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How to get people to take action after meetings

You've attended the meeting and taken meticulous notes. You didn't miss a single detail and you managed to capture everything that was said. You are feeling pretty pleased with yourself as you send out the meeting notes immediately after the meeting. However, as time goes by you are dismayed to discover that nobody has read the notes and agreed actions have been ignored. Why has your meeting summary failed to be effective?

Ineffective meeting summary notes can be an excuse for the lack of action

One of the key criticisms people level at meetings is that they are a waste of time. They say, "nothing changes as a result of the meeting so it was a waste of time". They are often right. There is no point having a meeting if some meaningful action doesn't result from it. Ineffective meeting summary notes can be an excuse for the lack of action.

Often, meeting note takers are obsessed with getting every last detail in writing. That's okay as long as the key details are not hidden in a forest of text.  The notes must be structured so that when attendees look through them later it is easy to find the actions they are responsible for. If they have to spend time hunting through paragraphs of text to find the actions they won't do it.

So how do you structure your meeting notes to make actions clear? The best way to do it is to extract all the actions into a table which is shown right at the start of your meeting summary notes. The table should show what the action is and who is responsible for it. It should also ideally note when the action will be done. These things should have been explicitly agreed in the meeting as each action was assigned and at the end of the meeting should have been read through to ensure that everyone understood what they had to do. Then the rest of the detailed notes can follow in the rest of the meeting summary document.

Structure your meeting notes so that actions are clearly highlighted.

Having the actions right at the start of the notes in a clearly labelled table makes them really easy to find and each person can find their own actions quickly. This makes it much more likely that the actions will get done.

Now, if you are thinking you don't have time to write up meeting notes that way or you think that it is a chore to send out meeting notes without having to spend extra time editing them into a more useable format you need to realise that you are not using the right tool for the job. If you are using pen and paper, writing up and reformatting will take time. If you are using a word processor or text editor then it will take time to reformat and send out. Knowing that should be proof enough that these are the wrong tools for the job. There are now tools like Meeting Gold that do the job for you, instantly without any effort on your part. If you are not using a tool like Meeting Gold for your meeting note taking then you are simply being far less effective than you could be. You are using time that you don't need to use when you write up notes after a meeting.

Use an app that is specifically written to make meeting notes more effective.

So, write as much text as you like in your meeting notes, capture as much detail as you feel you need. But, at a minimum make sure that the actions are clearly stated and that they are easy to find, ideally in a clear table at the start of the notes.


Image credit: coward_lion / 123RF Stock Photo

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Reader Comments (1)

Great tips, thanks you!

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdating mail

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