'Meetings are events where minutes are taken and hours are lost' is a well-worn saying. Even the process of taking, retyping and distributing meeting minutes is tiresome.
If you doubt this, think of how many times you have volunteered to take the minutes.
It’s a job nobody wants. Worse still, once the minutes are done and distributed, how many people actually read them?
But there are some options for how minutes and meetings can be much more efficient and effective.
Here is one such option. Open a new blank document and select the landscape orientation.
Across the top, type the name of the meeting, date and venue as usual.
Now create a table with seven columns. The four left-hand columns are for the 'Agenda' and the remaining columns are for the 'Actions'.
Column one contains the number of the agenda item. Column two is the agenda item itself.
Write the agenda item in the form of a question as this forces you to be much more specific about the actual topic of the item. For example, rather than writing “staffing issues”, it would be much better to write “How will we source sufficient casual staff to cater for the expected rush of customers over the holiday season?”
Anyone reading the first option enters the meeting blind about the actual topic whereas the second question option, enables everyone to come prepared for the topic.
Column three lists the name of the person who will lead the discussion.
Column four indicates how much time will be allocated to this topic. This is very valuable for the meeting chair to keep everything on time.
Column five is blank until the meeting starts because this lists the specific action that arises from the discussion of each topic.
Don’t worry about recording everyone’s opinion on every topic. In most cases, it doesn’t or shouldn’t matter who said what – just capture what action was agreed upon.
Column six lists the name of the person responsible for that action. Column seven lists the date/time by which this action should be completed.
Columns five, six and seven can easily be filled in whilst the meeting is in progress, so immediately after the meeting concludes, the completed document with agenda and actions can be distributed to attendees.
One more small step in the next 24 hours
Trial this combined agenda and action item approach at your next meeting that requires a record of minutes.
It may not be appropriate for formal board or governance meetings, but it can be very effective for regular project update meetings or even compliance meetings where you need evidence that the meeting took place and what actions were agreed, but you don’t need a five-page transcript of every comment made.