“Okay, break!” – and just like that the meeting is over. Everyone goes along their merry way, some even have a smile. Confident all participants are on the same page, have a common understanding of what was discussed, and crystal clear about who owns the various action items. Two weeks later…you have the exact same meeting with the exact same people, like it is some cruel meeting Groundhog Day. Sound familiar?
I once worked for an organization that ran on meetings. Sometimes they were boring, and sometimes they felt productive. But there was a trend that emerged: repeat meetings. I found myself sitting in yet another meeting thinking “I thought we already talked about this” or “we already decided that”. Not only did it slow everything down, it was a tremendous waste of time.
Why did we have repeat meetings? Because no one captured the content! What was announced, discussed, decisions, actions – basically the meeting notes. Sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many people do not take notes during a meeting. Think about the last meeting you were in…did someone take the meeting minutes?
Capture the Content
Meetings are expensive. You take people away from working on things to, often, talk about working on things. When and how to have a meeting is a post for another day. The point is it is important to capture the content of a meeting so it doesn’t go to waste.
I find it easy to use E-mail to capture the meeting notes, which I send to the attendees right after.
This is the simple format I use for the body of the E-Mail:
<TITLE OF THE MEETING> Notes:
- Next Action(s) – Capture and document the next steps to move decisions forward, who owns it, and due dates
TIP: I save this template as a signature in Outlook. It saves me a lot of time! I just open a new E-Mail and select this signature template. Easy peasy.
When capturing information during a meeting, remember…
- Capture thought for thought, not word for word. You aren’t a court reporter and no one is expecting an exact transcript of the meeting.
- The purpose is to capture the intent so it can be understood later.
- Capture in bullet points, this helps keep things clean and easy to read.
- If the meeting is going too fast, it is okay to stop and say “I want to make sure I capture this correctly…” and then repeat what you have heard so far.
Below is an example of notes from a meeting about a fictitious Company Picnic.
- The Company Picnic has been moved to next Friday
- We discussed how we can clear the schedule so our teams can attend
- We ran out of red solo cups last picnic
- Ted didn’t like the last Company Picnic
- We will cancel the Team Meeting next Friday so colleagues can attend the picnic
- We will bring additional red solo cups
- Next Actions (s) – Capture and document the next steps to move decisions forward, who owns it, and due dates
- Clint – Send out the cancellation notice about the next Team Meeting. Due today.
- Bob – bring a package of 24 red solo cups to the office. Due next Tuesday.
Be that guy
If you are frequently in meetings and no one is capturing the meeting notes…just decide to go ahead and be that guy. Use my format and E-Mail them out after. I know it isn’t fun, but you are doing yourself and your co-workers a huge favor – and possibly sparing everyone from a repeat meeting!
I want to know, how do you take meeting notes?