Meetings are critical for planning purposeful actions and taking strides towards your company’s main goals. As such, you can’t afford to get them wrong. Poorly-organized meetings have cost US-based businesses an estimated $400 billion as of 2019 and will continue to eat into your bottom line if not addressed.
There are two main problems that you need to address if you want to get the most out of your meetings.
The first is the amount of time spent — Wrike’s research on stress shows that the average manager spends between 6-15 hours each week on meetings alone. This number is far too high and makes you wonder if some of that time would be better spent elsewhere.
The second problem, and perhaps even more important, is the quality of the meeting minutes. It’s not enough to have someone type up a few notes acknowledging the main topics of conversation. You need a fault-proof system that doesn’t allow for confusion or meeting minutes action items to fall through the gaps.
This article will go over the various types of meetings that require minutes and cover the best practices for writing meeting notes to accelerate progress rather than slow it down.
Popular meeting types
Let’s talk about a few of the most common meetings and how they’re best managed, from start to finish. You can use this information to create and use the most helpful meeting notes templates. Here are a few of the most important meetings that happen at the beginning, middle, and end of a project:
- Project kickoff
- Brainstorming session
- Project review/lessons learned
Everyone knows the basics of a project kickoff meeting: Get the team together, talk about the project, share expectations, and discuss how to work together. The result should be a team that’s on the same page and ready to hit the ground running. There are a number of specific elements that go into a successful kickoff meeting, including:
- Develop an agenda. The agenda should include the purpose of the meeting, as well as a project statement/summary, participant list, project scope, timeline, approach, assignments, how collaboration will take place, and any background information to help attendees prepare.
- Devote adequate time to agenda items. Introductions may take five minutes, while discussing the project scope may take 15-20 minutes — and that’s okay. If you don’t have estimated times listed on the agenda, keep timing in mind as you go through the meeting.
- Cover every item on the agenda. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get off track and not fully address an agenda item or two. If you know you might not address every agenda item, cover your highest priorities first.
- Follow up promptly and accurately. The meeting isn’t over until you follow up — share meeting notes, action items, the schedule of next steps, and suggested times for the next meeting with all attendees. A meeting notes template makes this easier since all information from the agenda and conversation during the meeting is captured in one place.
Now to the next meeting: Could it be a brainstorming session? Yes, please!
Brainstorming meetings run the risk of going off on tangents, using a lot of time but not producing results, and bringing together too many people to be effective.
Jeff Bezos is known for the “two-pizza rule” for meetings: If there are more people than can be fed by two pizzas, there are too many people in the meeting. It’s brilliant, right? You want to generate lots of ideas, but more bodies don’t equal more ideas. Brainstorm meeting best practices include:
- Keep the invite list small. Follow the pizza rule and mix it up. Bring together people from different departments or teams to get fresh perspectives.
- Plan at least two brainstorming meetings — one to generate as many ideas as possible and another to focus on the best ideas from the first meeting. It’s possible an idea or two can be refined or combined and result in the ultimate solution.
- Ask participants to come prepared. Provide some background information and ask participants to come up with a few prepared ideas. That makes the meeting go more smoothly right from the start.
- Set a 30-minute meeting limit. The longer the meeting, the fewer creative ideas you’ll get at the end. Plan to keep it short and sweet so participants don’t get tired.
- Consider the location. Another meeting in the same old conference room could stifle creativity. Perhaps have a “progressive meeting,” similar to a progressive dinner, where participants move to different areas during the meeting. Or consider a lunchtime session in a reserved room at a local restaurant.
- Reinforce that there are no bad ideas. Gather every idea your team can muster, then take some time after the meeting to cull less-creative solutions. Your second session can focus on the best of the best ideas.
After all that brainstorming and work, what comes next?
You’ve kicked off the project, brainstormed the heck out of it, then finished it — and now it’s time to wrap things up with the project review or “lessons learned” meeting. This meeting can be a minefield of challenges. It’s easy to go negative. Participants can pile on one person or a less-than-positive event and make it a scapegoat. Some people may not be receptive to constructive criticism.
The list goes on — but this is one of the most valuable kinds of meetings. Done right, the project review meeting helps teams determine what went well, what should be changed for the next project, and what should perhaps be removed from the project checklist altogether.
- Gather relevant information. That includes reports, data, and feedback from the team, client, or partners during the project. This should be shared in advance of the meeting to inform the conversation.
- Select a handful of events to discuss in detail. Choose a few good and a few bad so you can learn from both.
- Develop and share the agenda. Include the relevant data and specific events so participants can prepare for the meeting.
- Set the standard of civility and politeness. Remind participants that everyone’s feedback is important and feedback should be directed at the project, not specific individuals. No cage fights!
- Be open to all feedback. Some of it may not be complimentary, but keep an open mind and remember the purpose of the meeting is to improve for next time.
How to write meeting minutes
Meeting minutes lay the foundation for future business discussions around strategy and next steps. As such, you need to know how to write meeting minutes effectively to minimize the risk of confusion or misinterpretation of instructions or action items.
There are several key elements you’ll want to include whenever you take meeting minutes. These range from the individual meeting notes with action items and their respective due dates to overarching goals and any additional notes.
Here’s a brief overview of each element and why it’s an important takeaway from any meeting:
Note the finer details
A critical element for any meeting minutes is information on when and where the meeting took place. It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. With the date, time, and location, you can develop an archive of previous meetings to timestamp the birth of certain ideas or the launch of different initiatives.
Another straightforward element that should be present in meeting minutes is a list of participants. Failure to do so can result in confusion later down the line as the records won’t show who was involved in the meeting.
Summarize the meeting goal
A project goal statement or summary outlines the main purpose of the meeting. This is the overarching objective that will provide context to any of the action items assigned in the wake of the meeting.
In any meeting, there’ll typically be a single topic of focus. It’s important to note this down so anyone reviewing the minutes will understand the conversations that took place and action items that came from the meeting.
Recap the previous meeting
A simple recap of the previous meeting can again provide context to the current one. With a list of agenda items and action items from the last meeting, it’s easier to stay on track and keep the conversation moving in the same direction.
It also helps prevent instances in which a particular issue is overlooked as it hasn’t been written down and is forgotten about.
Detail the agenda items
Agenda items are any topics or activities that you discuss during the meeting. By detailing the agenda items, you can create an accurate record of exactly what issues were addressed, the concerns raised, and resolutions reached.
It also provides an idea of the structure of the meeting, mapping out the order of conversation, which can be useful for future reference.
Define the actionable items
Action items are the tasks assigned to participants after the meeting has concluded. They stem from the overall action plan born from the project goal and help provide direction to each employee regarding the next steps.
To keep track of action items in meeting minutes, it’s best to use a template to quickly plug them in as they arise. Once the meeting is over, share the action items as soon as you can so everyone has access to them.
Assign responsibility and deadlines
The last step to writing meeting minutes is assigning responsibility to the right participants and setting reasonable deadlines. An action item that isn’t assigned to anyone or doesn’t have a due date is worthless as it won’t be prioritized.
To bring all these elements together in a coherent way, you can use the Wrike actionable meeting notes template. With a pre-formatted structure, all you have to do is enter the information into the corresponding fields as you go.
This way, you won’t struggle to keep up with the pace of the meeting as you don’t have to worry about creating categories for each element along the way.
Meeting notes best practices
While taking meeting notes may seem relatively straightforward, it’s not uncommon for the meeting to get away from you as you’re typing up the minutes. To prevent this from happening and to make the best notes possible, here are some best practices to bear in mind:
Back up your meeting notes
If there’s anything worse than poorly-taken meeting notes, it’s notes that are impossible to track down. Writing notes on paper is an outdated practice that’ll likely cost you in the long run and, of course, takes far too much time to digitize and distribute effectively.
Your best option is to take the notes on a laptop or tablet, and rather than store them in a single place such as in an email, use a collaborative work management tool like Wrike. With Wrike, your notes will instantly become available to anyone you share them with, so you can have full transparency from the moment you upload them.
If you use Wrike's actionable meeting notes template, your job will be even easier since the notes will already be located in the software.
Distribute the notes quickly
With meeting minutes, you want to distribute them hot off the press. As soon as the meeting is over, all the participants should receive a summary, a list of action items, and any additional notes you took.
That way, you streamline progress towards your project goal as each participant can get to work on the action items they were assigned as soon as they get back to their desk.
Whichever medium you use to store and distribute your notes, set reminders to keep the topics discussed in the meeting fresh in the participants’ minds.
When you use a communication tool like Wrike, you can trigger reminder alerts for all the participants through the various action items you’ve assigned to them. Wrike’s integration with Google Calendar also lets you sync up with your calendar to ensure no deadlines are missed.
Designate an action item manager
While it may not be an official role, it’s worth designating one person to oversee the completion of the action items you assigned. This person’s responsibility will be to follow through with the participants and ensure they’re on track to finish their action items in time for the deadlines, providing assistance when necessary.
One of the most important aspects of meeting notes is acknowledging previous discussions while also looking ahead to upcoming meetings. To make sure your meetings follow a common thread and build upon one another, be sure to send invitations to follow-up meetings on the same day as the initial meeting.
Using the Wrike actionable meeting notes template
To start, create a parent folder in Wrike titled ‘meeting minutes.’ Within this folder, you can create various action items to get right to work once the meeting is over.
In the description area, you can map out all the previously described elements to accurately define what went on in the meeting. Use various views in Wrike to format the elements in a way that makes sense to you, and simply input the relevant information once the meeting is in session.
Don’t forget to include any additional notes that may not fit under the label of ‘agenda item’ or ‘action item’ but are still important for the ongoing success of the project.
Following the meeting, Wrike acts as an action item tracker since you’ll be able to visualize it in the dashboard even once it’s been assigned to a participant. You can effectively keep track of all the action items and monitor any progress that’s been made towards achieving the goals you set.
Meeting notes with action items can be complicated to type out, assign, and backup without the right system. The Wrike actionable meeting notes template provides a comprehensive framework for your notes and is backed up by powerful communication features for seamless follow-through.
Sign up for a free two-week trial today and get prepared for your next meeting.