Meetings are a staple in the work environment. We often attend so many meetings, it may be difficult to keep track of the information. As soon as you leave the room, it can be easy to forget what was shared just moments before. This even happens to people who usually remember things well.
Meeting minutes help a team retain important information. Minutes keep an active record of the team’s decisions. They also provide a log of action items and deadlines and who is responsible for them. Keeping minutes benefits attendees who need to recall what decisions were made and helps relay meeting details to those absent. They also serve as a historical record of voting and actions taken during the meeting.
Though minutes are a necessary part of the process, many cringe at being asked to put them together. But taking accurate notes doesn’t have to be stressful. Keeping a few tips in mind can help you capture the details even when no one wants to take notes.
Putting together effective meeting minutes is a process. It’s more than frantically writing down everything that is said as if you’re taking lecture notes. Starting before the meeting even begins can be a huge benefit to your note-taking. Read through the agenda and understand the goals of the meeting. (Bonus: This also makes you a more engaged participant.)
In looking through the agenda, you’ll see places that require action and those that are for discussion only. Before the meeting, create a minutes document that mimics the agenda. You can then follow along closely and fill in your notes in the areas represented in the agenda. This framework allows you to keep the key focus areas of the meeting in mind even if the discussion strays.
Often, the official meeting record will require tracking the participants in attendance. An easy way to do this is by making a list of all possible attendees prior to the meeting. Then you can mark those present with an x or highlight those missing. This method is quick and easy compared to trying to write down the names of everyone in attendance on the fly.
What if there’s not an agenda? In this case, create a template for the minutes ahead of time.
You likely know who is invited to the meeting and the topics to be discussed. Jot down the date and time of the meeting, participants, the purpose of the meeting, and potential action items. Leave a spot to include follow-up information as well. Having this document prepared will let you easily fill in notes as you go.
Record the Meeting
Even with a template ready to go, some find it overwhelming to take notes. For one, it can be stressful to try to write as fast as the participants are talking. You might be worried you’ll miss documenting something important. Additionally, if numbers are brought up in the meeting, you might be worried about recording them incorrectly. Further, it may be challenging to participate fully and take notes at the same time.
One way to ease this stress is to record the meeting — with the organizer’s permission, of course. In some cases, it might be OK to record for note-taking purposes, but the recordings will need to remain private. Understand what is acceptable practice prior to recording.
Once you’ve been given the green light, it’s really easy to record a meeting in Microsoft Teams or Zoom. For meetings in person, use an audio recorder or download a free audio recording app on your smartphone.
Recording the meeting relieves some of the stress of taking notes. You’ll feel more confident knowing there is a backup if you miss anything. In addition, you can go back and replay parts you might have missed. Some people find it helpful to finish their meeting minutes and then listen to the recording to compare.
Automate the Process
The above tips will assist in capturing accurate minutes, but what do you do when everyone dreads the task? In this situation, you may choose to automate the process a bit. There are a number of programs and apps that will record the audio and transcribe it into text. This option is great if no one agrees to take notes, though it does require a little work on the back end.
Depending on your organization and needs, you could just save a transcript of the meeting and call it good. However, the issue with automated transcription is that some words may be missed or generated incorrectly. (Think of the voice-to-text adventures you’ve had with your phone.) Because of this, it’s valuable to go through, read, and clean up the transcription after the meeting concludes. Make sure to fix any errors before saving the record.
Once that is done, you’ll have a full and clean transcript of the meeting. If you need more traditional minutes, use this transcript to extract important information and insert it into a minutes template.
Though it adds a bit of work to the participant, capturing accurate notes doesn’t have to be painful. Preparing, recording, and automating the process can help it go smoothly. In addition, following these tips will make it less of a burden for those who don’t want to take notes. More than that, these tips can help you capture more accurate meeting minutes.