Meetings are inevitable, whether they happen in person or via a virtual provider. Meetings will at some point be necessary for any Management System.
Here are 6 practical tips for having a successful meeting
1. Set up/Update Meeting Document Templates
Documents which are generated and stored for meeting purposes form part of the documented information of a management system. With meeting minutes being an official record of what was said and agreed on during the meeting.
A successful meeting is not only dependent on the context of a meeting but the preparation beforehand, the recording of the meeting, as well as the follow up of action plans post-meeting.
Most organizations will have document templates available for use. Meeting documents typically include:
The most detailed of these documents will be the meeting minutes which should contain the following details:
- Meeting name
- Meeting purpose
- Dial-in/virtual meeting details
- Date, time, and venue(s)
- Action items with due dates and responsibilities
For informal meetings or discussions, an email template can be set up to cover the following:
- Discussion Title (eg. RE discussion with X and Y on Topic)
- Discussion Date
- Summary of discussion
2. Preparing for the meeting
The person responsible for putting together meeting minutes is usually also responsible for ensuring all documents required for a meeting are ready and available. Meeting documents include preparing the agenda, attendance registers, and collaborating with anyone who needs to submit or present documents for the meeting.
If an in-person meeting is occurring, some documents may need to be printed and boardrooms booked, this should be done in advance.
If you are using a laptop, tablet, or other devices during or for attending the meeting, make sure they are fully charged and that you have access to a power outlet during the meeting. If you are taking notes by hand, it doesn’t hurt to take an additional pen with you.
3. During the meeting
During the meeting, if you aren’t personally taking notes, instruct the minute taker to take down as detailed notes as possible. This is especially important if the person is unsure if something is important or not. Too much detail is better than a set of minutes which lacks in detail.
If you are chairing a meeting, or notice the minute taker needs assistance, you can always make a verbal prompt such as “make sure to minute that”.
If any whiteboards, flipcharts are used during a meeting, take photos or screenshots of these for inclusion within the minutes.
Be sure to take note of all documents that were referred to during the meeting, where these have been shared, or where to obtain access to these documents.
4. Writing meeting minutes
A set of meeting minutes should be written as soon as possible after a meeting, while they are still fresh in your memory. Make sure all decisions, notes, important points, and action items are detailed. If an action has been assigned, the persons responsible should be named, and if possible, a due date for the action should be included.
The meeting minutes should contain links to where all images of whiteboards, flipboards, presentations, or other documents should be included or attached to the set of minutes that will be sent out to the attendee list.
Images and excerpts can even be included within the actual minutes. This is helpful of these were used in decision-making scenarios.
Any documents that need to be scanned should be done so as soon as possible.
5. Note taking for “informal” meetings or discussions
Not all meetings or discussions require a formal set of meeting documents. However, these interactions should still be recorded in some manner. The easiest way to do this is to send off an email after the meeting or discussion to reiterate what was discussed or decided upon.
This is crucial for record-keeping purposes and ensures that everyone is not only in the same book but on the same page. It also holds everyone accountable for what was said, what actions were decided on, and how to move forward.
6. Post Meeting Management
Aim to send out meeting minutes or notes as soon as possible after a meeting. At least within 3 to 5 days from when the meeting occurred. This allows everyone who was invited or attended to refresh their memories over what was discussed.
Use the system your organization uses to track actions and update them with all actions that have come out of the meeting. This serves not only as a reminder of who needs to do what, but allows everyone to keep track of progress.
If the meeting is a recurring meeting, attach the minutes to the next meeting invite as well.
All meetings, formal or informal, should be documented. This allows for record-keeping of decisions, actions, and requirements that arise from meetings, improving productivity overall.