I’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.
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.
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).
- 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.
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>
(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)
(bulleted list of agenda items – if you have one)
(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.
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.