Many of us at Borshoff serve on community boards and committees, and we strive to attend every meeting. But when we miss a meeting because of travel or a client commitment, reading the minutes is a great way to catch up.
Often, we ourselves are responsible for preparing clear, succinct outcomes reports after client meetings.
One thing we know is not all meeting recaps are created equal. Which are stronger? Those that employ good writing. The following is my list of writing tips, adapted for meeting notes.
How To Keep Better Meeting Minutes
- Make every word count. Be precise in your word choice. Pretend each word costs you a quarter – and you don’t want to waste your money! Tighter writing is usually easier to understand. A good test: don’t make me have to read the sentence twice to understand it.
- Be sure the message is complete. Beyond clear writing, have you provided the necessary facts? Avoid acronyms that aren’t widely known. Will a board member understand if he or she wasn’t at the meeting?
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. If presenters had notes, handouts or a slideshow, ask for the information and include it in the minutes. This saves you the time of capturing and editing the details of that topic.
- Keep paragraphs to a few sentences. Short paragraphs are easier to scan and comprehend.
- Use bullet points and numbered lists. This helps make your content quick and easy to review.
- Include sub-heads to break things up. Sub-heads are also useful for making your content easy to scan, and they help keep your copy more organized.
- Write like you talk in a meeting. There’s no need to dress your content up or make it more complicated than it needs to be. But, at the same time, don’t be overly casual, ya know? This is a professional document.
- Consistency matters. Set up and refer to a style sheet so you are consistent in how you capitalize committee names, format dates, use serial commas, etc. This sheet should be used across the organization.
- Double check everything. Check the facts, and make sure there aren’t any typos.
- Beware of common grammar traps. She gave the report to Dan and I. The group of seniors are eligible for the program. If these sentences don’t make you cringe, they should. This post is a great way to avoid the grammar hall of shame.
- Be timely. Write the minutes or recap promptly after the meeting. You’ll be more accurate when the information is fresh in your mind. And those who couldn’t make the meeting will appreciate the quick update.
- Double back. Write the document, and then review it the next day. Read as if you were a board or committee member who missed the meeting.
- Use a pre-reader. Before you hit “send” to the full distribution list, ask one person on your list to read the document. Consider it a test run. He or she can let you know if something isn’t clear, then you can make an adjustment before sending to all.
Writing is fun. If you love words, it’s a craft. And if you are passionate about the cause your board advocates for, keeping good minutes is mission-critical.
Consulting principal Susan Mathews no longer spends her days at Borshoff’s office but her wisdom continues to guide us. We remain committed to serving our community through board and committee membership and we strive for clear, concise, and impactful communication in those settings with the same passion that we bring to client work.