No more meeting minutes!

NoMeetingMinutesWhen I visit “collaborative” sites, e.g. for a team, a department or a project, I often find a document library called “Meetings”, or even worse, several document libraries, each for one particular meeting date. These generally contain documents for prereading, presentations from the meeting, agenda and minutes. And sometimes they have an action or decision list as well.
The good thing is that these meeting documens are now in one clear online location, and that (hopefully) sending documents via email and printing are reduced.

But now think again. It is 2013.

  • Do you still store everything in document format, while there are ways to do thing directly online?
  • Do you have to open multiple Meeting Minutes or Decision List documents when you are looking for that one decision from early 2012, but forgot the exact date?
  • Is there still someone responsible for writing down “refer to next meeting” for several agenda items in the Meeting Minutes, and then remembering to add them to the next meeting agenda?
  • Are you still emailing various draft agenda’s to your team?
  • Does someone in your team have to collect the progress of the action list and recreate the new Action list?
  • Do you have to chase everyone for approval of the meeting minutes?

A different approach.

It may be time to move to a simpler process. Of course there is the Meeting Workspace, but sometimes you prefer to have everything in one site. The MW will also no longer be supported in SP2013.  An alternative is the Meeting-Agenda-and-Minutes List, combining agenda, meeting minutes and decisions in one list. Our team started this in about 2002 and we have happily used it for our weekly team meeting for years.

The concept is as follows:

  1. Everything you discuss is first an agenda item. The owner of the item creates and manages it themselves.
  2. All items not marked as “completed” are visible.
  3. The meeting owner adjusts the order of the agenda items just before the meeting.
  4. During the meeting, the item is discussed. We always had online meetings, so we viewed items on-screen. The item owner can adjust the item while discussing, and show the updates to the team.
  5. After discussing the item, the decision and date are added to the item and the status is set to “completed”.
  6. All completed discussions are stored in one or more “completed” views, sorted and grouped as needed.


Does it sound complicated? Let me show you the (Custom) list that I have worked with.

This is an item on the agenda:

New Agenda Item
This is the item to discuss.By default, status is “New”.

This is the agenda, sorted on “Order” and filtered by “Status is not equal to completed”.

This is the agenda for the upcoming meeting.

During the discussion, the relevant info and decision are captured in the bottom fields of the item.

During Discussion
During discussion, the relevant information can be added.

This is the view that shows all items that have been discussed. You can easily filter for specific topics, regardless of meeting date. Of course you can also group on other metadata, but this view clearly shows the increased transparancy compared to Meeting Minutes in document format.

All decisions from earlier meetings, grouped by discussion date.

Of course you can simplify or extend the list to fit your own meeting style and goals.

What are the advantages?

  • No need to send agendas via email; if everyone sets a notification you wil get a message when a new item has been added or changed.
  • The meeting owner can easily adjust the order of items
  • During the meeting, the item is open and any next steps can be added straight away
  • When something is not discussed or no decision has taken place, it simply stays on the list. You do not have to specifically state that it is “moved to the next meeting”.
  • One archive of individual decisions means you do not have to look through documents by date. Now that you have one “online database” it is much easier to find any decisions relating to your topic, since they can be found by date AND by creator AND by tag if you have used those.
  • Everyone has seen the decision so there is no need to circulate any meeting minutes for approval.

Will this work for all meetings?

Of course this needs change management. If your organization is relying heavily on documents, not used to PC’s and projectors in the meeting room, or has been pampered by people sending things to them, this will be a big change that will need discussion, training and an extensive trial period.
It may be wise to measure time involved in the current meeting setup beforehand and to compare that to the new setup. This information will also help you to convince others.

For some meeting types this setup may not be appropriate. There may be legal requirements to have documents, perhaps even printed, with handwritten signatures, or some external participants may not have access to your SharePoint environment.

But for your average team, department or project group meeting, this may save lots of time!

Have you used something similar? Please share!

Note April 2013:  Gene Vangampelaere shares his use of OneNote for meetings. Nice!

14 thoughts on “No more meeting minutes!

  1. fazilton September 17, 2013 / 5:06 am

    This is a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. estar December 23, 2013 / 11:19 pm

    I must be missing something — what part of SharePoint are you using to create this Meeting-Agenda-Minutes List, if you are not using the Meeting Workpace? I cannot see the menu you have selected to get the options where you can have time in minutes, etc.

    • Ellen van Aken December 24, 2013 / 9:03 am

      Thank you for the question. You can use any list for that, you just configure the columns and views. We used an Agenda Items list (which comes with a Meeting Workspace) when I was with my previous employer, and I recreated it in a Custom List for the screenshots.
      Personally I like to keep this list in the teamsite you are working in, so you do not have to switch between Meeting Workspace and regular workspace. But for meetings with people that are not part of your daily team a Meeting Workspace would be better.
      Hope this helps!

  3. Sara October 7, 2015 / 7:40 pm

    Hello Ellen – I am not sure if you are still monitoring this, but here goes…

    I have a couple questions about your set-up. What are you using the Documents drop-down column for? How do you have the Status column set up? Is that just a drop down, and what are the choices? I am trying to play with a similar setup on my site to start using this and I want to make sure I am setting it up correctly.

    • Ellen van Aken October 9, 2015 / 6:47 pm

      Hi Sara, thank you for your questions.
      The Documents dropdown is a lookup to a Document Library. This is useful when you are discussing a document, in this case the Long Term Plan. It is not mandatory because you do not always have a document.
      The Status column is a Choice column, with values New, In Progress, Completed, On Hold, Revisited and Ongoing. But of course you can use whatever works for your process and company.
      Hope this helps and good luck with your own setup!

  4. Ken December 29, 2015 / 11:26 pm

    Hi Ellen,
    This is a great idea and glad I came across your site.
    How did you create the lookup to the file in a document library? I can’t seem to link it directly to the file name, did you link it to a text field (meaning it is not a direct “click to view document” sort of lookup?

    • Ellen van Aken December 30, 2015 / 3:29 pm

      Hi Ken, thank you for your comment. It is a lookup to the title of the document. We need to add a meaningful title, to ensure having sufficient information to know which document to pick. Does that make sense?

  5. Andy Curzon February 10, 2016 / 11:57 pm

    I’ve tried a number of solutions to make managing our school leadership team meetings as easy as possible. This looks like the basis of a good solution. However, we need to be able to share “minutes” with people outside the meetings e.g school inspectors, local authority reps. Using this solution is it possible to create a record of a meeting in a document (word or PDF) that can be emailed to others? Any advise on this would be much appreciated.

    • Ellen van Aken February 11, 2016 / 4:27 pm

      Hi Andy,
      You can export the data to Excel. Make sure you have all relevant columns in the view and Export to Excel. Then trim off the unwanted columns that come free with any export, and then you can use it as Excel file or save it as PDF. It is not pretty, but it works. Hope that helps!

  6. Liam Pettit May 19, 2016 / 1:08 pm

    Hi Ellen – We’d love for you to see MeetingBooster and give us your feedback. From what I’ve read it combines all the functionality you’re creating through sharepoint, but streamlines/automates those manual meeting processes within an easier interface. Drop me an email when you can.

  7. Thomas September 7, 2016 / 10:00 am

    Dear Ellen, Thank you for this brilliant solution. I have the following questions:

    a) How to you create the cell which adds up the planned meeting time per agenda item?

    b) Could you please explain – step by step – how to export the list content into EXCEL?

    Being a SharePoint novice I really struggle with both questions.

    Greetings from Switzerland, Thomas

    • Ellen van Aken September 8, 2016 / 5:54 pm

      Hi Thomas, thank you for your comment.

      a. The total time is set in the View. When you create the view, go to Totals (this is some scrolling down), expand it, and select “Sum” behind the column that you use to add the time. Make sure this time column is a Number column.
      b. Exporting to Excel can be done from the list. In the Classic mode, go to your list, click the “List” tab and then you will see “Export to Excel” with a green Excel icon next to it, in the ribbon. In the New List mode, it will be shown on top of the list without clicking.

      Hope this helps!

      • Thomas September 12, 2016 / 8:48 am

        Thank you so much for your swift response. Again very helpful!

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