Ever been the one taking meeting minutes? It’s not the most exciting task; somehow, it often manages to be that rare combination of tedious and stressful.
Meeting minutes may seem like an obligatory duty, resulting in a dry document that’s sent around and then stored somewhere in the cloud, never to be heard from again. But, it’s one of the most important forms of communication your company has for executing projects and keeping teams on track.
This is a major change from just a handful of years ago when everybody worked in the same place and you could follow up with sticky notes on screens – or you bumped into each other in the hall and confirmed decisions and commitments on the fly. Meeting minutes were nearly unnecessary, mainly because traditional meeting minutes, if they were prepared, were rarely read.
With so many people working outside the office, a sizable chunk of internal operations, such as planning and finalizing various initiatives, projects and proposals, are decided during virtual calls. And external business as well.
As a result, countless deadlines are set, commitments are made, and jobs are assigned during online meetings. So, if you don’t want your company’s calls to become essentially meaningless — and trust me, you don’t — you need to record all those decisions and targets and verbal agreements accurately, and that requires accurate meeting minutes.
After all, what’s the alternative? To expect everyone in attendance to have a crystal-clear recollection of what was discussed and decided?
This shift has transformed meeting minutes into a crucial element of keeping your company on track and your team aligned. Take them away, and your projects might soon be lost at sea.
So, how do you do your meeting minutes justice? The first and most obvious step is choosing a designated minute-taker (while recording the meeting audio). This not only frees everybody else up to participate, but it also keeps the note-taker focused on their task, listening for every commitment and deadline.
While most meeting platforms can accurately transcribe and capture the spoken word, this often creates new communication challenges by generating a large amount of text that just adds to the noise. Some progress is being made with automating the capturing of decisions through AI tools. However, these options can be expensive and may not always be entirely accurate, leading to decreased confidence in the result. It will still be some time before these tools can effectively capture the nuances and context of decisions.
The note-taker needs to be precise and to the point when taking the minutes. Readers should not have to wade through reams of information to find what they need; their attention must be captured quickly and the key messages delivered as efficiently as possible and easily understood.
Next is the rule of three. The minutes need to identify, at the top, actions to be taken following the meeting (Tim starts on his concept plan by Friday; Pamela reaches out to the client for guidance by Tuesday), decisions made during the meeting (deadlines or release dates set; a new product line greenlit), and risks highlighted during the meeting (that competitor in Nebraska is developing a similar product).
Minutes should note topics and issues that still need to be discussed and highlight the next meeting date, so everybody can put it on their calendar. At Virtira, our entire staff is trained to take minutes during meetings and whip up them up afterward, so we just rotate the designated note taker, safe in the knowledge that we’ll have the recap in hand shortly after the meeting ends.
Beyond the minutes, action items should be logged for follow-up, and decisions need to affect change in the areas they impact. This may involve updating a project deadline or revising an operational policy. Ignoring these updates will force people to remember the decision, which eventually hinders a new recruit or wastes time when people disagree on their recollection – and further can’t remember which meeting it was discussed in.
And that’s precisely the point: all meeting attendees should know everything said in every call, every task and deadline commitment, will be held to account and be able to trust what they say in a meeting has a long-term impact (and won’t need to be discussed again). With this approach, your staff will come to appreciate the seriousness of their words, suggestions, and decisions, and over time, accountability will be woven into your company’s meeting DNA.
That’s the gold standard for successful remote meetings.
Check out Virtira’s Meeting Minutes Template, or learn How to Run a Perfect Online Meeting with this Netiquette course, here.
This article was first published as an Author Post on Forbes.com
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