Most of us know what a good meeting looks, feels and sounds like. We do the prep work, we keep in mind the three principles of successful meetings, and we try not to waste anyone’s time. Unfortunately, most of us also know what a bad meeting looks, feels and sounds like: wayward conversations with no outcome or conclusion, no one keeping track of the time, the same people speaking over and over with the rest checking emails or covertly faffing around on Facebook to kill time.
One of the easiest ways to waste time and perpetuate unproductive meetings is not to take notes. You will spend valuable time trying to remember what you decided last time, figuring out who was accountable for what and where is the best place to start. Meeting minutes help focus the gathering, and provide a detailed starting point for the next one.
Three quick tips to keep in mind
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1) Hand write everything
This may be rather obvious but don’t take notes on a laptop. The sound of furious typing can be distracting for others, and there’s more temptation to do other work.
2) Don’t write down everything
Listen for key pieces of information: what’s being covered (this should also be the central point of your meeting agenda), action items, questions and decisions. Basically, make sure you record what’s been decided and who is going to do it.
3) Take shortcuts
To make the whole process faster and more streamlined, use abbreviations, initials and acronyms. You can always go back in and fill in the full word to clarify.
4) Type and edit
Once the meeting’s over, type up and share your notes with those who need it. Take this time to go over your handwritten notes and pare down the language to the bare essentials. You can even consider using a collaborative software like Podio for team task management.
Meeting minutes sample
Here’s an extremely simple framework for you to structure your notes:
- Name of company/organisation/group (this isn’t necessary for internal meetings)
- Name of meeting (i.e. Weekly Status for <Client>)
- Date of the meeting
- Names of everyone attending (again, this isn’t that important for internal meetings, but make sure to note any important absences)
- Agenda item #1 (if applicable, this would be where the group briefly goes over the minutes from the last meeting)
- Agenda item #2, #3, #4, etc. (As you go along, make sure each action point has someone assigned to it, so the workload is evenly and effectively distributed.And if applicable, add a due date to help keep projects moving forward).
- Date of next meeting
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Although it may seem like extra work, meeting minutes are a crucial part of successful, productive meetings. Ready your pen and paper, and say goodbye to useless meetings!