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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Meeting Dark Arts: Publishing Minutes

Want to know how to write meeting minutes that get read? To get people to read your minutes ensure they are brief, easy to read, with all of the key points, and action items. Then use a format that can be read on a blackberry or other mobile device. I developed the following format focusing on summary points like this one below:

  • Topic 1 - Speaker
    • Item summary
      • Additional detail (only if needed)
    • Item summary
  • Topic 2 - Speaker name
    • Item summary
    • Item summary
  • Action items
    • Action - Assignee - Due Date
The upper portion of my notes consist of the topic, the speaker, and a summary of what they said in bullet point form. With the lower portion providing a list of action items. Most of us don't care who attended the meeting, what time it started, or what the dial in number was, so I leave them off of the minutes.

Not all fonts and formats translate well to mobile devices, I recommend the use of the dash (-) symbol to identify each item and indentation for supporting points. Because this can be read in a blackberry or other mobile device very easily I have found the minutes actually get read.

I then copy the entire minutes and paste them into the body of the email. I then print my copy and staple it into the notebook the original notes were taken in. If there is any question at a later date I have both the typed summary and the original detail. This has proven to be incredibly powerful in turning meetings into a meaningful medium for getting things done.

Meeting note taking is my biggest concern. If we are having a meeting and no one is taking any notes they there is a strong correlation that nothing will come out of the meeting and the next meeting will be a discussion of the same topic. It was with this in mind that I combined the observations of some of my best project managers and analysts work into a minuting system that gets read and acted on. If a meeting is minuted well those who were not able to attend will have what they need, and those that did attend will know their responsibilities.

I am a fan of taking notes on a laptop and know from personal experience that I can type much faster than I can write, plus it is already typed making the summarization process much easier. However there are few that view a laptop in a meeting anti conversational. Or you work for a company that does not allow laptops for fear of personal information being lost. I will cover the tools I use to take notes the traditional way in another post. I would also recommend looking into the Livescribe Digital Pen.

If you liked this post you may also like:
Meeting Dark Arts: Meeting Management
Meeting Dark Arts: Conference Call Etiquette

Written by Jeffrey Hurley, in Stanley, Hong Kong

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