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Why You Should Remove Certain Reports from Your Meeting Agenda

And how to find which ones don't need to be presented.

You've most likely been in meetings that drag on forever because of unnecessary committee reports. There is good news straight from the parliamentary procedure powers that be: you do not have to include “Time-Wasting Committee Reports” on your meeting agenda.

How is “Time-Wasting Committee Report” defined?

A “Time-Wasting Committee Report” is given dedicated space on the agenda to describe a committee's activities, even though the committee doesn’t have any items to present for action.

You don’t need Robert’s Rules to tell you these reports are eating up precious minutes during meetings. But parliamentary procedure can give guidance on how to tactfully, responsibly pare down the unnecessary verbal reports.

Steps to Save Time

The first step to remove time-wasting committee reports from the agenda is to ask each committee to submit an official written report and a completed committee activities form at least one day prior to when staff prints the agenda and meeting materials.

The committee activities form is a one-page summary of who’s been doing what (recently). The form is simple to fill out and only asks the committee to state the following information:

  • Committee name
  • List of committee members
  • Summary of committee activities since the last meeting of the entire group
  • List of action items for the entire group

Simply put, the Committee Activities Form is an at-a-glance method of determining which committees need a place on the agenda—and it simultaneously functions as a method of seeing which committees are actually functioning.

Once you have a Committee Activities Form for each committee, the second step to removing time-wasting committee reports from the agenda is to review the forms and give dedicated space on the agenda only to committees that have actions items to present to the entire group.

The rest of the reports should be printed for distribution at the meeting (or loaded to an internal website) so members can read them on their own time. Similarly, at the meeting, the committees that are placed on the agenda can simply rise and present the action items they’ve listed, leaving the rest of the report to be read later at members’ leisure.

One Final Point of Clarification

Even without any action items to present for a group decision, reports of committee activity are still important. My goal is certainly not to diminish the good, hard work that committees perform for any well-functioning organization. Sometimes active committees do need to be on the agenda, even without any action items: especially when they have vital information to communicate. But the status quo in many organizations is to allow all committees time to report, with little thought for the effect reports have on the length of the meeting and the valuable time of dedicated members.

Before your next meeting, give some thought to your agenda and consider whether you can do just fine without a verbal presentation from every committee.

Sarah E. Merkle is a professional parliamentarian and presiding officer. One of five lawyers worldwide to have earned the credentials Certified Professional Parliamentarian-Teacher (CPP-T) and Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP), she helps boards, associations, corporations, and public bodies navigate rules applicable to governance and business meetings.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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  • September 18, 2017

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