What's the best way to write meeting minutes?
I just received a client’s minutes of a two-day meeting. It is a stapled 20-page doubled-sided Word document. I am happy I am not a stakeholder and don’t have to read it. I can just comment on it. Negatively.
Imagine that you actually missed that meeting, and someone emailed you a 40-page file, which you’d have to read to understand what’s been going on. Then imagine what will happen at the next meeting when someone says, “Let’s review the minutes of the last meeting.” Absolute torture both times.
People assigned to write minutes often feel that they need to capture in real time absolutely everything that was said at a meeting. Audiences, however, want to monitor topics and tasks. Here’s what I always recommend if you’re asked to prepare meeting minutes:
During the meeting try to listen carefully to capture the high-level message related to each topic. It’s more important to focus on the status or decision related to each topic than on the process that got the team to the decision.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone to clarify a point you missed or didn’t understand.
Prepare a table rather than a bulleted list for your minutes. Perhaps the top row could list: TOPIC, UPDATE, NEXT STEPS, RESPONSIBLE PARTY, DUE DATE. If you use the same template for each subsequent meeting, your audience can scan quickly to see what progress the team has made on each topic.
So that’s my advice to the client who sent me the minutes. I wish him luck as he slogs through the 40 pages and revises the document to satisfy his team.