The Forgetting Curve and meeting notes

Why are meeting notes important?

Its all too easy for us to get back from a contentious meeting, settle into our ergonomically perfect chairs and let our mind wander off to email or the next fire, or the next meeting.

I can write up all of our action items, decisions and minutes tomorrow, right?

Nope.

Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve tells us we should probably think about those meeting notes or minutes a little more carefully.

(BTW, back-to-back meetings? Definitely a no-no according to time management guru Craig Jarrow)

Why?

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According to research first done by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885, it turns out we pretty much forget the majority of things we learn in meetings (or any other memory retention activity) pretty quickly. 66%, in fact, is forgotten within 9 hours!

So, if you think you can remember everything and then write it down tomorrow… that’s not going to happen. There really is no time like the present.

Block time for followup

This means…GASP! No back-to-back meetings!

The fact is, if you’ve invested time to meet, you should be setting time aside to properly follow up. The easiest way to do this? Block 15-30 minutes in your calendar immediately proceeding your meeting, and guard this time religiously.

Sure, we’ve met a few executives who’s calendars look like dumping grounds for meetings. This should be the exception, not the rule.

No time to follow up directly afterwards? There are a few tactics to address this.

Record your meetings

That’s right – record the audio for your meetings. The world’s largest hedge fund does.  When you forget (and you will forget), refer back to the recording. Ideally, you’d have some way to mark approximate times when stuff was said – Livescribe is a great tool for doing this. You can write notes right while you’re recording AND return to that location simply by tapping anywhere you’ve written.

Yes, it’s OK to have devices in meetings

Contrary to popular belief, its perfectly OK to bring devices into meetings.

After all, we’re all grown up’s here right?

Which means we have the ability to control what we do with our phones and tablets. We’re not all checking Facebook, our rankings in the football pool or peeking at our portfolio. If the meeting organizer is doing her job, she has everyone fully engaged.

Which means its OK for someone to be taking notes during the meeting. This can be done on a pad of paper, on a laptop or via tablet. As long as they’re captured.

 

So, the next time you feel like waiting a day or two to capture your meeting notes, action items and decisions, think again and remember the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve.

 

 

Bosses tell us what it takes to get promoted

Promotions aren’t given, they’re earned.

Gone are the days when promotions were the result of being able to progress along specific career paths; the impact of globalization, technology, and flatter organization structures, has changed the promotion paradigm. Today, for an employee to get promoted, she must be able to create and manage her own career path.

That said, here are some of the important things bosses tell us to get promoted.

1. Practice Self-Promotion

“Unless you’re a narcissist, self-promotion isn’t a natural behavior.”

– Meredith Levinson, CIO 

Our parents taught us that modesty is a virtue; just like job-hunting; if your boss doesn’t know how great you are, don’t expect to get ahead.

It’s important to be a “known quantity” for you to get the promotion you deserve (and earn!). For example, if you’ve had a major sales or project win, or was able to come up with an award-winning program, you should make sure your boss knows. This could be as simple as a text message, email or via casual conversation.

Basically, you should be selling yourself and make it known (with subtlety) that you’re eager for a promotion. If it makes sense, send monthly emails to your boss and keep her updated on your progress. Don’t forget to roll-up and share your accomplishments and accolades at the end of the year – right around review/raise time.

2. Bond with Me

Think of your boss as a border guard between countries.

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As an ally, he can effectively raise the gate for you to move upward to your next position, or, as an adversary, he can keep the gate down and block you from progression.

Clearly you want him as an ally.

Take advantage of all the opportunities you find or create to turn a boss into your biggest fan.

Professional settings can be used to seek counsel and imply your interest in getting a promotion. Performance appraisals can be used to talk with your boss about the possible roadblocks to promotion and how to overcome them. Think lunches, social gatherings, hallway conversations – anyway you can get quality facetime.

3. Take on more Responsibility

Bosses are always looking for eager members of their staff to step up.

Why?

To get more done.

Your boss has a boss too. Who wants results. And you’re asking to take on more responsibility? Giddyup.

A great way to do this? Simple. Ask the question “What can I do to help?”

“Acquire new knowledge continuously and stay on top of trends or developments in your field. If you’re seen as an expert in a particular subject, you’re more likely to be needed for new projects coming up.”

 – Alex Cavoulacos, The Muse

Asking for more responsibility (and not necessarily more work) is a good way to inform your boss that you are interested and have the desire to help the department and the company succeed. Through this, you’ll shine a spotlight on yourself. And your team.

4. Be a Team Player

Second only to your boss, the next group you need on your side when hunting for a promotion?

Your teammates.

You can be sure your boss is going to be talking to your team when considering a promotion. She’s going to ask questions like:

  • How do you get along with Tom?
  • Would you promote Tom if you were me?
  • How do you think Tom would work in this role?
  • What are some of Tom’s strengths and weaknesses?

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The best team players? They rock at their jobs AND lift the team to higher highs. Is that you?

5. Create Your Own Opportunities

Heck, why even wait for a promotion?

Do it yourself.

What this doesn’t mean is tromping into the HR office and demanding one. We’re pretty sure that’s a shortcut to an exit.

What it does mean is to figure out where your team or organization needs you most, and start doing that.

Not full time. Maybe not even during the workday. But a slow, methodical approach to doing what needs to be done.

No promotion this time around? No worries, you’re already paving the road to the role you want the next time your team is considering promoting its brightest.

September Product Updates

Its back to school time, which means its back to work time for…

Wait.

We pushed out some major updates to Trackmeet all.summer.long.

And we’re doing it again, but this time we’ve pushed out the biggest group of updates WE’VE EVER DONE. (Not that we’re boasting – we are Canadians after all)

New Dashboard

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Login to Trackmeet and we drop you immediately into your dashboard where you can get a picture of your upcoming day – all your meetings and any action items you have coming due are shown center-screen. Select a meeting or action item to begin preparation or to follow up.

Connect your Google or Office 365 calendar to Trackmeet and we’ll show all of your meetings here! If you haven’t already done so, learn how to connect one.

Agenda Templates

Based on feedback from our users, we’ve added the ability to apply an agenda template to a meeting AND create an agenda template from an existing meeting.

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As always, you can access a plethora of pre-built templates already defined in Trackmeet for your meeting pleasure.

Audio and Video

We’ve included a NEW media item you can add to your Trackmeet meetings! Just tap on the blue “+” button at the bottom of your agenda to add one or more video or audio clips inline!

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Media is great for meeting recordings, podcasts, audible reports, instructional videos or silly cat montages.

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Action Items

We’ve made a couple of changes to action items to make them easier to use and give assignees more visibility into when they’re due.

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Action Items have been reduced to a single, inline element. In addition, we’ll show you any actions you have due today in your dashboard and timeline views.

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Slack Bot

We love Slack and we know you do too – its the #1 way people around the world export data from Trackmeet.

If you have Slack connected to Trackmeet, we’ll push you a direct message with your day’s meeting schedule. From here, you can click on a meeting title to get a head start preparing for it.

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Phew! Enough for the update – getting the team back to work…

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Meeting minutes the write, er, right way

OK, the boss or head of your team or organization has just asked you to sit in and take notes or minutes for your next meeting.

Yikes!

Before you panic, take a deep breath.

As daunting as this sounds, doing the notes or minutes for a big (or small) meeting isn’t as hard as it seems.

Exhale slowly. We’ve got your back.

Start with why

In the words of Simon Sinek, let’s start with the “why” around meeting minutes or notes.

Meeting minutes form an important record for what was discussed and by whom in a meeting. In addition, they include what was decided upon and any tasks or action items that were captured or assigned.

Minutes are not a record of everything that was said in exact detail.

How do you know if they’re detailed enough?

A great test for the verbosity of your notes or minutes is to put yourself in the position of someone who never attended the meeting. From your minutes, could they get a sense for the conversations that happened, the decisions that were made and the action items that were assigned? Basically, you need to be descriptive enough to capture the gist of the meeting without wasting your time and effort going into detail.

Step 1 – Note Taking

Before your meeting, you should think about how you’re going to actually take notes.  These could be your working/rough notes from which you would generate more polished minutes, or they could literally be the minutes you intend to send out.

Either way, there are a couple of different ways you could go here – handwritten or digital. Both offer a few advantages/disadvantages.

Handwritten notes are worry free – just grab a notepad and a couple of pens and you’re off! Depending on your writing efficacy, its easy to keep up with speakers in order to transfer the spoken word to paper. The big downside? You’ll probably be distributing everything digitally, so there’s the process of converting all that handwriting – yuck!

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One of the tools I’ve personally used for this before is a recording pen like Livescribe. The pen records meeting audio that syncs to your notes. Miss what was said? Just tap on your notes and the pen seeks to that point in the recording! Very slick.

Alternately, you can capture everything digitally right from the start. You can try a smartphone or tablet to do this, but a physical keyboard is probably what you want – you’re looking for maximum WPM and you’ll need an actual keyboard for that. Laptops are perfect!

There are a plethora of software tools to actually capture notes. Evernote, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Trackmeet… the list is lengthy. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re comfortable using it in advance!

Once you’re in the meeting itself, you’ll probably want to capture who’s attending, when it started and stopped, the meeting purpose and the location.

As the meeting progresses, restrict yourself to capturing just enough detail to describe what happened. Bullet points can be handy for this.

Step 2 – Transforming Notes into Minutes

Once your meeting wraps up, you’ll want to get your meeting minutes out promptly! Why?

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The Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve tells us that people retain 33% of what was discussed in a meeting just one day later! So, not only do your notes serve as a record of what was said and done, they also serve as an important catalyst for stakeholders to recall everything.

If your meeting was informal, distributing your notes/minutes may be as simple as sending a link to the Google Doc you used or pushing them from Trackmeet into a Slack channel.

If your meeting involved a little more formality, there are some interesting formats you can use to codify your minutes, based on your personal or organizational preference.

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This minutes template organizes everything by topic –  a nice way to group content.

 

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This minutes template puts everything into categories.

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Trackmeet has a plethora of meeting/minute templates built in!

There is no “wrong” way to write minutes – choose a style and format that works for you and your organization. Just remember to get them out promptly!

Step 3 – Distribution

Once your minutes are ready, your next step is to distribute them to everyone who was there – and maybe a few more.

As part of this step, you may need to get approval from one or more meeting participants, who can also serve as reviewers to catch any errors or identify anything that was missed.

You’re done! Pour yourself a cup of tea – you’ve earned it!

 

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Looking for accountability and teachable moments in meetings? Record them

The world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, records pretty much every internal meeting.

What?

Yep. All meeting rooms include a fixed-mount audio and video recorder that staff can opt-in to use – and most do.

You might be wondering why an organization might do this? Isn’t this a pretty considerable overhead when all you want to do is meet?

Bridgewater execs see so much value in reviewing meetings and identifying teachable moments that they’ve oriented the entire firm around this concept. They call it “management principles training“.

Its one thing to record meetings; its another to build your business around them.

For those of us who want to dip our toe into recording meetings before considering recording every meeting, there are a few things to consider.

Can you?

We don’t all have the flexibility Bridgewater and firms like it have to record meetings as a general business practice. In fact, doing so may be illegal. As a general rule of thumb, meeting attendees need to be made aware of, and consent to, being recorded. Special rules apply to public meetings, or those involving emergency services or the police. Check your local laws if you’re not sure.

Make meeting attendees accountable

Once you’ve accommodated any concerns around consent, recording opens the door to some pretty compelling value-adds: accountability, coaching and knowledge retention.

Announcing that we were going to record the next Trackmeet status meeting brought with it a little energy from the team. The result? Everyone was on time, notebooks were out and our conversation was unusually lively.

A spike in attention because everyone knew that the meeting was being recorded? You bet.

Can this be sustained? Probably not – as time wears on, this approach becomes accepted practice and is absorbed as a norm. But, if you’re recurring meeting needs a jolt to arouse some attention, give this a try.

Coaching

Akin to what Bridgewater is doing via management principles training, recording the audio and/or video from your meeting can provide for invaluable teaching and coaching opportunities, using real-world examples taken directly from your business.

Ambitious?

Yep.

Should all organizations be doing this? Probably not.

But consider this – if you don’t have a culture that helps grow its staff and contribute to their personal and professional development, how does your business grow? Everything else being equal, why wouldn’t your staff walk down the street to a competitor that offers it? After all, personal and professional development is the #1 perk millenials are looking for at work.

If you don’t have the capacity to record and coach, simply jot down those teachable moments and circle back to them offline. Your team will thank you for the feedback.

Knowledge Retention

Using something like Trackmeet, organizations can capture and retain some of the considerable knowledge that exists within its ranks.

Take for example the weekly management team meeting held at Latitude Geographics, a Trackmeet customer. In this meeting, each department executive includes a narrative that summarizes their week. During their allotted time, each executive gives a brief verbal summary and discussion ensues. This discussion, and the opportunities and concerns it raises, is invaluable to the team. So much so that meeting audio is recorded and distributed to everyone, ensuring all attendees can revisit important points and absent team members can remain fully in the loop.

Considering recording your meetings? Doing so can add considerable value with a small investment up front.