Are you ready for a short story?
Jenny is an Executive Assistant and resident badass Ninja at Company XYZ. Following a recent meeting, Jenny organized her notes and made some changes to a presentation that was discussed during the sit-down.
After revisions were completed, Jenny passed the edited presentation to relevant team members. Soon enough, an email arrived from Colin, one of her colleagues, requesting some significant updates.
“I don’t understand why you made those changes to the fourth slide,” he said, “I think it was better before.”
Jenny flips through her notes from that meeting to see who suggested the changes and why—though she already had a sneaking suspicion of what she’d find.
Sure enough, on the second page of her meeting minutes, she sees it was actually Colin himself who requested the tweaks she made. Jenny takes just a second to feel smug and indemnified, before moving on to explain the context to Colin—with cold, hard proof in hand.
Sound familiar? Chances are, you’ve been in a similar situation before. This, friends, is just one of the many scenarios that speak to the importance of effective and detailed minute-taking during meetings—and we’re not just talking about being able to bust Colin.
Why Minute-Taking Still Matters
As the above fictional anecdote demonstrates, minute-taking is essential to keeping track of what was said during a meeting. It gives you something to reference when details get lost in the shuffle.
As you’re likely far too familiar with, meetings often spiral out of control. People talk over each other, topics shift, and some employees get so wrapped up in conversation they forget what’s even said. The answer? Minute-taking. Everybody benefits from a structured document that explicitly details what was discussed—making colleagues, board members, and anyone else involved accountable for their decisions and contributions.
Minutes also help drive action for a company and its team.
We’ve had enough of those meetings where issues get talked to death, without any progress ever made. But with this crucial document in hand, it’s much more obvious who’s responsible for each action item—and which next steps need to be taken. In fact, many meeting minutes include a section specifically for action items.
One more major reason minutes are important—cue the horror movie soundtrack—is because they’re sometimes required to ensure an organization follows state laws.
However, the most common scenario is tracking conversations that involve your company’s board members or leadership (although they definitely help in other, less formal meetings too!). The written account exists to document actions and decisions of these key individuals. That’s important information. And believe it or not, meeting minutes are considered legal documents by entities including courts, auditors, and the IRS.
Structuring Your Notes
Alright, you get it. These notes don’t just exist to entertain you.
Now that we’ve really hammered home why minutes are important, it’s time to get organized and strategic in your approach to taking them.
Of course, the structure of meeting minutes will vary from team to team. However, there are a few must-haves you need each and every time you whip out your pen:
- Location, date, and time of the meeting
- Names of all attendees, titles where necessary
- Chronological summary of issues discussed during the meeting—typically in the order of the agenda
- Main motions, as well as who made the motion, who seconded, and whether or not the motion carried or failed—and by how many people
- Action items
Again, minutes are often customized to suit the business, particular bylaws, or even the type of meeting (for example, you likely won’t have motions if you’re just summarizing a regular brainstorm session with your team).
When in doubt, it’s best to include these nuts-and-bolts items to ensure your minutes will hold up with any people or groups that may need them.
Minute-Taking in This Millennium
Yes, the act has been around since the days of typewriters (and even before), and many traditional best practices are still helpful today. Developing your own shorthand, for instance, can be undeniably helpful in taking detailed notes without a pesky hand cramp.
Let’s be honest though—with advances in all sorts of different technologies, you don’t necessarily need to resign yourself to an hour of furious scribbling. There are a couple handy tools you can use to bring the ancient practice into this millennium.
If you’re in search of a free solution (yes, I said free!) to take some of the pain out of minute-taking, Less Meeting could be just what you’re looking for.
As a note-taking app designed just for taking minutes, it’s sure to become your new best friend. It allows you to automatically send notes to attendees right after the meeting wraps, and also has a feature you can use to assign to-do items. As if that isn’t enough to have you singing this app’s praises, you can also record the meeting audio directly in the app.
A comparable Less Meeting option worth checking out. While it’s not free ($14.99), it’s more comprehensive. The interface mirrors a standard email setup, so getting used to the relationship between notes, categories, and action items won’t be a tough feat. Meeting Gold also gets bonus points for its power user options—like shortcuts and a tagging system.
Are you looking to get super high-tech with your minute-taking? Meet Livescribe—it’s the stuff your techie dreams are made of. These smartpens are perfect for those of you who prefer to handwrite things without having to manually retype them into digital documents or applications later. The magic inside sends every doodle, word, and asterisk you write to whichever screen you choose.
Starting at $149.95, the pens are a little pricey. But something that could take the pain out of minute-taking for you—while improving the efficiency of meetings—is worth every penny.
Like meetings, the minutes have been around for years. And love ‘em or hate ‘em, it looks like they’re here to stay. But as Ninjas, it’s up to you to transform outdated, unproductive tasks into power boosters that improve entire processes. With these tools, you’ll be more than on the way.
Do you take meeting minutes? Do you have any strategies or tools that have helped you take some pain out of the process?