Meeting minutes: 8 good reasons to write up those notes

By | September 16, 2014

Meeting minutes are not boring. Most people see this as a bureaucratic habit straight out of Mad Men, where Joan is typing notes at an old typewriter. I disagree

1. Notes show effort At the very minimum, it shows good follow-through and commitment.  While others are barely paying attention in the meeting, and promptly forgetting what was said, you are adding some (albeit) minor value.

2. Notes emphasize communication. I am convinced that better communication could save most businesses 20-30% of their SG&A costs. Most meetings are not needed. I did a post on bad meetings here. I also also conducted a survey of this blog post’s readers. As of today, 52 people responded to the question:

Meeting survey on consultantsmind

You can see that 82% of people (44% + 38%) felt that meetings were only useful <50% of the time. That is pretty consistent with my experience as well. Most meetings would not be needed, if people knew the overall mission, their role, and trusted each other.

3. Notes benefits others. This is a huge service for all attendees. It serves as a a summary of topics, agreement and drives accountability on action items. It’s a force-multiplier because your small effort is enjoyed by lots of people, including people who did not even attend the boring meeting. It provides continuity for the next meeting because you can just see what was discussed last time.

4. Notes require thinking, if done well. Good consulting is all about structuring problems, and putting information into buckets. Meeting minutes are a great way to practice this by putting the content into categories, bullets, and making it easy to understand what was said. Synthesize what was said, into something concise and consulting-worthy. You are taking a collection of thoughts and adding structure.

5. Notes define the narrative. If you write up notes after a meeting, you are crafting the results in your own voice. It also summarizes the story line of the conversation. This is a powerful tool – not for bad, or misleading – where you can move the conversation along and prevent people from dwelling or wandering off topic.

6. Notes are flexible. You can type up “minutes” after a meeting, client interview, or even a phone call. Call me geeky, but sometimes, I type up a conversation with a peer or my boss, especially if a lot of content was covered. This reduces misunderstanding.

7. Notes keeps the conversation going.  Meeting minutes are a reason to contact meeting participants, ensure that action items are completed, and driving activity.

8.  Notes allow you to be different. Let’s agree, most meeting minutes are boring, useless, and administrative. People write them without thinking. It is just a written transcript of what was said, without any grouping of thoughts. It does not advance the discussion and is a waste of time. It makes the meeting seem even worse.

Luckily, after reading this post, you are not like that. Your meeting minutes will be professional, useful, and a way to brand yourself. A few tips for notes:

  • Outline who attended, the date, and the topic
  • Write them up the same day, don’t wait too long or you will forget everything
  • Ask a friend or someone else who was there to “proof-read” the notes
  • Adopt the right “tone” and not be too forceful, or misses the nuance
  • Remember that your notes will likely be forwarded to other people
  • Don’t be afraid to add in weblinks to things that were mentioned
  • Don’t be afraid to cut/paste presentation material from the meeting. .into the notes
  • Outline action items, owners and dates (if they were agreed upon)
  • Put 5% of your own voice in the notes. . . what was the purpose of the meeting, and to what extent was this accomplished.  Re-read the notes and add/subtract words that help you to tell the story that needs to be told.  Be yourself.

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6 thoughts on “Meeting minutes: 8 good reasons to write up those notes

  1. funrunner

    I love taking meeting notes. They’re good for me and good for others. Win-win right there.

    Love your blog too!

    1. consultantsmind Post author

      Thanks for reading. Yes, I am a fairly avid meeting minutes writer too. It sharpens your mind, and personally, I am such a “motor memory” person that I think the writing helps me to remember the stuff.

  2. Nisar

    Hey! Awesome blog, love your articles
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  3. Chris Fahlbusch

    In addition to all of the stated reasons, notes provide me with a record over time, which has proven invaluable. In the case of a recurring meeting, notes are helpful to me in preparing for the next meeting.

    I will take the time to create or transcribe notes into an electronic media that supports searching them at a later time. Pictures of whiteboards, or scans of handwritten notes, unfortunately aren’t easily searchable (yet).

    Cheers,
    Chris

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Me too. It has saved me more than once when someone asks me about previous projects. Thanks for reading.

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