Meeting Tips

A Primer on Writing Effective Meeting Notes

How to write effective meeting notes

Do you spend meetings doodling or checking your smartphone? And secretly laugh at the misfortune of the person taking meeting minutes? Go ahead, admit it.

However, if you are the notes taker, this blog article lists a few neat tricks to make you a meeting minutes ninja. For more brownie points, take your meeting notes online with your choice of meeting notes app.

Why Should I Record Meeting Minutes?

Imagine the following scenario. A decision was made and all meeting attendees agreed. A few weeks later, questions arise as to why that decision was made and what discussion led to that decision. All you need to do is refer your notes. The alternatives that were discussed and the reasons that led to that decision are clearly recorded.

Here are five compelling reasons to record meeting minutes:

  1. Keep records: Meeting minutes serve as a record of decisions made and tasks that attendees have committed to.

  2. Measure progress: You can compare meeting commitments against work has actually been completed.

  3. Improve accountability: Meeting minutes list who should do what and by when, which improves task ownership.

  4. No repeat meetings: If a commitment made is not honored, you can refer back to the notes and follow up. There is no need for another meeting to clarify task status.

  5. Get everyone up to speed: Meeting minutes serve to inform those who were unable to attend the meeting.

How to Write Meeting Minutes

Before the Meeting

You can understand the purpose of the meeting and the topics that will be covered by referring to the meeting agenda. It should clarify the following:

  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?

Before taking on the role of a notes-taker, examine the agenda and implement these changes to make your notes and meetings effective.

Frame agenda topics as questions.

This helps attendees better prepare for the meeting and enables them to express their opinion on the subject. It’s easier to reach a consensus and close the discussion when the question has been answered.

Determine the purpose of each topic. 

Figure out if the purpose of the topic is to share information, seek information, or make a decision. As the outcome is already established, this helps you take notes faster and with more precision.

Ensure that time estimate is available for each topic. 

The time estimates for introducing a topic, finding solutions, Q&A, and run-through of next steps should enable you to stay on track. In this way, you will not miss out any important discussion.

Outline the steps for each agenda topic. 

To keep the meeting and notes in sync, outline the steps to be undertaken to resolve each agenda item. The steps required to move to a solution can include:

  • Present relevant information
  • Assumptions to be made
  • Criteria that a solution should satisfy
  • Develop the solution based on the above three factors

Stick to a meeting minutes format.

Sticking to a format ensures that all your information is easily accessible. Most formats include the following:

  • Name and purpose of the meeting
  • Date and time of the meeting
  • Names of the attendees
  • Any follow ups from the previous meeting
  • Decisions made
  • Action items
  • Results of votes and polls
  • Date and time for the next meeting

The first three are important facts about the meeting and should be placed at the meeting header. The others can be structured using the Cornell note taking method. With this method, you can take down notes during the meeting under each agenda item. 

Add a column on the right for cues. Here you can include ideas to explore in the next meeting or next steps. 

At the bottom, include a summary of the content of the meeting.

Get your meeting notes outline ready.

Preparing an outline based on the agenda can improve the process of capturing corporate meeting minutes. You can save time and stay attuned to the discussion if you create a fill-in-the-blank format for your notes. 

Your outline should have the items in the same order as the agenda. Make sure to append all important documents such as handouts. Ensure that all standard information is filled in before the start of the meeting. You can use a meeting notes template to get everything in order. We have prepared a sample for you to refer to.

During the Meeting

Record and present relevant information.

Prior to the start of the meeting, check with stakeholders to understand how much information is required. Your minutes should be brief but should contain all relevant information.

For each topic listed on the agenda, write a brief statement of the actions taken by the team. Record the reason for arriving at a particular decision. If an argument stretches on for long, capture the most important points and summarize. Don’t record conversations word for word It is important to capture the essence of the meeting, while highlighting action items, decisions, and assigned tasks.

Streamline your language.

Do not include personal opinions or derogatory remarks. Make your writing objective. A simple trick to follow is to avoid using adverbs and adjectives. Ensure that the notes are brief, clear, and easy to understand. Do not summarize reference documents and additional information. Just mention where they can be found and provide the relevant links.

Make use of tools for meeting minutes.

There are many dedicated meeting minutes services. While choosing a tool, consider the unique characteristics and requirements of your organization. Below are a few of such tools.

Offline tools: The humble pen and paper is often used as it is accessible. However, everything will have to be typed after the meeting so that it can be shared. It doesn’t facilitate collaboration either.

Notepads: Tools such as Word can make it easier to share notes when completed. You can even download any of the meeting templates that are available and tweak it according to your specific use case, but collaboration is again not possible.

OneNote, EverNote: These tools allow you to manage and organize notes according to different meetings. Their mobile apps make notes accessible from anywhere. However, they must be installed before use.

Meetric: Meetric makes writing notes collaborative and action-oriented. It integrates with your Google Calendar and Google Meet, offering meeting notifications and more ways to share notes. It is also completely free.

After the Meeting

Distribute the meeting minutes.

Read the minutes to ensure that it is clear, precise, and succinct. Add information and clarifications if required. Get these minutes approved by the meeting organizer before sending it out. Share the meeting minutes within 24 hours. You can distribute the notes via email or if using a Google Doc, then just share it with meeting participants. If using a dedicated meeting minutes app, distributing formatted notes takes no time at all.

Follow-up on meeting actionables.

After a meeting ends, priorities change. Other work comes up and commitments made during the meeting are forgotten. Follow up on action items is necessary to get work done. Meeting notes can serve as a reminder of the tasks that attendees have committed to and by when they have to be completed. 

Don’t panic!

Writing meeting minutes begins with an inclusive, detailed agenda. All you have to do is create a minutes template based on your agenda, pay attention and record events as they occur. After the meeting, share the meeting minutes and follow up. Sounds simple? It’s even easier to implement!