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Keeping Meeting Minutes That Drive Action Items

Meetings are a necessary evil in most organizations. While they provide a valuable opportunity for collaboration and alignment, they can also be huge time sucks. The key to making meetings more effective is keeping detailed minutes that clearly capture follow-up items and drive accountability. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore best practices for taking meeting minutes that lead to action.

Why Meeting Minutes Matter

Let’s start with why good meeting minutes are so critical in the first place.

First, meeting minutes serve as the official record of the key discussions, decisions, and action items from a meeting. They provide documentation that can be referred back to for a reminder of what was agreed upon.

Second, detailed minutes help keep meeting participants accountable for their assignments. By clearly capturing owners and deadlines for each action item, minutes enable follow-through on decisions.

Finally, thoughtful minutes help onboard those who were unable to attend the meeting. By reviewing past minutes, employees can get up to speed on important initiatives.

In summary, thorough meeting minutes lead to alignment, accountability, and continuity for the team. When executed well, they can vastly improve productivity and execution.

Best Practices for Note-Taking

Now that we’ve covered why meeting minutes matter, let’s explore some best practices for capturing meeting notes:

Designate a Note-Taker

Rather than trying to share responsibility, designate one consistent note-taker for recurring meetings. This person should have strong writing, listening, and organizational skills. Consider rotating the role every few months so it doesn’t become an onerous burden.

Share a Template in Advance

Providing a simple template in advance leads to more organized, easy-to-follow minutes. The template should include sections for:

  • Meeting name, date, location, start/end times
  • Attendees and absentees
  • Agenda topics
  • Notes, decisions, and action items for each topic
  • Next steps and next meeting date

Focus on Key Discussion Points and Decisions

Resist the urge to capture everything discussed. Instead, focus on the highlights like important discussion points, decisions, and action items. Leave out minor details and side conversations.

Clearly Capture Action Items

Call out action items separately for each agenda item. Note who is responsible, expected completion date, and any other relevant details. Make action items easy to scan and track.

Send Minutes Shortly After the Meeting

To maximize retention, aim to finalize and distribute minutes within 24 hours of the meeting’s completion. This also allows attendees to clarify or amend if anything was misdocumented.

Helpful Tools and Tactics

In addition to the strategies above, consider leveraging the following tools and tactics:

  • Use meeting invite templates that include agenda topics and designated note taker
  • Create acronym/abbreviation guides to speed up note taking
  • Audio record meetings to check accuracy (if allowed)
  • Take photos of whiteboards or flip charts
  • Designate someone to monitor action items and send reminders
  • Leverage AI meeting assistants like Supernormal to auto-transcribe, extract action items, and format minutes

Key Sections to Include

Well-structured minutes make pertinent details easy to locate. Here are some key sections to incorporate:

Attendees/Absentees

List all attendees and absent members. For recurring meetings, pull this list from the standard invite list. Highlighting absent members reminds them to review minutes.

Agenda

Capture the advance agenda for reference. Highlight any last-minute agenda changes or additions.

Notes

This section covers high-level discussions and key highlights. Avoid capturing minor details and limit notetaking to 5-7 bullet points per topic.

Action Items

As highlighted earlier, call out action items separately under the relevant agenda item. Format these clearly with owners and due dates.

Decisions

Note any important decisions made related to agenda items, like moving forward with a specific proposal.

Follow-Ups

Track follow-up discussions that need to happen outside of the meeting. Capture next steps and owners.

Next Meeting

Confirm details like date/time for the next meeting instance before closing.

Formatting Minutes for Clarity

Proper formatting optimizes minutes for easy scanning and readability:

  • Use clear headings and sections like those suggested above
  • Highlight action items by using bullet points, tables, or formatting such as bold text
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short - avoid dense blocks of text
  • Use active voice focusing on who is doing what
  • Include page numbers and dates on each page
  • Use standard fonts and consistent styling for professionalism

Well-formatted minutes are more likely to be consumed and acted upon by attendees.

Driving Accountability with Meeting Minutes

To drive real accountability from your meeting minutes, here are some proven tips:

  • Assign each action item to a specific person instead of a department or the group at large.
  • Note deliverable dates for action items and mark them on calendars.
  • Flag overdue items in the minutes and follow up offline.
  • Review action items at the start of each meeting and provide status updates.
  • Send friendly reminders leading up to action item due dates.
  • Highlight completed items for a sense of progress.
  • Call out repeat missed deadlines and escalate if needed.

Diligently tracking action items signals importance and priorities to the team.

Common Meeting Minutes Mistakes

Even experienced note takers make some common missteps. Be conscious of avoiding:

  • Too much detail - Avoid trying to capture everything discussed. Focus on the key details only.
  • Unclear action items - Ensure it's very clear who is doing what by when. Don't leave items vague or unassigned.
  • Delayed distribution - Try not to let more than 24 hours lapse before sharing minutes. The details will no longer be fresh.
  • Inconsistent formatting - Jumping around formats leaves the minutes disorganized and hard to scan.
  • Lack of review - Failing to properly review minutes often results in inaccuracies or missing information.
  • Outdated distribution – Don’t just email minutes to attendees. Post them in a shared repository for easy access.

Being aware of these pitfalls will help you avoid them!

Reviewing and Approving Minutes

To confirm accuracy, always review and approve meeting minutes:

  • Review minutes as a group at the start of the subsequent meeting. Ask for any additions or amendments.
  • Send minutes to attendees after the meeting requesting feedback within 24 hours.
  • Designate approvers like the meeting organizer or a leadership attendee to officially sign-off.
  • Maintain a change log capturing updates and corrections for reference.
  • Update the centralized minute repository with approved versions. Discard any prior drafts to avoid confusion.

Establishing a clear review process results in minutes people can trust and rely on.

Storing Minutes Centrally for Accessibility

For meeting minutes to be valuable, they need to be easily accessible. Some options for central storage include:

  • Shared drive folder - Simple but versions can get disorganized. Rely on clear file naming like “Meeting Name - MM.DD.YYYY.”
  • Intranet portal - Allows easy access from one central spot. Can integrate into other systems like calendars.
  • Cloud collaboration platforms - Tools like GSuite, Office 365, and Dropbox enable access from anywhere. Great for distributed teams.
  • Minute-taking software - Dedicated minute apps like Supernormal provide robust templates, organization, and tracking.

Choose an easily searchable solution that works with your team’s existing toolset and workflows.

Automating Meeting Minutes with AI

Manually capturing meeting minutes can require intense focus and effort. AI technologies are emerging to automate and simplify the process. Intelligent meeting assistant Supernormal, for example, combines automatic speech-to-text transcription with AI-powered summarization to generate polished minutes in real-time. Users can also highlight important discussion points and action items during the meeting to ensure they are prominently captured.

Post-meeting, Supernormal formats your notes into professional minutes based on meeting type and content. Users can then quickly review and assign auto-extracted action items before publishing minutes across your team.

By automating transcription, note extraction, and document creation, Supernormal drastically reduces the effort of quality minute-taking. This allows meeting attendees to stay fully engaged in the discussion instead of constantly writing.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

Thorough, organized meeting minutes drive accountability, alignment, and execution. To optimize the impact of your minutes:

  • Designate a consistent note taker and use templates
  • Prioritize actions, decisions, and key details - not transcripts
  • Format minutes clearly and consistently to aid scanability
  • Extract action items specifically with owners and dates
  • Leverage AI tools like Supernormal to automate manual notetaking
  • Store approved minutes centrally for easy access
  • Review minutes each meeting and track status of action items

Following best practices for minute-taking and circulation will lead to sharper, more focused meetings. Employees will be empowered to deliver on decisions made.

To learn more about how Supernormal can upgrade your team's minutes and drive greater accountability, visit supernormal.ai and request a demo today.

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