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.
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!
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?
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.
This minutes template organizes everything by topic – a nice way to group content.
This minutes template puts everything into categories.
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!