The power of effective meeting minutes

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Five team members seated at a table in discussion with four team members pictured on a computer monitor

Have you ever experienced that frustration when you come to follow up on a meeting and a colleague hasn’t done their action point, claiming to have forgotten about it?

Or you thought a decision had been agreed and suddenly it seems back on the table?

Effective, timely minutes of a meeting can help to overcome these misunderstandings and issues. So let’s explore what makes great records of meetings.

Recording minutes

Good meeting minutes are made in real time at the meeting – ensuring that all important elements are captured as discussions happen

Not so great meeting minutes are written up later by one person relying on their memory or short notes – details tend to get missed and interpretations infused into the minutes if they are not done during the meeting

Recording meeting details

Good meeting minutes include the time, date, place and attendees of the meeting – It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often these details get left out and people scramble later to try to fill in the gaps

Not so great meeting minutes miss crucial details – Leaving out these details takes away from the authenticity of the minutes as an accurate record of the meeting and may mean that the minutes don’t satisfy compliance requirements

Recording discussions

Good meeting minutes expressly detail all discussions, including objections and disagreements – including any alternate views and arguments in the minutes helps to overcome disagreements and misunderstandings later. It can also ensure that people feel heard, even if their view isn’t the final decision

Not so great meeting minutes only include vague details or final decisions without the discussions – There is a balance to be struck here. No one will read pages and pages of minutes with every single detail included. But it is important to capture enough detail to show the issues considered in reaching the decision to give it authenticity and to overcome disputes

Recording decisions

Good meeting minutes state all decisions made succinctly and clearly – powerful minutes have a list of decisions made as well as a list of decisions postponed for clarity

Not so great meeting minutes have vague reference to decisions without expressly stating the final outcomes

Recording requirements

Good meeting minutes ensure that all requirements are met so that the minutes are a satisfactory record for any compliance needs, for example for training, board meetings or HR meetings

Not so great meeting minutes don’t use the appropriate format or collect the relevant information for compliance resulting in extra work to complete compliance requirements

Recording actions

Good meeting minutes specify all follow up action points AND allocate them to a specific person with a timeframe

Not so great meeting minutes leave out follow ups, don’t place them firmly on someone’s “to-do list” or have uncertain timeframes for delivery, leaving lots of room for excuses and denials later

Building trust

Good meeting minutes build team relationships and trust through clarity, detail, and ensuring everyone’s contribution is captured

Not so great meeting minutes break trust between attendees and leave people feeling unclear what is expected of them, frustrated at the discussions and disengaged from the process

There is an art to successful records of meetings. Done well, they can result in more effective meetings, reduced workloads for compliance and can even contribute to thriving, efficient working relationships between stakeholders and team members.