When we attend a meeting it is very important to know how to create an effective meeting summary, even more so if we are in charge of compiling the information, to later share it with our teammates.”A small pencil is better than a big memory”, said Miguel de Unamuno and it is very true.
There are many data collection techniques that are used to gather information in an effective and organized way, with a specific objective (1). That is why in this article we share with you what you should take into account to make a meeting summary that meets all the objectives.
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- In a meeting, information is shared by a group of people dealing with a topic of interest to all attendees. The information to be discussed is always of a very valuable nature for the development of a project or a common objective for the attendees.
- We use meetings as a useful tool to analyze combined opinions, contradictions, or other data arising from the interaction between people (2).
- The purpose of a meeting summary is to help remember important details that unfolded during the meeting, to have a follow-up, and next steps leading to a certain goal.
10 steps to write a meeting summary
A meeting summary is a message, most often in email format, that is sent to meeting participants. It provides an overview of the meeting and reminds recipients of the next steps, estimated project time, and any other relevant information that was discussed.
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1. Taking detailed notes of your meeting
The use of data collection techniques is a very important stage where data is inspected and transformed with the aim of highlighting useful information, leading to conclusions and decision support (3).
Data collection is an activity that all members of the meeting should perform, but it is very important to have a person in charge of this activity to share the information, which will serve as a follow-up for the next meeting.
When we talk about taking detailed notes, we are referring to writing down relevant information to be discussed at the meeting, which is why it is important for the note-taker to have a meeting agenda as a reference.
|Key decisions||Record a brief summary of each topic covered in the agenda and the outcomes they discussed, keep this part limited to no more than three sentences, and ask for confirmation from the room before writing down any plans or meetings.|
|Assignments||Make sure to keep track of the assignments that are given, including the task, the person it is assigned to, and the deadline for completion.|
|Ideas||If ideas, questions, or follow-ups come up during the meeting, they can be written in this section, to be addressed at the end to prevent important information from slipping out.|
The goal is to keep your notes as simple as possible without losing any important details. Cluttered notes make it difficult to understand when you want to summarize, and can lead to mistakes.
When writing down the information you should first place the topic to be discussed as a title and in parentheses, the person who has raised the issue, and what was discussed, including one of the participants according to the relevance of their intervention. At the end of a topic, draw a line and place the following title according to the order that continues in the meeting.
The following infographic is a suggested note-taking structure that you can implement at the next meeting.
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2. Highlight key decisions made
It is not necessary to write down everything discussed in the meeting, keep this section as concise as possible, and do not use complete sentences. It is more advisable to make charts, and graphs with arrows indicating steps or workflows.
The information taken in this section should be pertinent and relevant to both meeting attendees and those who were unable to attend, so it is important to take notes that provide action items discussed in the meeting.
The information is a mechanism that allows the individual to take the data from their environment and structure them in a way that serves as a guide for their action (6).
3. Assign clear action items during the meeting
As new tasks are assigned, it is very important to document the decisions that emerged. To optimize this part of the summary, be sure to write down the name of the task, who is in charge, and the due date. This will keep the team aware of the steps that need to be completed to accomplish each of the goals and how they are progressing on the project.
The meeting summary is a tool to clarify expectations with the team. This is why it is important to write action items clearly, thus defining tasks and responsibilities that lead to results.
4. Include a meeting highlight
The two basic tasks of any meeting summary are to collect data and then categorize and interpret it (4). With the information that has been collected, you must now understand and analyze what to include and what to leave out. At this point, the aim is to explain the essence of the meeting in a brief and affable way.
A good meeting summary is precise, easy to understand, and direct, to achieve this result we must use simple and easy language without losing important information.
It is not bad to repeat key information in the summary, such as steps and objectives for the progress of the project, the more emphasis is made on a certain point the easier it will be for the members to understand the relevance of the topic.
5. Prepare a task list for the next meeting
Highlight the agreed-upon next steps, which are important information for the development of the project or strategy. This information should be written toward the middle of the summary. It also helps to align the team so that everyone is clear about where they are in the project.
The data recorded in the meeting summary becomes an excellent tool for all attendees to have the same information and share the same objectives.
Two subjects have the same information, not when they have the same data, but when they have the same action (5).
6. Attach supporting documents if necessary
If PowerPoint presentations or documents with information relevant to the project were used during the meeting to help show the information more clearly, it is important to attach them to the summary. These supporting documents do not always have to be formal, they can also be articles or publications that have provided valuable information.
7. Include a reminder of the date of the next meeting
It is a good idea to include the date of the next meeting if it has already been set. This gives team members an estimate of the time available to execute the agreed-upon action items. If the date is not defined, you can write it as “to be defined” or request an approximate date from the meeting chairperson. This information can be included at the end of the summary.
8. Acknowledgements and address
To end the summary, it is good to include acknowledgments to all those who participated in the meeting. Also, mention who to contact in case of any questions that may arise in the lead-up to the next meeting.
This goes a long way toward building companionship among team members.
9. Edit and proofread your document
Just as every document needs to be reviewed and edited, the meeting summary is also important.
- At this stage, it is necessary to review your notes, so that they are direct and concise, without ambiguity.
- Maintain the temporal and natural development of the meeting, using headings and subheadings to better specify the information.
- Carefully review and correct any spelling, grammatical, or clarity errors.
- Ensure that the information included is brief and relevant.
10. Share the meeting summary with attendees
Once the meeting summary has been proofread and edited, it is important to share the information as soon as possible to ensure its relevance.
You should make sure which members of the team you can share this information with, normally it is shared with all meeting attendees and should also include those who were unable to attend, you can rely on the meeting leader to clarify this point.
A novel idea to share the summary of the meeting, is to make it in audio format, this makes it easier to have more information at hand, not necessarily only when they are in front of the computer in the office.
More and more companies are doing this using private podcasts, and consider it an excellent way to communicate internally with the team.
Example of a meeting summary
Information within companies is a very important resource because it is a determining factor between the success or failure of the projects that the organization pursues growth. That is why knowing how to make an effective meeting summary, where the crucial information for the projects is located, is of great importance.
Having a clear structure of how to make a meeting summary is the first step to taking the key points accurately and effectively, without losing important information. In this way, the team is kept aligned and informed about the steps to follow for the good development of the company’s projects.
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5. The information design. (n.d.).
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