. 

If, on the other hand, it’s a meeting to review a hiring strategy for the whole company, then keeping the invite list to senior management makes more sense.

Step #2: Prepare relevant data

Here, you want to embrace pre-meeting work and get all the relevant data out to your participants. Strategy meetings tend to involve facts and figures, so it’s necessary to give everyone time to digest the material. 

With the rise of asynchronous communication, this isn’t such a hard task. You can compile the reports you need and then share them through your company’s team communication tool of choice.

Most times, you’ll have to rely on others to get all the data you need. Make sure to give each department, team, or individual enough time to get the material to you and give them specifications on how you want it (e.g. send them a slide deck and assign them slides, or tell them they’ll be sharing screens with dashboards or reports).

Step #3: Create a meeting agenda + slides

Meetings without agendas are liable to get off track quickly and end up unproductive and a waste of time. But, when you include a good meeting agenda, you provide a roadmap for the entire meeting.

In strategy meetings, you should focus more on decision-making than discussion. Before you add an item to the agenda think about how much real value it brings to the meeting.

At Vowel, we like to use Richard Rumelt's "Good Strategy, Bad Strategy" framework, which looks like this:

The 3 components of a good strategy

Source: Reading Graphics By creating the agenda around these 3 principles, you give enough time to properly contextualize the problem and come up with actions. And, if you find the first 2 steps take more time, you can always schedule a 2-part strategy meeting to give proper time to the third step.

Step #4: Share information with attendees

Ahead of the meeting, you’ll need to prep everyone who’s attending – from the company leadership to any staff-level invitees.

That means sharing all the data you’ve gathered and reports you’ve made with the attendees as soon as they’re ready. You should present this data with recommended decisions and questions, too. That doesn’t mean the decision is made, it just allows everyone (and especially the leadership team) to be ready for the meeting. 

When sharing this information, there’s no reason to sugarcoat anything.  Present the data you’ve gathered and the analyses you’ve made openly so that every individual can be prepared and feel like the process is transparent. 

If you follow these steps, you’ll go a long way toward securing buy-in for the strategy meeting. 

Step #5: Be proactive about potential challenges

Even with the best care in the world, things still often go south in the real world. In the case of your strategy meeting, a key participant you’ve been counting on might have an emergency and not attend. Or, one attendee might keep monopolizing the conversation.

What do you do in those cases? The answer is to plan ahead of time and proactively face the challenges. 

Of course, those challenges will vary based on many things, such as your company, its teams, or its departments. 

So, sadly, we can’t tell you how to solve it all in advance. But the best advice is to think about the likely issues that might crop up and how to remedy them if they do.

How to run an effective strategy meeting

When you’re finally in that conference room – or a virtual meeting –there are some best practices to follow to keep the strategy meeting on track, engage the attendees, and make a productive decision: 

Define the meeting’s outcome

Going into a strategic planning meeting without having a clear outcome in mind is a recipe for disaster. There should always be a clear and tangible goal. Remember: you’re not here to merely discuss things. You (and the rest of the attendees) are here to make a decision. 

As an example, if you’re holding a meeting about social media strategy, the outcome could be coming up with a strategy to better align social media with your overall marketing goals and resources. Whatever the theme of the meeting, the point is to always have some actionable conclusion in mind (and include it on the agenda).

A screenshot of the Vowel meeting agenda feature

Tip: To make drafting a good meeting agenda easier, you can use one of Vowel’s many agenda templates (we’re also including a strategy meeting agenda template later in this guide). Once you’re done, simply share the agenda alongside the meeting invite. There’s no need for separate docs or managing the sharing links. 

Engage the attendees

There’s a lot of important work to be done at a strategy meeting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lift the atmosphere a little bit.

Consider a good icebreaker – you’ll find a list of more than 100 here – to engage the attendees and get them in a cooperative and collaborative mood. Another way to break the ice is to do a round of introductions and remind people why they’re there and why their opinion is valued. 

The bottom line is that for the group to be successful in problem-solving, they have to feel connected and comfortable with each other. 

Take notes

Don’t let all the good insight and important decision-making be forgotten after the meeting ends. 

Meeting notes are important because they:

  • Keep a record of the most important takeaways from the meeting 

  • Help you with follow-up activities, such as creating a meeting recap 

  • Lead to a more productive review at the end of the meeting 

If someone’s taking notes at important points in the meeting, that means that no potential action item will go unnoticed (items that could be relevant for discussion at the next strategy meeting). 

Shared meeting notes in Vowel

To make note-taking easier, consider conducting your virtual meetings through a video conferencing platform like Vowel, which lets you take collaborative notes with everyone in a meeting. In addition, the notes are time-stamped to the transcript and recording as they’re taken, allowing you to revisit them in context.

Be a good listener

If you’re a meeting facilitator, your main activity at the strategy meeting will be to moderate and keep the attendees focused on the task at hand. 

The meeting attendees should have plenty of room to brainstorm, discuss issues, solve problems, and make decisions.

However, the spirit of collaboration and communication doesn’t mean you should let the meeting derail and go beyond the agreed agenda. Keep a timer for each topic and make sure you don’t get too in the weeds of the “how” when you’re really discussing the “what” and “why.”

Agenda timers in Vowel

Record your meeting 

A lot of important info and insight comes out of a strategy meeting, and it can be important to refer back to for future work and planning. While having meeting notes is important, having a complete record can be even better, especially if there’s any confusion about what was said and done at the meeting. 

With Vowel, not only can you record your meetings — you can bookmark important moments in the meeting as they happen, so you can easily jump back to them later via the transcript or the “x-ray” view of the recording. 

A screenshot of the Vowel bookmark feature

A sample strategy meeting agenda template

A strategy meeting template graphic
  1. Introduction: Introduce the participants and explain what their roles are and what they do.

  2. Define the meeting’s goals:  Define the goal of the meeting, the desired outcome, and the decisions to be made.

  3. Discuss updates: Discuss any potential updates related to the goal of the strategy meeting.

  4. Discuss potential challenges: Highlight and talk about potential challenges, and briefly analyze potential solutions.

  5. Assign tasks and action items: Assign tasks and action items to participants, and give relevant explanations.

  6. Q&A: Set aside time for a Q&A session to discuss potential concerns and clarify any misconceptions.

What to do after a strategy meeting ends

The work of a meeting organizer or a facilitator doesn’t end with the meeting. After everyone’s logged out of the meeting, it’s time for some follow-up.

First and foremost, share the meeting notes with everyone. Enthusiasm is high just after a meeting ends, so don’t take more than 24 hours to do this. You might also consider sending the meeting notes to more people than just the participants, depending on the meeting and its outcome. 

With Vowel, you can also send the entire meeting session (or just clips of it) to the meeting attendees so that everyone has a complete record.

Hold better strategy meetings with the right tool

An important strategy meeting doesn’t have to be daunting when you know how to prepare and what best practices to follow. By spending time preparing in advance, you’ll be making sure the participants stay productive and on track, resulting in an effective meeting.

Effective strategy meetings produce a lot of good insight and high-quality brainstorming, and wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to capture all of that for posterity? With Vowel, you can — all you need do is sign up here for free!