Your teams' meeting results belong to your business. Employees get paid to work through problems, make decisions, come up with new ideas, and commit to action. Teams meet to get those results, and yet very few businesses require employees to capture and publish these results where others can put them to use.
Last November, researchers combed over 400 meeting-science studies to find the top 10 rules for business meetings. Failing to follow the tenth rule, "Plan for creativity and capture these outcomes," is, by far, the most wasteful mistake my team sees business leaders make.
When you leave it up to every individual to rely on their memories, you will inevitably spend time combatting these preventable problems:
- Waiting for someone to complete a task, only to discover too late that they never realized they were supposed to do it.
- Repeating discussions your team seems to forget you've already had about decisions you've already made.
- Combing your email to figure out what the real story is before you head into a client meeting.
- Managing bad assumptions, politics, and all kinds of wasteful baloney as your leadership team second-guesses what they're each doing in their black-box silos.
- Scrambling to figure out what's going on with a project or customer or supplier when the person who normally meets with them leaves.
Do any of these problems sound familiar? You can prevent a lot of that drama by having everyone capture and publish meeting notes. Here's how.
1. Assign someone to type notes for every meeting.
You may have read that it's better to take notes on paper, which is true for college students attending lectures. Research shows paper notetaking helps individuals remember complex topics better, but it does nothing to help a whole group remember anything.
When you assign a designated note taker, they act as the representative hands for the whole group. Their job is to capture key points. While they could do this on paper, typed notes save them time when they publish these notes afterward.
Typed notes are also easier to present on screen. You want others in the meeting to see these notes because, while the note taker types, the whole group should take responsibility for making sure what they type accurately reflects the discussion.
2. Capture the key details only.
Useful notes make it fast and easy to see the value created in that meeting. You want notes you can scan, task lists you can check off, and insights that leap out at anyone who reads the notes later.
What constitutes a useful note? That depends on the meeting.
At a minimum, you need to capture decisions and action items. These are the promises your team is making to each other, or that they're making to clients on behalf of your company. You want those in writing.
You might also capture:
- Announcements: important dates, new team members, etc.
- New issues and concerns
- New ideas or insights
- Useful links and references
- Anything else that helps you achieve your goals!
Remember, though, that you don't want a verbatim transcript. That's what recordings are for. These notes are about results, so stick to the highlights.
3. Review notes as a group before the meeting ends.
In the last five to 10 minutes of the meeting, review all notes by asking:
- Did we miss anything important?
- Is everything accurate?
- Is each note clear enough that other people will understand it? Will we know what it means when we look at it again in two weeks?
Your team might try to rush through the first few questions, but that last one will make them think, and notes that say things like "Look into that report" will get fixed. Look into that report won't mean anything in two weeks, whereas Check the totals on the Q4 sales report will be obvious later when you're trying to hold each other accountable.
4. Publish those notes where people can find them.
Your email inbox doesn't count. You want meeting notes to live somewhere accessible to your whole team, including people who didn't attend the meeting.
With notes on hand, you can easily get new team members up to speed. Reviewing client meetings makes it easy to build case studies. Most importantly, your teams will stop rehashing conversations and failing to follow through on promises they've forgotten, increasing momentum in every part of your business.
Once you've captured meeting results and published them where they can be put to work, you start to get real value from your meetings.