Turn your meetings into action plans: 5 tips

You won’t find many people who love meetings. That might be because attendees often feel like meetings are a waste of time.

At Marilyn Halsall’s workplace, “action minutes” are part of the remedy.

Streamlined and informal, action minutes record little, if any, discussion. They record only decisions and who will do what by when. That makes it easier for people to note what they actually accomplished in the meeting.

“People don’t take time to read the full minutes,” says Halsall, a human resources administrator at Canadore College in Ontario. “They want to quickly see ‘What do I have to do before the next meeting?’or ‘What decisions did we make?’ That’s why so many people find action minutes useful.”

Since Halsall introduced the new format, it has received rave reviews among meeting attendees, including the college’s board of governors.

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5 tips to yield results

So, the meeting’s over. Within moments, everyone is scurrying back to check voice- and e-mail messages, quickly forgetting about the action items they just took on.

Your mission? To produce minutes that remind everyone what needs to happen next, and assure them that their meeting time was well spent.

These five suggestions will help you write minutes that yield results:

1. Use a consistent format. People refer to minutes to remember what the group decided and who’s in charge of doing what next. Help that information pop out with a consistent format that people will see each time.

2. Include discussion recaps, and key them to the agenda topic they match. No need to give a word-for-word account (see exception in #3), nor should you editorialize.

Example: Bob feels we need to look into industry averages, as well as our company’s numbers for the past few years, before finalizing our sales goals.”

3. Be specific when it really counts. Here’s the exception to the recap rule above: If the group makes a major decision, include synopses of the discussion’s debates and conclusions. A vague account will make your minutes less valuable.

4. List complete names and titles under an “Attendees” headline at the start of your minutes. Should someone refer to your minutes two years later, he might not know who “Bob” was.

5. Present action steps and deadlines clearly by using bullets, underlining or bolding key words. Make sure attendees can see at a glance what’s expected of them.