There are two very similar types of documents dedicated to keeping track of what’s happening at the meeting. They are called meeting minutes and a meeting summary. It is important to distinguish these two types because the last one is more informal, while the first one is an official document. So, you shouldn’t be overzealous with meeting summaries, and better use a meeting summary template whenever you can to save your time. Here are some tips on how to summarize meetings.
Meeting report: What should be in it?
In most cases, meeting summary is more than enough to cover the most important aspects of the session. In case you were not required to write detailed meeting minutes that include all participants, decisions, and points of view, it is better to do a short meeting report. It does not even require you to write notes about meeting organization, which is the subtlest part.
We should clarify one important thing before we start explaining how to write a meeting summary. In case of a summary format, your document shouldn’t contain tons of unnecessary data. It must be helpful, so you can reflect on the event, understand the flow of the discussion, and remember key points of the meeting. You can make notes on the go using meeting recap templates – printed or digital ones from yoyomeeting – to share with the attendees right after the meeting and avoid allocating a separate time slot to it in the future.
Even though meeting summaries are more informal documents, they still have to include the basic information that makes the final report easy to understand. The meeting summary should include:
- Timing: at what time the meeting started, at what time it ended, how long it was
- The host of the meeting and who initiated the event (usually, it is the same person)
- Type of meeting (formal or informal)
- What was the purpose of the gathering
- Who was responsible for writing the minutes of the meeting or who was taking notes
- Important thoughts and decisions during the meeting
- List of people invited but didn’t attend the meeting
During the meeting, listen carefully to every speaker, pay attention to every point of view voiced, while ignoring unimportant distractions. Do not make unnecessary notes, keep paragraphs in the report as short possible.
Meeting summary template
Keeping track of all your meeting notes can be difficult. Especially when you have to host multiple gatherings each week. In this case, using a particular summary template for each meeting is a smart choice as it makes your preparation routine much easier. However, you can always stick to a universal template, make it your main tool to cover the most important aspect of every meeting and write clear and concise reports.
Depending on the specifics of your work, the meeting summary template can vary a lot. In all cases it must feature a clear structure that you can adapt to any meeting in your organization. Build it to help you reach the shareable result by the time you finish writing the last paragraph. If you have been wondering how to write a meeting summary, you may also be interested in action items that we discussed in a separate article.
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How to write a meeting summary
In many cases, management doesn’t have time to take notes or write a complete meeting summary, so they ask someone else to do that instead. If you happen to be that person, we can share a few recommendations you will find useful for this routine.
- Ask your managers about their expectations for the meeting report. For example, whether it should be detailed or just contain the main ideas of the meeting.
- Ask about meeting minutes – whether you can refer to the information in this document while preparing your summary.
- Try to get early access to the meeting agenda, so you will be able to analyze the most important decisions and details upfront.
- Consider bringing along the meeting report template to take notes directly in it during the session.
Stay objective and unbiased while you are taking notes for the meeting summary, especially if you are doing this job for someone else. Consider bringing a voice recorder with you to make sure you don’t forget something important and have a backup in case you do. Sometimes even partially pronounced idea could be important and worth mentioning in your summary, and without a recording, you won’t be able to recall it.
When the meeting is over, it is time to get to writing your summary. It is best to do this as soon as possible so that the memories of the event are still fresh in your head. Here are the three main pieces of advice to follow at this stage:
- Read your meeting recap notes twice and compare them with the information in the meeting report or meeting minutes.
- Identify discussed topics, highlight main ideas for each of them, remembering the context and relevant insights.
- Write a small overview for each topic. Be objective and to the point – your summary should be one page long (two pages max for longer meetings with multiple topics). If you are stuck, have a look at our additional tips on how to write a meeting report.
Meeting summaries simplified with yoyomeeting
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