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Traditional Minutes – Who, What and When
IT professionals often have to run meetings and this will involve issuing an agenda and recording actions that have been agreed in a set of minutes. For one of meetings the agenda and the minutes will usually be separate documents. For recurring meetings, for example a monthly help desk review or product review meeting it is more efficient to combine the agenda and the minutes into one simple document.
Meeting Minute Tip: Have a good minutes template and try and capture minutes into this during the meeting. Ideally project what you are typing so that the wording can be agreed as you go.
This is what I consider to be a best practice integrated agenda / minutes template for most small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). You can download a word version of this integrated minutes & agenda template by clicking here.
The key points in the template are:
1. The header should include your company branding / product logo etc. To the right of this include the description and date of the meeting.
2. If your company operates over multiple sites then you should record the location of the meeting.
3. Include a list of the people who attended the previous meeting and those who sent their apologies for not attending. Tip: I recommend typing this section ahead of the meeting. You can then check people off as they arrive.
4. The agenda should be broken down into the major sections / topics for your meeting. Under these headings you should then include the individual discussion points and any follow-up actions (tasks/ work) that were agreed.
5. Every action must be assigned to a person and there should be a target delivery date. Don’t fall into the trap of having everyone at the meeting agree that something is a good idea but not agreeing who should do it and when. If that happens then it’s valid to record it as an action to be carried forward to the next meeting for further discussion.
6. Under ‘What’ in the template you should record all motions, actions and decisions made at the meeting. If in doubt during the meeting it’s perfectly reasonable for the person taking the minutes to ask for confirmation of the wording of the point which needs to be minuted. This helps everyone ensure the point is clear.
7. The last items on the agenda should always be AOB (Any other business). This is where people can raise things that were not on the agenda.
8. Under the minutes it’s then good to at the end of the meeting agree the date and time of the next meeting. When the minutes are sent you should include at the bottom the confirmed date and time of the next meeting and details of where it will be held.
9. I also recommend including a note that people should table any items for the agenda to the chair no later than 14 days (for example) before the meeting so that the final minutes / agenda can be sent out for the next meeting.
If you are responsible for producing the minutes / agenda it is essential that you retain copies of these for at least a couple of years. Depending on the project and size of your company it’s not unusual for auditors to want to see that projects and meetings are being run properly. Your minutes may need to be produced as evidence that a good process has been followed. Just because your auditors didn’t ask to see any meeting minutes last year don’t assume they won’t in the future – be prepared.
Good luck with this, it’s worked well for me over a number of years. If you have any questions or suggestions for improving this template do please get in touch by leaving a comment below. I’d love to get some good suggestions so that I can create an even better version of this document template to share with you.
How do I write minutes of a meeting?
This depends on the type of meeting. For some business meetings there can be a legal requirement to write formal minutes. These need to be written up and approved by the chair and then signed off at the next meeting.
Most business meetings are however not regulated and not that formal, so simple brief concise minutes will suffice. When it comes to minutes, less is more, you won’t win any brownie points for writing pages and pages of notes.
The meeting minute template shown above is a good example of what is expected.
Meeting Minute Tip 1: Get everyone to introduce themselves
Ask the chair to go around the table and ask everyone one to introduce themselves. Note down their names in the seating order so you can refer back to this as a seating plan if you are not sure of someones name during the meeting. I would also advise you to put initials next to everyones name and make sure you haven’t got two people with the same initials. You can then capture actions against the initials to save time.
Meeting Minute Tip 2: Record online meetings
Online meetings in Teams and Zoom etc typically have a recording function. Teams also has a useful subtitling feature which can be helpful if you are having trouble with someones accent or audio. I don’t necessarily recommend you rely on working from recordings to create minutes as it’s a very inefficient use of time. Recordings can however be useful for checking things later if something isn’t clear when you want to finish the minutes. You also need to be aware that people may behave differently when they know a meeting is being recorded – that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Meeting Minute Tip 3: See who’s talking online
In Teams and other online chat systems when someone talks their name is highlighted. This is only useful if people login using sensible names. Sometimes people phone in and all you see is their number. Make sure you know how each person is shown in your system. Don’t be afraid to ask people to change their names in Zoom for example if these are not clear.
Meeting Minute Tip 4: Note the time every 5 minutes
If you are recording a meeting and you need to go back to the recording to check details having a note of the approximate time is super helpful. If you know the time within the meeting you can fast forward the playback to that point in the meeting. This can save sitting through a full replay.
I also advise noting times if the meeting could be disputed or there is any form of appeals procedure or escalation. Having times can be a useful indicator that due time was given to important points.
What should meeting minutes include?
If this is a brand new meeting and one which is not regulated then simply use the template above and follow the tips given. I would also have a chat with the person who is chairing the meeting. Check they are happy with the template and see if they have any special requirements. If you are taking over the writing of minutes for an existing regular meeting check the style of previous minutes. If they are old fashioned it may be time for a change but do discuss this with the chair in advance.
Alternative to meeting minutes
Action Review Meetings
Many recurring meetings you have at work or with clients boil down to agreeing a set of actions, allocating these actions to accountable people, agreeing the delivery schedule and then tracking progress against those actions.
Traditional meeting minutes can often become too long and verbose, which is inefficient for the person taking the minutes and for everyone else who need to read them.
Instead of writing full minutes in a word processor try capturing just the actions using Excel. To do this put each action on a new row in Column A. Across the top, put the future meeting dates. You can then track and note progress against the objective and plot key milestones such as the scheduled completion date. In effect this combines minutes and a Gantt chart to create a running schedule.
Check back and I will post an Action Review Meeting (ARM) template in the next couple of weeks.