Quick Meeting Minutes (Record of Decisions/Discussion)

Man thinking of how to take notes during a meetingI’ll admit it; I was notoriously bad for not writing up minutes or records of decision after meetings (I’ll leave the distraction between the two for a future article). I’ve gotten much better in recent years – due in part to using the actual original meeting invitation (assuming you issued one electronically) as part of the solution/quick fix.

Most electronic calendars/email packages (including Outlook, Lotus Notes, etc) have an option where you can send an email to all invitees of a meeting.

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The technique is relatively simple; reply to everyone on the original meeting list – and use the list of addresses to help form your “attendee” checklist in the body of your message.

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As attendees join the meeting – you can simply “check” them off – by adding a Y or N (or blank) beside their name to register their attendance.

Add a simple text template to keep track of the agenda, record of decisions, summary of next steps and then (perhaps the hardest part) – actually USE your computer during the meeting to keep notes as you proceed (this can be tricky for those who may be two-finger typists, but you can get an assistant or PCO to do this as well).

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Important Tips

  • Remember to use the template as a tool to organize your thoughts prior to and during the meeting.
  • Don’t waste a lot of time on making perfect notes on the initial pass; just use point form and get into the habit of using indents to handle sub-topics/side-discussions related to a particular topic (much like the “outlining” method for creating a document).
  • Remember that you will have a chance after the meeting to refine your notes a little further before pressing send.

The advantage of this approach, if you are disciplined and have the necessary keyboarding skills, is that you can get meeting minutes/records of decision out quickly (within a few minutes to a few hours) of a meeting being held.

Basic Template

I’ve gotten to the point that I can pretty much do the template on the fly – as I pretty much have it memorized.  Until you reach that point however, you can cut and paste from here to help you:


 

MEETING XYZ  (usally taken from the subject line of the original message)
RECORD OF DECISIONS <put in the date/time of the meeting>

ATTENDEES

(this is where the block of email addresses comes in handy; now just indent them one tab and put a Y or N in as they attend your meeting)

AGENDA

(bulleted list of agenda items – if you have one)

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

(you may want to re-attach reference documents issued before or during the meeting; remember to indicate if they have been updated since the initial release – possibly from discussions during the meeting)

RECORD OF DECISIONS/DISCUSSIONS

(I usually start off by cutting and pasting my agenda here; then that becomes level 0 of my bulleted list/outline of discussions – which I’m noting throughout the meeting.  Its also okay to stop the meeting and ask for everyone’s thoughts/input on the best way to summarize the outcome of a discussion)

SUMMARY OF MAJOR ACTION ITEMS

(this isn’t always necessary – but it’s a nice touch if you really want to emphasize who is doing what; especially if you don’t have an issues & actions log to release)

NEXT SCHEDULED MEETING

(manage expectations; even if the next meeting isn’t set or known – at least state who will organize the next one if/when it is required)

Finally, I like to add the following at the end:

Kindly advise if I’ve made any errors or omissions; reply to all if the matter is particularly important/urgent.


Conclusion

Don’t forget to review the distribution list just before you send out your notes; often there are people who were not invited to the meeting (and therefore wont be on your distribution list) that may need to be added – just as a courtesy, or for information purposes.

While this technique doesn’t make writing meeting minutes/records of decision any better, it tends to “suck” a little less – and you look like a hero to your team when you can get them out in a matter of minutes or hours vs. the days (or never) like many others.

Author: Stephen Holton, PMP, CISSP, SSGB, ITIL, CD

After completing over twelve years service in the Canadian Armed Forces, Stephen moved to private industry where he was employed as a Director of Information Technology, Director of Operations and CIO for a number of private sector companies before finally electing to become an independent consultant in 2000. Since then he’s served as a management consultant, project/program manager and business analyst/solution architect in a number of industries and organizations - including a big-5 consulting firm. These industries and organizations have included the airline, railway, telecommunications and banking industries, the Canadian and US Governments, as well as mandates in Brazil and Bermuda. Presently Steve lives in Ottawa, Canada.

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