In a previous post, we discussed reasons meeting minutes are essential for ensuring meetings are actually a productive use of your employees’ time. These include preventing the need to retrace steps or repeat discussions, keeping meetings moving forward and documenting action items.
In this post, we’ll talk about the key pieces that should be present in meeting minutes in order to achieve these objectives. At a minimum, your meeting minutes should include the following:
Attendance might seem rather insignificant in meeting minutes, but when it comes to documenting key decisions and action items that were made—see additional discussion below—keeping a record of who was present at the meeting is important.
There are two related reasons for this:
- It helps ensure that those who have a vested interest in those decisions and action items speak up at the appropriate time.
- The fact that others know who attended the meeting and the contributions they did (or didn’t make) can help avoid backsliding.
Taking and recording attendance also sends a very strong, albeit subtle, message that showing up matters. It creates a paper trail that can be easily accessed if issues or questions come up in the future.
As noted previously, a meeting should have a beginning, middle, and end. The agenda sets the tone for the meeting and helps keep everyone on track. One of the key purposes of meeting minutes is to drive action.
Distributing an agenda ahead of time also can help ensure that attendees come prepared to discuss the items on the agenda, including bringing along whatever supporting documents or information may be required.
Documenting key decisions is, perhaps, the single most fundamental purpose of meeting minutes. “We had a meeting, and here is what we decided.”
As noted in our previous post, making a clear record of what decisions were made prevents having to rediscuss those items. Additionally, it serves as a common record for those who were not in attendance.
Anyone who has had an action item from a meeting knows how much nobody likes to get action items from meetings. But, as unpopular as they may be, they are important for keeping track of who is doing what and when. Without action items, it’s easy to leave a meeting in agreement about what needs to be done but with nobody assigned to actually do the work!
In this and a previous post, we’ve discussed the importance of meeting minutes as well as what key elements need to be present to make them as effective as possible. These minutes are a simple tool, but they can have implications beyond the meeting itself.