6 Steps to Taking Effective Meeting Notes and Meeting Minutes ‚úćūüŹĽ

Everything you need for taking meeting notes and meeting minutes.

Our agendas are filled with meetings, sometimes more than we like to. But since you invariably arrive at your meetings armed with The Ultimate Notebook, you should make the most out of it. That's why we came up with 6 steps to take for writing better meeting notes and meeting minutes.

First of all, let's explain the difference between meeting notes and meeting minutes. Meeting notes are the notes you take in your Ultimate Notebook, everything you jot down in your proper elegant handwriting. These notes are personal and for your eyes only. These can easily be written in The Ultimate Notebook by hand.

Meeting minutes are written according to a parliamentary procedure and they only contain the essential information of the topics discussed in the meeting. The meeting notes are public and should be sent to everyone involved after the meeting. Thus, these should be made on a digital asset like a laptop.

Now you know the difference between notes and minutes, let's dive right into the tips!

Before the meeting

1. Create a structure

Since meeting minutes should be sent according to the same procedure, you need a clear structure. Use the same structure for your notes for an easy transfer. Take a head start by outlining that structure in your Ultimate Notebook before the meeting starts. You can include the following items:

  • Date and time of the meeting
  • Names of the meeting participants and those unable to attend
  • The subject of the meeting
  • Taken¬†decisions or actions agreed to be taken
  • Next steps
  • New meeting date and time

2. Prepare the meeting

Most of the time, meetings are scheduled way ahead which is great. Because then you'll be able to prepare the meeting so you can take your notes more effectively. You can prepare your notebook for the meeting like this:

Preparation Meeting notes

  • Pre-fill in the date, in the right or left upper corner of the paper.
  • Make a title for the meeting containing the subject, such as 'Weekly stand-up 23' or 'Review content plan'.
  • Make boxes with the names of the participants next to it, when you enter the meeting, you can easily tick-off the names that are actually there. Leave some space after the name to add the reasons for absence, to add the function of the attendee or to write how someone is feeling if that is discussed.
  • Then, leave enough space to write down all of your meeting notes.
  • Create outlines¬†to write the decisions you took during the meeting.
  • Do the same thing for the next steps.
  • Conclude¬†with a placeholder for the date and time for the next meeting.

During the meeting

3. Take effective meeting notes

Imagine this: you enter the meeting perfectly well prepared, you created your structure and you are confident. Until all of a sudden you realize: "Damn, I don't know how to take effective meeting notes."

Don't worry, we'll guide you through it! Have a look at these tips and tricks:

  • If you know the topics that will be discussed, you can already write that down as subtitles to keep everything in order.
  • Only write down keywords. Writing down whole sentences will slow you down and will make you lose track of the conversation.
  • Use abbreviations. Only you understand your own abbreviations, so you need to figure them out yourself. Common examples are: with = w/, without = w/o, because = b/c.
  • Next to abbreviation, you can also use your own code language. For example, if something is important, you can precede that part with a ! or a *.¬†

Use abbreviations in your meeting notes.

4. Record the meeting

Journalists really master jotting down notes. Of course, they have to. However, they always got a plan B. They record their interviews for two reasons.

First, they do it so they can fill in the blanks if the interviewee speaks too fast and they can't hold up so afterward they can fill in the gap. Secondly, they do it to quote the interviewee correctly.

For us, meeting note-takers, that first reason is the most important. You can record the meeting to have a fallback for when you weren't able to keep up with the high pace or if you fell asleep for a couple of seconds.

What you can do as well is to ask for more explanation or a repetition of what just has been said. That way, not only will you have the time to write down what you missed, but the conversation will be thought-through deeper and every attendee will understand the topic better. 

After the meeting

5. Writing clear meeting minutes

Perfect, you've got your meeting notes all written down in your Ultimate Notebook. Now you want to turn your offline keywords into clear digital meeting minutes for everyone. Here are some tips on how to write clear meeting minutes:

  • Just like the meeting notes, these should be short but clear. You can write in full phrases now so it will be more elaborated but keep it short because nobody is eager to read emails that are ten pages long.
  • Write your meeting minutes as soon as possible. The meeting will still be fresh in your mind and you'll be able to write down everything fluently. The longer you wait, the more you'll forget.
  • Of course, you have your plan B. You recorded the entire meeting. Yet, the more you have to listen to your recording, the more time you lose. And you know the saying: time is money!
  • Use the same tense in your meeting minutes. Don't switch between past, present, and future tense. I prefer using the present tense, like this: To create a content calendar, Joey proposes to use Google Sheets. To do: Joey makes the Google Sheet.
  • Only write down objective information and keep your thoughts for yourself. The only time you can write your own opinion is when you are summarizing arguments for or against a decision.
  • Refer to other documents or emails if necessary, don't try to summarize them in your meeting minutes.

6. Sending out your meeting minutes

Send meeting minutes via email.

The very last part is making sure your meetings are sent to everyone who needs to see them. You can do this in various ways.

For example, you send an email to everyone who needs to access the meeting minutes. You can either just use the meeting minutes as the mail itself or add it as an attachment.

You can also store the meeting minutes on a shared drive, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or an internal management tool such as Notion or Atlassian.

Be sure to order them in a folder by category or date so they'll be easy to retrieve.

Are you more confident to take meeting notes and send out meeting minutes now? Become even more confident with The Ultimate Notebook!

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