Agenda and minutes
Here’s a quick overview of why and how to write an agenda, and minute a meeting.
Make meetings as productive as possible by creating and sharing an agenda beforehand, and circulating minutes afterwards.
A meeting agenda sets out a framework for your meeting.
It means everyone knows before they attend what they’re going to talk about.
People can prepare properly.
You’re much less likely to leave something out if you have a clear agenda.
It also helps attendees to focus on the right things in the meeting.
If the meeting is long, people who only need to be involved in part of it can use the agenda to plan when they should attend. They may join in later, or come at the start and leave once their topic is over.
By adding who will lead on which topic, you can help to make sure everyone has a voice. The agenda can also encourage different people to take responsibility for different areas of a project, and share the load.
If you are taking minutes, use the agenda as a helpful framework.
The minutes of a meeting are a written record of what was agreed.
Minutes will tell anyone reading them why the meeting was held, record decisions, plan the next steps for future meetings, and track action items. They help avoid misunderstandings later, and provide information to people who couldn’t attend.
Meeting minutes don’t need to include everything that was said. They just summarise the important points in a discussion. [The name ‘minutes’ comes from the Latin ‘minuta scriptura’, which means ‘small notes’.]
Start with the details of the meeting subject, location, time and date. Include your own name as the minute-taker.
List the attendees and those who have sent apologies
Decide on the order. Will you make the list alphabetical? By job seniority? If there are people from different organisations or departments, cluster the members of each group together.
Double-check the spelling of people’s names.
Add initials to save time and space in the notes. Make sure there are no duplicates – you may need to add a third letter to tell people apart.
If your meeting is online, agree with the chairperson that you will ask if anything isn’t clear. Ask them to ensure that everyone identifies themselves each time they speak.
It is often appropriate to record the reasons for conclusions which were reached, but avoid going into details of arguments. If you have to record a disagreement, avoid naming anyone. Instead, say “some people felt that” or “the two points of view were as follows.” The minute-taker must stay neutral.
Make sure for each point you note what has been accomplished, what was decided, and what needs to be done – as well as who is responsible for taking the next steps.
That is easier if you stick to the active voice “JS will arrange transport” rather than the passive voice “Transport will be arranged” (by whom?). The template columns ‘Action’ and ‘Due’ will help – if necessary, ask for this information before the meeting moves on to the next point. Use initials – if a company collectively will take action, use the company name, shortened if necessary.
Before you send the minutes
Feel free to share the minutes for checking with a colleague before sending. You should also check if your client would like to see a draft of the minutes before formal circulation. Allow them to have a couple of days to comment and possibly make changes.
Minutes are much neater if you use a table to format them.
Use numbers in the reference column to make it easy to reference different points later. Use Word’s ‘Numbering Library’ function for automatic table numbering.
Make sure the fonts are consistent – use Ctrl + A to select the whole document and check the font style and size. Also check the borders are consistent throughout.
Check headers and footers are accurate.
Word formatting can be problematic on different devices, so when you circulate minutes, send them as a pdf. Check that the pdf comes out the way you expect it to before you press ‘send’.
Formally circulate the minutes to everyone who attended, and to people who sent apologies. You may want to share them again just before the next meeting, to jog people’s memories.
Writing minutes is a skill, and like any other, you will get better with practice.
Design managers use the minutes of a meeting to ensure everyone on an architectural project carries out their required actions. Where there are questions, the minutes will show what was agreed and ensure the project stays on track for a successful conclusion.