Laila El Tawil
Taking meeting notes is crucial for maximizing the impact of any meeting. However, many team leaders struggle with taking meeting notes that are good enough—to the point where many simply decide to record their meetings and play back the audio (which is slow) or have a transcription service create their meeting notes for them (which can be expensive and takes a long time to complete).
Knowing how to take meeting notes that are valuable to the whole team is important for maximizing the impact of team meetings—and a crucial meeting management skill in general. Why are meeting notes so important? What meeting notes format should you use? And, what other best practices for meetings should you keep in mind?
What is the difference between meeting notes and meeting minutes?
While they both serve the same purpose, which is documenting what was discussed in the meeting, they have some differences. Meeting notes are more on the informal side. They don't follow a certain template. They're used to capture the key details of the meeting.
On the other hand, meeting minutes are the formal meeting notes and require approval from key stakeholders.
It's safe to say that meeting minutes and meeting notes are equally important. In this article, we'll zoom in on the importance of meeting notes and what to include in them.
Why are good meeting notes important?
Meeting notes/minutes are a crucial tool for teams because they can help you do the following.
Capture helpful ideas
Team meetings are a great opportunity for team members to share their ideas and insights. Well-made meeting notes help capture these ideas so they can be given the attention they deserve. This helps to demonstrate that employee input is both heard and taken into account—which can increase trust and employee engagement.
Increase alignment with meeting initiatives
If a team meeting is held, but nobody remembers the action items from it, does the meeting really matter? Taking good meeting notes and ensuring that employees have access to them can help increase alignment with meeting initiatives—largely because this helps ensure that employees remember the action items from the meeting.
Keep absent employees updated
Not every employee can attend every meeting. Some employees might have other appointments, be in the middle of traveling for work, or may be sick on the day of the meeting. Detailed meeting notes help keep these employees apprised of important takeaways from the meetings they missed. This, in turn, helps them stay on the same page as their colleagues who were able to attend.
Record agreements reached during the meeting
If anything was put to a vote or a consensus was reached on a particular topic, recorded meeting minutes can help ensure that the results are preserved (and even who voted in favor of a particular item). This can help improve acceptance of vote results and make it easier to recognize who contributed to team decisions.
These are just a few of the basic uses for meeting notes. However, to get the full benefits of taking meeting minutes, it’s important to know how to take notes. Here, using a meeting notes template can be helpful.
What to include in effective meeting notes
Knowing what to include in meeting notes can help you better organize your notes and ensure that you capture the most important information. While meeting notes don't usually follow a certain meeting note template and techniques can vary according to each individual, you can consider the following a simple meeting notes template that can help you capture effective meeting notes.
Why is this meeting being held? What are the key goals of the meeting?
Who is attending the meeting? What are their roles?
Meeting agenda topics
Highlight the list of topics. Add timestamps can help keep the meeting moving along.
Are stakeholders sharing ideas? If so, record them in your meeting notes
Prioritization of issues
Which issues/meeting items are the most important? Establish a priority order, so the most important issues can be handled first.
What is the measure of success for this meeting/project/product? Establish your success criteria.
Key resource list
What resources should be used by employees following this meeting? Create a list with appropriate links or file names.
Post-meeting action items
What actions should employees take following the meeting? Who is responsible for each action item? Establish a list of action items and responsibilities.
What were the key takeaways from the meeting? Summarize important notes and takeaways.
After the meeting, it may be helpful to schedule follow-ups with various team members to check progress and make adjustments. Create a list of follow-up meetings.
Note: You may want to add or remove some of the aforementioned items based on the nature of the meeting or the specific needs of your team.
Tips for taking effective meeting notes
1. Select a note-taking method
Did you know that there are several techniques to take notes? Just find the one that works the best for you according to your style and personal learning style. One of the most famous techniques is Cornell method.
It basically helps you capture key ideas as well as the details relevant to each idea. So, to do so, you take your notes in the form of two columns: a small column on the left side and another big one on the right side.
The small column is for writing short sentences, the key ideas from the meeting, while the big one is for writing the details. The thing about Cornell method is shifting from one topic to the next in a quick and natural manner without being overwhelmed. You can capture the key ideas from the meeting agenda before the meeting starts and write the details during the meeting.
2. You don’t have to write everything
It doesn’t make sense to write down word for word in meetings. Meetings include a lot of conversations; some are necessary, while others you can skip. A good note taker has an eye for what should be included in meeting notes. Put yourself in the shoes of those reading meeting notes later and include notes that matter.
3. Share your meeting notes during and after meetings
Sharing your meeting notes during the meeting can make the attendees more focused, especially in long meetings. They can easily follow what’s being said and on the other side, they can jump in and suggest points to add if you miss anything.
Needless to say, meeting notes should be shared with all attendees after the meeting. It’s important to ensure that everyone is on the same page on the decisions made and if anyone misses the meeting, they can always refer to the meeting notes and catch up. Also, allow the attendees to add to your meeting notes to make the notes more comprehensive, in case you missed any.
4. Use meeting minutes software
To say a meeting was successful, you need to have meeting minutes that are as efficient as your meeting notes. As mentioned before, meeting minutes are the formal transcript of your meeting. So, you need them accurate and well-structured.
Using meeting minutes software that automatically generates meeting minutes can take the burden of creating meeting minutes off your shoulder, process a lot of info in a significantly reduced time, and provide you with an excellent meeting minute document for every meeting you hold.
What's even better is using an all-in-one meeting software, like adam.ai, that not only automatically generates meeting minutes but manages every aspect of your meetings to create a seamless experience that will transform your meetings' workflow.
Screenshot from adam.ai: Automatically generated meeting minutes
And while there may be multiple meeting management solutions available, here are a few reasons to consider adam.ai:
- adam.ai is one of Atlassian Ventures' portfolio companies.
- adam.ai is ranked a leader in the meeting management software category by G2 for both quarters, Summer 2021 and Winter 2021.
- adam.ai has been included in the Forrester Report in the AI-enabled meeting technology landscape.
- adam.ai is trusted and used by powerful teams worldwide from Johns Hopkins University, The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Microsoft, and other renowned organizations.
- And most importantly, adam.ai integrates with your existing workflow, provides a free plan for life for small teams, and is the most affordable tool for larger teams (starts at $4.99).
To sum up, this article covered the difference between meeting minutes and meeting notes, the importance of meeting notes, what to include in your meeting notes, and tips for taking effective ones. You've also had a glimpse of how meeting minutes software, like adam.ai, can supercharge your meetings and makes them productive and actionable.
Start supercharging your meetings today and enjoy your 14-day trial (no credit card needed; all features are unlocked). Just click on the link below, and you're ready to kick off productive meetings.
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