By Jason Shah, founder and CEO of Do.
Meeting minutes are important: It's vital to capture relevant information, decisions and assigned tasks. When you have solid records for each and every one of your meetings, it's easy to refer back to decisions that were made, and how disagreements or disputes were resolved.
But if you're madly scribbling everything down, then you're likely missing the point entirely. Not only are you going to overlook important information along the way, but your long-form notes are also going to prove far less usable than succinct, bulleted records.
At my company, we've built a meeting collaboration tool that helps boost meeting productivity. A large part of that, of course, is the capturing of meeting notes -- both efficiently and effectively. As a result, we spend a lot of time thinking about the best ways to run meetings so that all the relevant information is captured, while ensuring attendees feel engaged and focused.
Here are some tips on how to take meeting minutes more efficiently:
Ensure That Everyone's Responsibilities Are Clear
When taking meeting notes, you're going to need to create accountability as part of the discussion you're having. For example, you should mark action items as follow-ups, and then assign those as tasks to the individuals who will be carrying them out. That way, there's no confusion over who's supposed to do what.
If an item has been completed in a meeting, be sure to cross it off or mark it as an outcome. This will help prevent confusion as to what was actually completed during the meeting, and what still needed to be discussed. Simple distinctions like this will provide a whole lot of clarity moving forward after a meeting, as progress and key action items will be crystal clear.
Create a Basic Template for Meeting Minutes
If you know that you're going to be taking meeting minutes week after week or month after month, you should streamline your processes by creating a basic template. After all, this is something you're going to be doing over and over again.
You should make different templates for different types of meetings, especially recurring ones. That way, you can just have those agendas at the ready, rather than having to re-type them each time.
Think about what needs to be a part of your minutes, including the date and time of the meeting, why the meeting was called, who the organizer was, any action items, decisions made, and so on. This will also help with consistency: It will be much easier to look back on your records (if you need to) when you've made an effort to keep the format consistent.
Talk to the Organizer in Advance
Preparation can make a big difference. See if you can talk to the organizer in advance of the meeting to get a better sense of what the meeting is about. Find out who will be there, why the meeting is being called, and what discussion topics will be on the agenda.
If there is no agenda, request one so you can come into the meeting well equipped with all the necessary talking points. This way, you won't be caught off guard, and you'll know exactly what to expect when you show up at the meeting.
Don't forget: You don't need to record the meeting discussions verbatim. Your goal should be to create a concrete blueprint. Action items and decisions, or follow-ups and outcomes, are the most important pieces of information to capture, and they should always be recorded during the meeting (and not after) so that you don't forget them.
In order to capture only the most important information, you should try to leave personal observations out of your meeting minutes. Remain impartial and objective throughout, and if anything needs to be clarified, talk directly to the organizer or presenter: They should be able to help you piece together any missing details.
Jason Shah is the founder and CEO of Do, a collaboration platform that helps you run productive meetings.