Alternative to meeting minutes

I hate taking meeting minutes.

Minutes are the instant written record of a meeting. They typically describe what happens in a meeting, include a list of attendees, key topics discussed, points raised on those topics, and resolutions (if any) on those topics. Sounds easy enough doesn’t it? So why do people hate being the one who takes minutes? In my experience, it is very difficult to take minutes objectively and participate in the discussion at the same time. It also takes time after the meeting to take the minutes and distribute them. To top it off, there is a feeling that this is a useless duty because to know that few people read them.

So my recommendation is to change the concept of minutes to one that people are willing and even eager to read. Unless you need traditional minutes for legal purposes, consider the following alternative to meeting minutes.

What do people want to know about a meeting? Basically, people worry about the decisions that are made in the meeting and what will happen next. Therefore, create a “Board of Decisions”. This is a flip chart that captures each agenda item (a short statement or headline, not a paragraph) and the decisions made on that topic. For instance:

Agenda item # 1: Marketing a new product Decision: Identify the appropriate target audience for this product and schedule three focus groups with them. Prototype exhibition. It should be finished in 60 days from now. Peg will spearhead this effort.

This captures the end result of any discussion you have had. This contains what happened at the meeting so that anyone who did not attend will know what will happen.

Note: A Decision Board may also include a decision to postpone making a final decision until the next meeting.

For instance, Agenda item 2: Budget reductions Decision: No decision was made. Everyone should review their estimated expenses through the end of the year and report this number at the next meeting on November 1 for further discussion.

The value of holding a Decision Board is that it reminds the group of what was decided and provides members with a focused set of instant minutes.

I recommend that the Decision Board be typed and sent after the meeting as a reminder of what was accomplished. It’s quick and easy to review for both attendees and those who weren’t at the meeting.

Therefore, creating a decision board as an alternative to meeting minutes will improve participation and create more effective meetings.

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