Confluence is a great tool from Atlassian for collaborative meetings notes. It's often under-estimated as Jira's wiki feature, but it's very powerful, especially for meeting notes. New to Confluence? Find out more.
There are two build-in templates for Confluence: The standard "Meeting Notes" template and the “Weekly Meeting Notes” template. Both of them are simple, yet very effective to keep your meetings on track. And you can also create your own meeting templates.
This article covers general topics and features available in the Confluence Cloud Standard and Premium. Many of the concepts readily apply to the Free version and to Confluence Data Center as well.
Ok, let’s get started!
First things first. What are Confluence Meeting Notes and why you should use them?
2. Confluence Meeting Notes - The Basics
What are Confluence Meeting Notes?
Confluence Meeting Notes allow you to manage your meetings by using Confluence templates for single or recurring meetings, plus a series of macros to keep track of tasks and decisions.
Unlike a traditional email approach to meetings, the same meeting page is used before, during and after the meeting. You create the agenda, take notes and share meeting minutes for a meetings always on the same page.
These Confluence meeting minutes pages are mostly standard Standard Confluence pages. As such you can use any macros and styles available in Confluence. This allows you to create meeting agendas, prepare the meeting, link related work, link Jira issues / charts, attach documents, track action items, record decisions, write down discussion points, keep an attendance list and much more.
Why should I use Confluence Meeting Notes?
You should use Confluence for every key meeting to keep track of important decisions, keep track of who is doing what with action items and record important results from discussions. Such pages are also easy to be shared, even beyond the list of participants.
Confluence is both a wiki and a knowledge management solution, that’s why Meeting pages are much more interactive and better connected than any regular Google Doc, Word file or simple Email agenda.
As an Atlassian tool, Confluence is obviously very well integrated with Jira for task management and agile planning & development!
Who should use Confluence Meeting Notes?
Everyone in an organization can and should use Confluence Meeting Notes. The typical roles who use them most are Product Managers, Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Project Managers, Engineering Managers, QA Managers, Lead Developers, Team Leads, Department Leads and last but not least the CTO and other C-Level executives.
The beauty of a wiki is that everyone can contribute. Invited to a meeting without agenda? Why not create and share a Confluence page with the meeting leader to make the first step!
With other words, the roles and teams which profit most are those which work at the intersection of different teams, departments and divisions. Meeting Notes in Confluence work best for internal meetings, with people who actually have a Confluence account in your organization. However there are also options to share Meeting Notes externally.
What is Meetical?
(In our own matter) - Meetical Meetings is a Confluence App, an easy and effective Meeting Management tool. Sometimes we just say “Meetical” to refer to the App, but it’s also the name of our company. Also, we like to say “You’re meetical!”, when you are especially good at meeting facilitation or, you have just done something remarkable. Will we one day end up in the dictionary like google? ;) – ok, back to the topic…
Can I share Confluence Meeting Notes with external collaborators?
The easiest option is the PDF export which you can use to export pages and send them via mail to external parties. Not an ideal solution.
The best option would probably be to ask your Confluence Admin to onboard those people as regular users and give them access to that page or space. That way external people could inline comment and even contribute to the meeting page. For Confluence Premium there is an amazing Guest Account for Confluence feature coming up (early access only). Looks like in the future we’ll get full blown Guest accounts as native feature, hopefully also for the Standard version.
Another option is to use the public page link feature which allows you to share the page externally. However this is currently quite limited: First, External people can only view and not edit pages. Second, external people don’t see any inline comments and third, only a few standard macros are supported and will show up. Diagrams and other 3rd party macros from Apps will not show up for external users! Additionally, this approach only works if no restrictions are set on the page (since public links are turned off, if you set explicit permissions on pages)
We’ll now have a look at the two default meeting templates which come with Confluence and see how to use them.
3. The Meeting Notes Template (One-off meetings)
The first meeting template is the default one, intended for one-off meetings or a single occurrence of a recurring meeting.
Title, date and participants
The Title of the meeting template is populated with the current date and a summary. The date format used is yyyy-mm-dd, such as “2022-01-18”, this way you can immediately relate to where these notes belong to. The format is also useful to sort meeting notes by date! When you alphabetically sort the notes, then the order will be chronological (as opposed to using 1st of May, 10th of May, which would be nicer probably, but then you cannot use the built-in sort then).
Next is the Date field. It uses the Confluence Date Macro so you can simply select the appropriate date from a calendar widget. The same macro can be used to set deadlines for action items, as we’ll see later.
Then we have the list of participants. You can use free text such as Names and Email addresses, but also @mention participants or teams. The @mention user feature only works for users who have a Confluence account on your instance. Simply type ‘@' and then type the name of the user or team. A list of users/teams will appear. We’ll see in a moment, how to use the same feature to assign a task to a person or team.
The next section might be the most important for the success of your meeting: The meeting goals.
The meeting goal
You should carefully think about the goals from two perspectives:
- What type of meeting is it going to be? Types of meetings include planning meetings, refinement meetings, feedback meetings, retrospectives, introductions, relationship building, kick-offs, brainstorming / collective ideation or simply getting work done together. [types of meeting blog]
- Clearly define the domain or topic. This is hard, and we try to give you some good examples here. Instead of “Usability tests”, use a question: "Should we run usability tests?". Or make the desired outcome clear: “Present usability test results and decide on next actions”. Instead of “Check-in performance”, write “Cross team meeting to investigate performance issues for search”. Important here is, wording makes a difference and as meeting creator you should make clear expectations.
The discussion topics then actually are meant to prepare an agenda ahead of time. But also for creating a just-in-time agenda. It’s very tempting to start right off, but dedicating 5 minutes to define the topics and prioritize, before jumping into discussions, will help to avoid that you leave your meeting without addressing the most important topics.
The default discussion topics table actually includes: Time, Item, Presenter and Notes. The item should be as clearly defined as the goal itself. Also, it’s gold standard to include the technique or method which you want to use (like Planning Poker, “What I need from you” or similar). The presenter (or Lead), can be also @mentioned so it’s clear who is in charge of what. In the Notes section, there go the important key elements and results of the discussions.
I personally believe, that instead of Notes, the column would be better use the naming Results in the column. It emphasizes that it's important to record actual results, rather than what-has-been-said. – Actually the Meetical default Template, contains only 2 columns: Item and Results.
Should I record action items in the Notes/Results section of the meeting notes template? Our answer to this is yes! This way you have a better context, and if you use the task report macro, any action items on the page will show up. Let’s have a closer look at the action items macro in Confluence.
Confluence Action Items
The action items feature in Confluence can be very powerful, but it’s also somewhat limited for full-blown task management. Most power users know how easy they got forgotten and that’s why the Meetical Macro for recurring meetings, always contains a report on all open action items in a series.
You create an action item in Confluence by clicking the Checkbox symbol in the editor, or type “/ Action…” to bring up the macro quick browser.
An action item can be in two status todo / done, respectively checked / unchecked). You can combine it with the status macro, however at that point you should consider creating a Jira issue instead.
Action items can then be assigned to individuals or teams. Simply type “/ @” and browse through a list of people to choose as assignee. Once assigned the action item will show up on the user’s task list and they’ll get notified.
Every action item can also have a due date assigned. Simply type “/ date” to bring up the Date macro. Dates get color coded, and turn red, if a date lies in the past. This helps to highlight important deadlines and any items which are overdue.
Limitations for action items are that you only have a complete/incomplete status, and cannot really be commented on. However, they are very easy to use and will help greatly to keep hold everyone accountable, and make clear who is doing what. It’s very important to review regularly, weather from your own Tasks page or at the beginning of any follow-up meeting.
You can reach your Tasks page by clicking on your profile avatar (top right) and choose Tasks from the menu. There you can see an action item report, and filter action items assigned to you, created by you and filter items which are incomplete or complete.
Confluence Action Item Reports
Furthermore you can use the Action Items Report Macro. This reports about all action items which meet a certain criteria. You can show all action items for a certain space, filter all incomplete items or show items on pages with a specific label. You can also filter items which appear under a certain parent page (that might be your team sub-page, a recurring meeting or a specific project). Stay tuned for a future article which covers this topic in-depth.
There are no native reminders for tasks, unfortunately. However to get slack and email reminders for action items which are overdue, there’s an App for that! You might try the Task Reminder for Confluence App.
Last but not least go the Decisions. The macro adds some nice additionally formatting and allows you to create decision reports.
We'll deep dive into Decisions later, after we talk about the weekly / recurring meeting notes template.
4. Weekly Meeting Notes Template
Most teams will have recurring weekly or bi-weekly meetings to check-in with each other. Additionally these type of meetings are also great for relationship building for both cross-team and cross-department. There are two native options, both can work.
a) Separate meeting pages for each occurrence
Option A for recurring meetings would be to create a separate page for ever meeting. Best practice is to group these meetings under a common parent page, where you could also add an action item report. If you use Meetical, this should be your preferred way, since the App will automatically group meeting notes for meeting series. Furthermore the Meeting Overview Macro will display a report of all open action items on every single meeting page. You can follow this best practice also manually, as our experience shows that report on separate pages, or the parent page easily get overlooked. Starting your meetings with a review of past decisions and action items can make a big difference!
b) One page for the entire meeting series
Option B is to use a single page for recurring meetings, for the whole series. This options works very well when you just start out with Confluence and Meeting Notes. Once the page gets too crowded and disorganised, you can still create a sub-page and “archive” things there, or change to Option A by creating sub-pages for individual meetings.
In-depth look at the weekly template
Let’s have a look at the weekly meeting notes template in-depth.
It starts with a Meeting Overview info panel. The template suggest to put Meeting goals, Key attendees and Processes in there.
Next on the template are the Open Action Items. The simplest approach is to put any action items directly in that section. A slightly better approach is to put in an action item report in that section. You can display only the incomplete items from that same page. Type /task report to aggregate open action items across your meetings. Then, in the macro fields, only specify this page so that only action items relevant to this page are shown. Note that you will need to publish this page first. A ‘current page’ option would be great.
In the Meeting Minutes section, there go the results of each of the meetings in a separate row. The template suggests that you use color to help distinguish minutes of one meeting from another.
Each meeting row consists of Date, Attendees, Agenda and a column for “Notes, Decisions and Action Items”. For the Agenda, add agenda items in priority order so that you get through the most important items first. The last column would ideally contain only important results. Ask yourself, if it will still matter in a week or month, before you write down something.
Decision Macro and Decision Report in Confluence
The Decisions macro is also present in the recurring template. Let’s have a closer look at it. The macro itself gives you a nice and quick way to format and highlight any important decisions taken. But the real power comes when you use the Decision report macro.
You can place the Decision Report Macro on any page you want to show a list of all decisions taken. When it comes to filtering which decisions to show, you have many options. By default it contains a filter to show decisions only from the current space. Unlike the Task report it also supports the parent = “Current page” filter. That way you can easily place it on the parent “master” page of a meeting series to show all decisions taken in a specific recurring meeting. But you could also create a page, where you show for each recurring meeting separately the decisions taken. A simple and great way to get some sort of executive summary. And also great input for Retrospectives.
There are many more filters available for the decision report: Space, Parent, Label, Ancestor, Contributor, Date Created, Creator, Mentioned User, Contributor, Page Type and a “Containing Text” free-text filter.
Using labels on pages and templates
The label filter can be very useful if you for example labelled all your team meetings accordingly you can create a report on all decisions taken in any teams. If you create a template for such meetings, and add that label to the template itself, the label gets automatically added when you create a page. This feature also works natively and if you use the Meetical App to create the notes.
We’ve seen, the Decision macro, Decision reports and labels can be very powerful and help to align people and teams. They tend to be underestimated at first, but we recommend you give them a try.
5. Combine Confluence Meeting Notes with Jira
We’re now going to see how Jira can be used for Meeting Minutes, or better said in combination with Confluence.
Create and link Jira issues from Confluence
While you can use action items for basic task management, every time work becomes more complex and needs a workflow, we recommend to create a Jira issue.
The first and most used feature in relation to Jira is to link related issues in your Confluence Meeting Notes pages. Actually if you paste a Link to a Jira ticket, Confluence will automatically recognize it and transform it into a live link. Alternatively just type “/ Jira”, open the Jira marco and search for the issue.
The same macro can also be used to create a new Jira issue. Choose that corresponding option after opening the macro, specify Jira project, summary, issue type and a description. This will create and link a new Jira issue.
You can also embed multiple JIRA issues or filters into your meeting notes with the same macro. The issues will show up as a table and pull live data from Jira to show on your Confluence page.
Jira Charts in Confluence
Confluence allows you to add Jira information as charts on your pages. This is obviously also great for meeting notes. In a retrospective you can for example show a pie chart, by assignee and discuss it.
There are tons of options to “chart by”, including Status, Epic Status, Priority, Components…
Beside Pie Charts there is the classic Created vs. Resolved Chart.
In addition we have the very powerful Two Dimensional Chart. It allows you to show a table, which brings two issue properties in relation. For example it can show a list of assignees and for each of them the number of issues types assigned to them in the current sprint.
Want more graphs and charts? Check out one of the many Chart Apps for Confluence.
Jira Calendar in Confluence
The “Jira Issues Calendar” Macro is a simple Calendar widgets which shows Jira issues on a Calendar. You can choose a standard or custom field (of date or date-time type) to be displayed. Typical use case is to show a list of Jira issues on a calendar, related to their due date, change completion date or release date.
Jira Roadmap in Confluence
Last macro we cover here is the Roadmap Macro for Confluence! The Roadmaps you add to a Confluence Cloud page will update in real-time, and you can interact with it just as you would in Jira. Great for any planning meeting!
This concludes our short overview on how Jira can be linked and embedded in Confluence. There are many more options available to you in how to enhance Confluence pages, check out the Atlassian Marketplace for additional Apps.
6. Tips and Tricks for Meeting Minutes & Confluence
We’ve seen the very basics of Confluence Meeting Notes as well as some advanced features like Decisions reports. We’d say it’s one of the most useful templates. Let’s now have a look at some best practices we recommend, when using Confluence Meeting notes and the discussed templates.
These best practices and tips are continuously updated.
a) Link Confluence Meeting Notes in the Calendar invites
One of the most powerful best practices for meeting notes is to link them in your meeting invites, so everybody has easy access. After you create the meeting page, add a link to the page in the calendar invite! This helps you and all participants for easily find the page and make ongoing contributions. In fact the Meetical Meetings App was built around that concept and can help you follow that process almost automatically.
b) Set yourself a reminder to prepare the meeting
As meeting leader, set yourself a reminder 10 minutes before the meeting, to actually prepare the page if needed and review any input which was given by participants.
c) Use restrictions for private meeting notes
Confluence is open by nature as it should be since it follows a wiki-style approach to knowledge management. However some meetings might need some privacy or are more confidential. You can leverage the full power of Confluence for your meeting minutes as well! Just set the appropriate permissions (so called restrictions) on the parent page of any list of one-off meetings or for a meeting series.
You can also take that further and create private notes in your own personal space. Simply create a parent page and set permissions with restrictions so only you can see that page.
d) Best practice for completing action items
When you complete Action items, it’s sometimes good to document also the actual result of the of the task. For example a task “Find out if solution X works for customer A”, when completed does not really answer if the result was yes or no. As good practice, in such case, edit the meeting page add “→” at the end of the action item, or choose a different text color and document / link the actual result.
d) Combine action items and Jira tasks wisely
Action items can be easily combined with Jira tasks, but that can be confusing. We recommend you only mention related Jira tickets, but if the task and the Jira issue correspond, then you might be better of by directly linking and using the ticket without an action item.
e) Keep the full-text search in mind
Confluence has a powerful full-text search, so keep that in mind when writing down things.
How will you and other users actually find that information?
- Include the person's name in the title of the page and event if it's a 1-on-1 meeting
- Include the company names of all external participants in the notes
- Craft a good meeting goal including all relevant keywords
- Add other relevant keywords such as team name, department name, attendees, absences, key topics, initiatives
- To avoid spamming your notes and search results, also ask yourself "Will it matter in a week? A month? A year?".
Additionally, use labels to add more keywords and search options which brings us to the next point.
f) Use labels to power your reports
As mentioned previously, using labels can help to organize your meetings notes, as labels can be used as filters in both task and decision reports. You can take this approach further by putting labels on templates! Any page created with a template will ‘inherit’ all it’s labels. This helps you further standardize and keep things in order.
7. Summary 🍫
Summing up, Confluence Meeting Notes are a superior solution for meeting management when compared to a classic email approach.
The Confluence Meeting Templates help to make your start easy. Custom Templates and labels can further help to put your meetings on rails. Reports and additional Apps further reduce the manual steps and connect Confluence Meeting pages to people’s other workspace tools.
With the right best practices, Confluence can help you to turn attendees into participants, hold people more accountable, align cross-team and cross departement and ultimately boost your overall productivity! Once you master the basics, additional Apps like Meetical Meetings will further help you to implement and automate best practices for meetings.
I hope you liked this article, please send us feedback on Medium or LinkedIn, or via Support Portal we’re curious to get your feedback!