I was recently talking to my friend, product manager in large financial institution who is dealing with projects delivering process digitalization and large systems integration. I asked her what would really help her teams in the context of their projects. I expected anything but this: improvement of quality of meeting minutes.
In large organizations with concurrent running projects, numerous stakeholders and distributed teams is communication a key. Sharing information is vital for making the right decisions, assigning priorities and managing tasks across multiple projects. Meeting minutes are supposed to inform its recipients about decisions made, tasks assigned and discussed issues. It really is important to do the meeting minutes right because otherwise information get lost and things do not happen as intended.
Here are my personal tips how to write good meeting minutes:
- Prepare before the meeting and pre-fill your template
- Use template with prefilled names of participants. When the meeting starts, only indicate who is present on your list. It is saving a bit of time.
- Every meeting should have at least simple agenda. Fill in your agenda in the meeting minutes template in advance. It will help you to structure the notes as the meeting goes.
- Type the minutes during the meeting
- Type the minutes during the discussion. It helps to capture all important information but mostly it avoids spending your valuable time by writing the minutes after the meeting.
- I will not lie, I learned to type fast. I still type just with 3 – 4 fingers max but that’s enough.
- Following discussion and making notes at the same time requires practice. Facilitate the meeting in blocks following your agenda. Always summarize loud what was agreed, what next steps will be taken, who will be responsible and inform the participants that you are writing it down right now.
- Rather describe then abbreviate. Keep your audience on mind when summarizing the notes. It is worth to describe what really happened, which points were raised and what was the full conclusion. Short statements without context are not very helpful when it comes to figuring out what should be done next or why were certain things agreed.
- Distribute the meeting minutes with executive summary
- When the meeting is over, your notes are finished and ready for distribution. But not that fast… as not so many people enjoy writing meeting minutes, I’m not sure if there are many more who like reading them.
- When crafting the email to distribute the meeting minutes, prepare short executive summary that you put in the email body. Include the main agreements, high priority tasks and next steps. The recipients will appreciate that because it is saving their time and gives them quick, valuable overview.
Meeting minutes are not only part of basic project communication or, as often seen, administrative task that just takes time. As a project manager, you may use the meeting minutes as a tool that helps you to build trust with your stakeholders. Meeting minutes that document well what was discussed and what was agreed are sign of transparency and open communication. And that counts on a long term!