The current pandemic has accelerated the trend toward remote working, virtual meetings, and video conferencing. Experts believe this trend will continue, with many businesses choosing to continue working virtually even after the crisis has passed. It means virtual meetings are here to stay and organizations need to develop processes to support remote working.
Running a virtual meeting can be easier and more difficult than a regular meeting. It’s less expensive to organize since team members don’t have to travel. There’s no need to book a meeting room or check that all participants can attend. However, it’s also easy for attendees to get distracted during virtual meetings or multitask on other issues. That’s why it’s crucial to set an agenda, stick to it, and also take accurate virtual meeting minutes.
Without a virtual meeting agenda, you’re more likely to lose control of the meeting. It will take longer, participants will get bored, and everyone complains about wasting time. On the other hand, virtual meetings minutes help you recall the decisions made, deadlines set, and other actions taking during the meeting.
Meeting notes are the official record of what happened during any meeting. For important occasions such as board meetings, they are a legal requirement. They can be used as evidence in court to resolve business disputes. They serve as documents to prove that members have adhered to policies or have performed their duties adequately.
Of course, the virtual meeting minutes for a weekly team meeting are not as crucial as a board meeting. But it should be standard practice to always record meeting minutes so you can refer to the document later.
Virtual meetings minutes are important for multiple reasons:
Virtual meetings tend to be shorter and more frequent than regular meetings. So you need to adapt your meeting minutes strategy accordingly. An advantage of virtual meetings is that you don’t need to write and maintain a physical document. If meetings are recorded, then you have another way to review what happened.
Teams may have a central repository to store virtual meeting minutes or simply maintaining a continuous record in a single document. Some companies prefer to use multiple, custom meeting-minute templates. Others prefer to use one template source that is customizable.
How you choose to record and store virtual meeting minutes depends on the business but you do need to set a process.
In an ideal world, all participants would take notes and you would compile meeting minutes from those notes. In reality, few people take meeting notes and you’re not likely to have anything coherent if you rely on it. It’s far better to appoint someone – either the same person or rotate among participants.
Virtual meetings are by their nature flexible. A virtual meeting can be a seminar, a team-building exercise, weekly status updates, or simply an opportunity for teammates to catch up. Whatever the purpose, try to use video calls whenever possible. This way you know who’s speaking, people are less likely to interrupt or talk over each other, and participants can ask questions by raising their hands.
It’s far easier to take meeting notes when you know the attendees. You can take a roll call if some people plan to call in via telephone. Ask everyone to introduce themselves so you know who is talking at any time. Always ask audio-only attendees to say their names before talking, especially if you are not familiar with everyone.
For longer and more important meetings, it’s best to work with the meeting host to set everything up correctly. Check that the agenda was sent out, you have a copy and you know who is attending. Ask them about meeting details like how long it’s likely to take, what are the main agenda items, and what notes are indispensable to the meeting minutes. This will help you take better notes and make sure you don’t miss the most important details.
Be sure to schedule breaks for longer meetings. The bigger the attendee list, the longer the meeting will be. You can schedule meeting breaks in advance or agree to take them after specific items are done (a voting round for instance). With virtual meetings, attendees can often slip out for a short break if they are only listening to a presentation. But the person taking meeting minutes cannot afford to do that for fear of missing something. So scheduling breaks is very important for long meetings.
It can be tempting to wing it when it comes to taking meeting minutes. But you’re likely to miss important details if you do so. It’s better to create a template that you can re-use and customize as needed. It also helps when reviewing previous meetings. You know where to find pertinent information immediately with a standard template/format.
Meeting minutes should always include any decisions made and action items, basically, anything that needs follow-up or review later. So be sure to summarize these crucial moments so everyone knows it’s on record. If you had a vote, make sure to announce the results as well.
When you’ve created specific processes for virtual meeting minutes, get feedback from attendees and the meeting host after the first few meetings. If anyone feels some information is missing, incorporate the ideas and improve the process. For example, the meeting host may feel it’s better to review the previous meeting notes instead of just emailing the document to everyone.
So what do you need to include in any virtual meeting minutes? The meeting minutes format can be customized to suit your business. But every virtual meeting’s minutes should include some standard details such as date and time.
If you’re stuck on where to start, here’s a sample template with some must-have details:
The first thing any meeting minutes should include is the date, time, and location of the meeting. In-person meetings take place at a physical location, so that needs to be recorded but virtual meetings don’t have one. If you have some participants in an office and others are remote, you can still add a location for the meeting. Don’t forget to include how long the meeting was as well.
The list of attendees is also important, especially when it comes to recording voting results or decision-making. The virtual meeting minutes should show who attended, who did not, and why if necessary.
Some meetings have a set agenda while others may not have a formal one. But the meeting minutes should include either the agenda or purpose. A short description will suffice, especially if these are periodic meetings to update everyone on project status or similar. For instance, a weekly team meeting may not have an agenda. But you can state the purpose – project status update or weekly catch-up.
Always be sure to include any decisions or action items, big or small. This is often necessary to follow up later on so you need a record of what decisions were made. An example could be:
– Product launch: date and venue decided (details)
– Jones: follow up with the client on Monday
– Smith: contact supplier before inventory audit on 7/6/21
If any decisions come with deadlines, be sure to record them. It’s easy for details like this to slip through the cracks, so always include dates.
Sometimes a meeting throws up new problems that were not anticipated. It could happen as a consequence of previous decisions or some attendee may bring it up. Be sure to record those as well.
Not all meetings have a question and answer session but many will have them. If anyone is presenting a document or if it’s a training session, be sure to schedule a dedicated Q&A session. You can have one session at the end of the meeting or have smaller sessions after specific sections. Dedicated Q&A sessions make it easy for the person to take meeting notes.
No two meetings are alike, so you’ll likely have some miscellaneous items that don’t fit any of the standard sections. So make sure to have a place for these unexpected parts. It might well be that it remains empty most of the time but it’s useful when you need it.
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