Meetings are fundamental to most jobs, and professionals attend an average of 25.6 meetings a week. But with all these appointments, you may find yourself struggling to keep up with the rapid exchange of information and take effective meeting notes. Don’t feel bad; even the most attentive human brain can only absorb so much at once.
Granted, creating meeting minutes is both an art and a science. But you can hack your brain and capture more information with the help of some solid note-taking skills—and a great meeting notes template.
How important are meeting minutes?
Minutes serve as documentation of company meetings. They record everything from a meeting’s date and time, purpose, and attendees, to the decisions made and the action items agreed upon. They also include deadlines for deliverables and scheduled follow-up meetings.
Properly noting and organizing this information on one platform can help you:
- Create structure. Meeting minutes can serve as guides. They help you stay on top of the company schedule, provide a short-term plan for the team, promote accountability, or serve as a measuring stick for your team’s progress. They’re also instrumental in preparing for meetings, as they remind everyone what tasks should have been accomplished and what steps they should be taking next.
- Save time and money. Having notes prevents teams from repeating the same agenda. This keeps you from wasting billable hours while allowing you to act on business decisions faster. If you utilize a meeting notes template, you can also reduce the time spent on organizing critical discussion points.
- Gain legal protection. The Internal Service Revenue (IRS), auditors, and courts of law recognize meeting minutes as legal documents. Keeping minutes that thoroughly record company leadership’s actions can offer a layer of protection, should your organization find itself dealing with legal problems.
A detailed meeting agenda helps
Preparing for work meetings isn’t too different from gearing up for class: you need to review the topics in advance so you are equipped to participate. This means that managers must provide a detailed agenda a few days before the scheduled meeting. The agenda could include the topics you’ll be discussing, important documents that will be referred to during the meeting, and/or lengthy proposals that participants will need to vote on. This allows each participant to familiarize themselves with the topics you’ll be tackling. It also grants them enough time to collect their thoughts and actively participate. It’s no surprise that survey data by Booqed revealed that 67% of professionals believe having a clear agenda is what makes meetings successful.
Formatting is as important as the content
As complete as your notes may be, bad formatting can render them useless. Having a standard meeting notes template is essential to making sense of your meeting minutes and ensuring all team members can quickly retrieve information. Ideally, it should contain the following, with each section properly labeled:
- Meeting title, location, time, and date
- Names of attendees and their roles in the organization
- Agenda for the meeting
- Recap of the previous meeting
- New topics for discussion, including the decisions made and action items agreed upon
- Major arguments for or against any motion
- Topics discussed that weren’t on the agenda
- Topics for the next meeting
You should prepare this template before the meeting so you can concentrate on recording information in real-time. This makes it easier for you and your colleagues to review what transpired, check the tasks they’ve committed to, and determine what agenda should be tackled next.
Power tip: Standardize your meeting minutes by using Evernote’s meeting notes template. It has fields for meeting details, follow-ups, team assignments, decisions made, and the meeting summary; you can also customize it to fit your specific needs. The template is shareable, so you can distribute it to your colleagues effortlessly.
Don’t forget your action items
A productive meeting is measured by the outcomes it can yield. Unfortunately, due to a lack of actionable items or proper documentation, ineffective meetings cost companies 31 hours of productive time every month.
To remedy this, avoid getting caught up in trying to record everything word-for-word. Instead, focus on jotting down big ideas, decisions made, and how to address the concerns raised in the meeting. From there, teams can convert action items into concrete tasks with due dates and assignees. This allows managers and executives to accurately track progress, identify changes they can expect before the next meeting, and quantify the impact of each meeting.
Power tip: Make sure all meeting participants remember what they need to do by sharing meeting notes right from Evernote. Simply click the “Share” button on your note, enter the email addresses of the people you need to share it with, and set a permission level. You can also choose to create a shareable link if you want your notes to be accessible to coworkers who don’t have an Evernote account. Aside from making notes shareable, use Tasks in Evernote to turn your action items into to-do lists so it’s easier to see what each team member should focus on after the meeting.
Allow space for creativity and ideas
Everybody processes information differently. So, while it’s important to keep track of important meeting points, you must do so using methods that allow you to retain information better. This is where more creative note-taking habits come into play. For example, visual learners may want to consider incorporating mind maps, Venn diagrams, or quadrants into their notes. This allows you to explore ideas more thoroughly and illustrate hard-to-explain topics. Whatever serves you best!
Power tip: If you feel more comfortable taking notes by hand or incorporating mind maps, diagrams, and similar visualizations, Evernote’s Document Scanning feature is for you. This allows you to convert your handwritten notes into digital files—so all of your thoughts and ideas are safely stored in the cloud.
Own meetings with your notes
Making the most of each meeting doesn’t need to be complicated. The simple habit of creating detailed minutes is enough to ensure your team discussions are pushing the company forward. It also pays to leverage tools like Evernote to keep your minutes as organized as possible. This way, all proposed action items are carefully documented, and you can reinforce close collaboration—even after you step out of the conference room.