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Published on September 10, 2018

How to Write Great Meeting Minutes So Nothing Gets Lost in Translation

How to Write Great Meeting Minutes So Nothing Gets Lost in Translation

Writing the meeting minutes can seem like a daunting task at first. There is a group of people talking about numerous subjects in a crunched amount of time. Your job is to decide what is most important and record it in such a way that will be clear for everyone to review later.

Meeting minutes are valuable for several reasons. They can be vital for keeping team members accountable. They are used to inform those who were not present at the meeting. They are a history record so that ideas and decisions are not forgotten.

Keeping the minutes for your meetings may be stressful, but they can be invaluable. Your team members will be extremely grateful when you can pull out your meeting minutes in the future to remind them of important tasks and answer forgotten questions.

The following tips will help you to create effective meeting minutes. Even if you’ve had experience taking minutes before, you may find something that will help make you more effective:

1. Know what the meeting will be about beforehand

Whoever is in charge of the meeting should have an agenda prepared for you to review before the meeting begins. You can use this agenda to help prepare your note organization, which you’ll be very grateful for later.

For organizing your notes, it will be useful to create a template of sorts that you can quickly fill out during the meeting.

If you don’t have an agenda, perhaps that task will fall on you. An agenda is very helpful for helping meetings run smoothly and efficiently.

You can spur on your leadership team to create one. Or you can create your own by asking around for what talking points the meeting leaders have.

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2. Set up your meeting minutes template

It will be easier to adjust your digital notes if mistakes or changes are made. If you’re not a strong typer though, it may be best to stick with pen and paper and then rewrite what is most important later.

For clean digital notes, you can try using email newsletter templates you can find online to stay organized. They are visually attractive for sharing (more on that later). Digital notes will also be easier to distribute in general.

Another option for creating a digital outline is by using tables in Google Docs. Pick or create the right template or program to fit the information you will need to write.

3. Organize what you will be writing

Each organization and perhaps team will have different looking templates for their meeting minutes. The important thing is to decide what information is important and create a clear organization surrounding that.

You may want to consult with the meeting members before and after each meeting to see what their preferences for the meeting minutes are.

Here are some important items to put in your meeting minutes:[1]

  • Date and time
  • Attendees
  • Minutes from previous meeting
  • Decisions made, action items
  • Next meeting date and time

Attendees are important to be listed so that they can be held accountable and for record-keeping purposes. You can also list who was unable to attend the meeting and be sure to have someone review your meeting minutes with them later.

For action items, make sure to list specific steps that need to be taken and who is responsible for each portion. Action items should stand out among all the content in their own section or by being placed in bold font. These are likely the most important items of your meeting minutes.

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Again, more or less content may be desired by the team members based on your first few trials. Consult with them to find out what else should be included or what should be removed. They may also prefer a different design layout.

Take feedback with a grain of salt and try to gain a group consensus as much as possible. What one person might prefer, may not be best for the whole group.

4. Take good notes

There are many methods for note-taking, so you will need to find which works best for you.

Remember that you don’t need to write down every word said. Just write down an abridged version of what is important for the members of the meeting to remember later.

If you’re worried about grabbing all the important information, you can even try recording the notes with your phone or computer to review later. Be thorough, but don’t stress yourself out.

You can always ask someone to quickly review anything you may have missed. Your team will be grateful when you ask for clarification because they understand the importance of having those details later.

If you find yourself struggling to stay attentive, your meeting minutes will likely suffer. Make sure you have enough energy by having a snack and drink before. Eliminate distractions like your phone. You might have to sacrifice sitting next to your favorite coworker if you find yourself whispering back and forth too much.

Just remember the importance of your task. You don’t want to be responsible for missing an important decision or action item.

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Some items should have due dates. Action items may need listed steps to accomplish. All action items should have a name attached to who is accomplishing them.

If the meeting leader fails to assign an action item to someone or a due date, they will appreciate you asking. Apple’s Steve Jobs had a “Directly Responsible Individual” (DRI) for each task assigned in a meeting.

Due dates and names ensure that tasks are accomplished. This isn’t a grocery list, it’s a map to the next week.

5. Make it attractive

What good are meeting minutes if no one wants to read them?

You should already have a neat and organized template. Add elements that will make it easier to digest like proper use of bold fonts and italics. Bold fonts can be used for section headings or to highlight very important information.

Don’t use too much bold font though or else it will lose it’s value and become cluttered. Colored fonts can also often look tacky or draw too much attention; so be careful in how you use them.

A colored border might be effective for outlining an important action points section. Experiment and see what works best for making your meeting minutes attractive.

Besides highlighting important information with attractive design, you can take a chance to improve branding within the workplace. By including branding in your meeting minutes you can inspire greater brand consistency among your team members.[2] They will see the effort you are making and how attractive the material is, then want to apply that to their own outputs. Add your organization’s logo and brand colors.

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Above all though, keep the minutes organization digestible.

6. Distribute the minutes

Your meeting minutes should be distributed as soon as possible after the meeting so that the team members can get to work on the action items. This is also crucial for anyone who may have missed the meeting.

It is the easiest to distribute the minutes digitally through email or by providing a Google Doc link that everyone can look at. Many people still prefer a printed copy to keep with them. That way they can take notes on it and physically cross out items as they complete them.

You can either have those available at a common spot in the office or ask who would like a printed copy delivered to them.

Final thoughts

Meeting minutes require a process of dedication and refinement. From time to time, you’ll probably hear a complaint from a coworker about something missing on the meeting minutes.

Don’t take it personally. It’s a difficult task that takes a lot of focus and effort. There may be times when your team doesn’t fully appreciate the meeting minutes. But you never know which day or week that they’ll be really in trouble without them.

Your task of taking the meeting minutes is invaluable because you keep the team accountable. Your record keeping makes them more efficient because let’s be honest, humans are often forgetful. It’s thanks to you that meetings remain meaningful throughout a week.

Best of luck as you define and refine your process. Continue to take feedback to improve your skills and templates. Each group is different and will prefer to have different types of meeting minutes. Find what works best for your team.

With your great efforts, you’re leading your team to better efficiency and accountability.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Christina Sanders

A digital marketer who is experienced in marketing and communications, helping people to lead a successful business.

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

Have you ever thought of yourself as a problem solver? I’m guessing not. But in reality, we are constantly solving problems. And the better our problem solving skills are, the easier our lives are.

Problems arise in many shapes and forms. They can be mundane, everyday problems, or larger more complex problems:

What to have for dinner tonight?

Which route to take to work?

How to fix a project that’s running behind schedule?

How to change from an uninspiring job to a career you’re really passionate about?

Every day, you’ll be faced with at least one problem to solve. But it gets easier when you realize that problems are simply choices. There’s nothing ‘scary’ about them other than having to make a decision.

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No matter what job you’re in, where you live, who your partner is, how many friends you have, you will be judged on your ability to solve problems. Because problems equal hassles for everyone concerned. And people don’t like hassle. So the more problems you can solve, the less hassle all-round, the happier people are with you. Everyone wins.

Why Are Problem Solving Skills Important?

Problem is something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with. It can be a task, a situation, or even a person. Problem solving involves methods and skills to find the best solutions to problems.

Problem solving is important because we all have decisions to make, and questions to answer in our lives. Amazing people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., are all great problems solvers. Good parents, teachers, doctors and waiters all have to be good at solving different sort of problems as well.

Problem solving skills are for our everyday lives.

How to Enhance Problem Solving Skills

Most people believe that you have to be very intelligent in order to be a good problem solver, but that’s not true.

You don’t have to be super smart to be a problem solver, you just need practice.

When you understand the different steps to solve a problem, you’ll be able to come up with great solutions.

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1. Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem

Neuroscientists have proven that your brain cannot find solutions if you focus on the problem.[1] This is because when you focus on the problem, you’re effectively feeding ‘negativity,’ which in turn activates negative emotions in the brain. These emotions block potential solutions.

I’m not saying you should ‘ignore the problem,’ instead, try to remain calm. It helps to first, acknowledge the problem; and then, move your focus to a solution-oriented mindset where you keep fixed on what the ‘answer’ could be, rather than lingering on ‘what went wrong’ and ‘who’s fault it is’.

2. Adapt 5 Whys to Clearly Define the Problem

5 Whys is a problem solving framework to help you get to the root of a problem.

By repeatedly asking the question “why” on a problem, you can dig into the root cause of a problem, and that’s how you can find the best solution to tackle the root problem once and for all. And it can go deeper than just asking why for five times.

For example:

If the problem is “always late to work”…

  • Why am I late to work?
    I always click the snooze button and just want to go on sleeping.
  • Why do I want to go on sleeping?
    I feel so tired in the morning.
  • Why do I feel tired in the morning?
    I slept late the night before, that’s why.
  • Why did I sleep late?
    I wasn’t sleepy after drinking coffee, and I just kept scrolling my Facebook feed and somehow I couldn’t stop.
  • Why did I drink coffee?
    Because I was too sleepy at work in the afternoon, not having enough sleep the night before.

So there you see, if you didn’t try to dig out the root of the problem, you may just set a few more alarms and have it beep every five minutes in the morning. But in fact, the problem you need to solve is to quit Facebook surfing endlessly at night so you’ll feel more energetic in the day time, and you won’t even need coffee.

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3. Simplify Things

As human beings, we have a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be! Try simplifying your problem by generalizing it.

Remove all the details and go back to the basics. Try looking for a really easy, obvious solution – you might be surprised at the results! And we all know that it’s often the simple things that are the most productive.

4. List out as Many Solutions as Possible

Try to come up with ‘ALL POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS’ – even if they seem ridiculous at first. It’s important you keep an open mind to boost creative thinking, which can trigger potential solutions.

Coming from 10 years in the corporate advertising industry, it is drummed into you that ‘No idea is a bad idea’ and this aids creative thinking in brainstorms and other problem-solving techniques.

Whatever you do, do not ridicule yourself for coming up with ‘stupid solutions’ as it’s often the crazy ideas that trigger other more viable solutions.

5. Think Laterally

Change the ‘direction’ of your thoughts by thinking laterally. Pay attention to the saying,

‘You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging it deeper.”

Try to change your approach and look at things in a new way. You can try flipping your objective around and looking for a solution that is the polar opposite!

Even if it feels silly, a fresh and unique approach usually stimulates a fresh solution.

6. Use Language That Creates Possibility

Lead your thinking with phrases like ‘what if…’ and ‘imagine if…’ These terms open up our brains to think creatively and encourage solutions.

Avoid closed, negative language such as ‘I don’t think…’ or ‘But this is not right…’.

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing scary about a problem when you start to adapt my advice.

Try not to view problems as ‘scary’ things! If you think about what a problem really is, it’s really just feedback on your current situation.

Every problem is telling you that something is not currently working and that you need to find a new way around it.

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So try to approach problems neutrally – without any judgment. Practice focusing on defining a problem, keep calm and not to make things too complicated.

More About Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Planet of Success: Problem vs Solution Focused Thinking

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