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Control the Agenda


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation tactics > Control the Agenda

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When you are holding a meeting in which negotiation may take place, you can control what is being discussed by deciding what will and will not be on the agenda.

The order of things on the agenda also is important: Carefully consider about how people will thinking and feeling at each point during the meeting. It is often best to put items where you want attention near the beginning (an innocuous item first can be helpful as a warm up). When you do not want people to think too much, put the item near the end.

You can also control the meeting whilst it is running, particularly if you are chairing it, by encouraging talk about an item or closing it down quickly. Items you do not like at the end of the agenda can be squeezed or pushed off by allowing more time for earlier topics.

When you are not running the meeting, you still have certain control of the agenda, especially if the person running the meeting is relatively lax about what is discussed. You can request that certain items be added, you can control where they are on the agenda (for example by saying you have to leave early you can get items in at the beginning of the meeting). You can bring up new items in the meeting as 'Any Other Business (AOB). You can also control the agenda during the meeting by what you say and what you propose.


In a salary-decision meeting, a manager makes sure his people are discussed first and then talks a lot about how good they are. There is less time then for discussing other people. His people get the best pay rises.

In a meeting to select a new supplier, a manager ensures that the supplier she prefers is on second and that only four suppliers are discussed.

In a high school parents meeting, one person brings up the controversial subject of sports fees right at the end. The result is that sub-committee is set up and they are elected to chair it.


Meetings are quite public decision environments. If a person makes a commitment there, it is difficult for them to retract it (particularly if it is minuted). Meetings are also social environments and group pressure can be brought to bear on individuals.

When you control what is being discussed, you can control what is decided and agreed (or at least have a greater influence over this).

Meetings do vary in formality, from meetings that are run with strict control and detailed minutes to a relatively loose discussion. You can control both of these but need different approaches.

The chairperson of a meeting has particular power in deciding who speaks and how long things are discussed. Where appropriate, you may need to spend time getting them onside beforehand or otherwise knowing how you will control them.

Do remember that many meetings are not actually decision bodies but largely ratify what has been discussed in more private meetings beforehand.

See also

Authority principle, Theories about groups, Theories about conforming

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