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Written by Camilla Olsen
on May 27, 2019

At FirstAgenda, we want you to forget about taking meeting minutes and focus on the meeting at hand.

However, whether you’ll write them by hand or let FirstAgenda create them for you, meeting minutes are an essential part of your meeting, and you should always make sure they’re done properly and shared with all meeting participants and other relevant co-workers.


Minutes are important because they help us remember, they update people who didn’t attend the meeting, they help us stay on topic, they make sure we all have access to the same information and that we all know the action items.

 

Meeting minutes on laptop

Here are the 5 reasons explained:

 

1. Meeting minutes help us remember

That means we won’t have to discuss anything twice only because we forgot the original decision - that's an important reason to take your minutes seriously.

We’ve all been at that deja vu meeting, where half the time was spent trying to figure out what we decided at the last meeting. Did we agree on hiring two or three new employees? Should we prioritize project A or B? While discussing this over again, we’re at the same time playing through a he said, she said situation, because no one can remember what actually happened at the meeting.

Taking minutes in hand

 

Research shows that within one hour, the average person will already have forgotten 50% of the information they have been presented to. Within 24 hours, that number becomes 70%, and within a week, a whopping 90% of the new information is gone.

 

With that being said, our brains are actually good at noticing repetition and that helps us remember what’s been said. So, making minutes is a great way of creating this repetition and help us remember the decisions and discussions at meetings.

Even if the minutes help us remember more of what we discussed at the meeting, it might not be detailed enough. But, when everything is written down you can always go back and read exactly what happened, instead of trying to pick it out of your memory. It’s easy and foolproof, and you can quickly get on with the actual agenda of today’s meeting.

 

2. Meeting minutes update people who didn’t attend the meeting

Sometimes it so happens that we can’t attend a meeting for whatever reason. In these cases it’s great to have colleagues who want to repeat the discussions and decisions at the meetings.

That’s just not the optimal way of sharing potentially important information from the meeting. As mentioned, people forget (quite a lot), and you might miss half of what actually happened, due to that reason.

 

With meeting minutes, you can read the details all by yourself, so you don’t have to worry about missing a thing - and certainly not an important decision.

Notes on whiteboard and minutes on laptop

 

There might also be people who need information about what happened at the meeting, but shouldn’t have a say (for whatever reason) in the decisions and therefore aren’t invited as meeting attendees.

When you create an agenda, you can choose to only include the participants that can/should have a direct effect on your meeting and the decisions, while people who only need to know about the decisions, can save time by not attending. The best way to make this a success is by taking good minutes with all the important information.

This will save everyone's time - those who don’t have to actually attend but also the attendees, because smaller meetings inevitable are faster.

 

3. Meeting minutes help you stay on topic

It’s easy to fly from topic to topic when you’re having a friendly discussion with your colleagues in the meeting room. However, meetings are more efficient if you stay on topic and focus on the agenda items.

When you know everything is being recorded in the meeting minutes, it helps you stay on topic. Those minutes are being sent out to all participants, and maybe even some colleagues who aren't at the meeting - and they don’t need to know what you had for dinner yesterday.

What they do find important is a meeting that leads to the decisions you were actually planning to make, and when you know it’ll be written down, you have to be clear and specific on what is being decided. Now, that’s a great and underrated reason to take minutes.

Meeting minutes in hand

It’s important to follow up, but it can be an art. When done right, it can help us maintain momentum after the meeting for quite some time.

 

4. Meeting minutes make sure we all have access to the same information

Unfortunately, we can’t store infinite information in our heads - and as mentioned before, most of the information we take in goes right out again. Therefore, our brains tend to get picky about what information to store and remember - meaning that we have to ask each other and help each other out all the time, to find the information that we need.

 

If everyone makes their own minutes while also trying to participate in the discussion a lot of important information will get lost. Also, we tend to only write down what we think is relevant for ourselves.

With good meeting minutes, we all have access to the same information - all the information. What was decided, what are the action items, what will we do next time? It’s all there, in one place, for everyone to see, and we don’t need to waste any more time on information hunting.

Another important benefit here is that we’re sure to have the same information written down and thus avoid uncertainty post meeting. Or worse: Acting on different information and potentially wasting a lot of valuable time.

 

Taking minutes on laptop

 

Meeting minutes can certainly be a valuable tool, if they’re giving the respect they deserve.

 

5. Meeting minutes make sure we all know the action items

One thing is having the same information, another is having information that you can actually use. This might be the most important reason to take minutes: Everyone knowing what to do and when to do it. Also called specific action items.

All meeting minutes should have a section for action items.

Often, we have different things to finish up before next meeting - sometimes crisscrossing each other. With specific and detailed minutes (and action items!) it’s easier to navigate in.

The action items will also show who’s responsible for what, and thereby having someone held accountable if the task aren’t completed. With that knowledge, most of us will make sure to finish the job before the next meeting.

There are numerous ways to take minutes, but we have gathered a 7-step guide on how to write the perfect minutes.

 

The recap...

Meeting minutes save time and energy.

You can have the most productive and effective meeting in the world, but it won’t matter much if you later spend hours on hours remembering, recapping and discussing the meeting again - or if you even need another meeting, just to recap what was decided at the last one!

With meeting minutes, everyone will be up to date, everyone will remember the decisions and everyone will have a clear idea of what happens next and who is going to make it happen.

 

If you haven’t by now, you should make this your new motto: There shouldn’t be a meeting without meeting minutes.

 

Do you want to skip writing meeting minutes?

With FirstAgenda's meeting app, you don’t need to spend time and energy writing the perfect meeting minutes, but you can still maintain knowledge and ensure momentum from your meetings. Curious?

 

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