Dear Meeting Guru,

"Can you give some advice on taking better minutes of meetings and how best to follow up after the meeting?"

DeAnn Wylie

Blessed Meeter,

Here are some tips to help you take better minutes at your next meeting.

1. Have a copy of the agenda with you. Follow the agenda closely during the meeting and use a stopwatch to note when items begin and end.
2. If the agenda item has been addressed under the allocated time, the speaker should finish. The time that's left over can be used to address any items that couldn't be covered earlier in the discussion.
3. It's up to the group, with the help of the facilitator, to decide to keep on the issue or move on. For example, the group may want to get through the rest of the agenda and then revisit the extended issue at the end of the meeting. In some groups, the leader may make this decision. If it's important enough, a separate meeting may be scheduled to discuss an issue in more detail, which would also give people time to prepare better for meaning discussion.
4. It's the timekeeper's role to let the group know when a speaker's time is up. When one minute remains, signal the group non-verbally (raise your hand, ring a small bell). This gesture should be determined before the discussion begins. When the speaker's time is up, make the gesture again. Using a non-verbal gesture is comfortable for the timekeeper since he doesn't have to interrupt and encourages the speaker to be concise and stay on time.
5. The timekeeper should also alert the facilitator and group members to breaks. You could say, for example, "I just wanted to let everyone know there are only 10 minutes before our break". You could also write reminders on cards and hold them up as a reminder.

As follow-up, e-mail an attachment of the meeting notes to each of the participants. Or save them to the company's network in a meetings folder. This way, all the meeting participants have access to the meeting notes if there's an idea or discussion they'd like to revisit. In the e-mail, also summarize the action items assigned during the meeting. Outline what was assigned, to whom it was assigned, the priority level and the due date. When a meeting's adjourned, it's not always clear who's responsible for what, which means action items aren't always carried through. By summarizing the action items in an e-mail, you can be certain all participants understand who's responsible for what.

As the wise philosopher Confucius once said, "When you have gotten your own life straightened out, things will go well without your giving orders. But if your own life isn't straightened out, even if you give orders, no one will follow them." In other words, your inquiry tells me you realize your job is important. It also tells me that you understand that you can affect others in a positive manner if you do it well. It takes a meeting room made up of individuals like you to attain a constant state of meeting nirvana and blissful effectiveness.

Until next time…may good meeting karma always be with you!

Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.




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