How do I create useful meeting documentation?

Minimum Viable Documentation

Meeting documentation is a hard thing to get right. ✍️ Too little documentation, and you lose track of what happened in important conversations. Too much documentation, and you’ve wasted time and energy on something no one is ever going to have time to read.

So what’s the happy medium? Minimum Viable Documentation 📝 

This kind of documentation perfectly balances between too much and too little. It tracks key outcomes, decisions, and next steps from a meeting without overwhelming people’s brains and inboxes. So how do you achieve this mythical balance? ⚖️

1️⃣ Share the load.

This may seem obvious, but your meeting needs assigned notetakers. You read that right - you need more than one! One person should never be solely in charge of documentation, as you risk missing key ideas or capturing only one perspective. And this should go without saying, but it’s always worth the reminder: these notetakers should not always be the most junior team members or automatically be people from underrepresented backgrounds (‼️). Notes are important, and doing it well is a skill. Select folks who are proven notetakers, and for heaven’s sake, thank them for their contributions!

2️⃣ Have a documentation plan.

Decide what level of documentation you need to serve the objectives of the given conversation, and make sure you’ve shared your planned approach with the assigned notetakers before the call starts. The level of documentation should be fit for purpose - don’t transcribe every word of a 1:1, and don’t take vague bullet notes in a key decision-making meeting. Define the needed level of detail ahead of time.

3️⃣ Consider continuity.

In documentation-heavy cultures, it can be very difficult to separate signal from noise. The best way to improve the accessibility of your documentation is to think about its utility. What documentation would have been helpful before and during the current meeting? What documentation do you need to power the next conversation? Use continuity as a guide to documentation. Don’t document for the sake of documenting; document because it’s going to help work move forward.

4️⃣ Follow up.

You can take pages and pages of notes in a meeting, but if you don’t take the time to refine and share out those notes after the fact, you’ve wasted your time. It’s critical to go back and polish documentation, highlighting key decision points, outputs, and next steps. It’s equally important that these refined notes have somewhere to live outside of a meeting agenda or a notes doc that’s likely to be forgotten about or lost. If you have an email culture, share out a well-linked email overview that’s easily searchable. If your team is oriented around a project management tool, make sure documentation and key action items get appropriately transferred into your system.

Good documentation practices fuel productive remote cultures. Bad documentation sows confusion and wasteful churn, while good documentation creates clarity and pushes important work forward. ⬆️ Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the perfect minimum viable documentation balance.

I’m guessing you’re here because you want to get better at leading groups, improve your meeting culture, and maybe even organise some great events.

Well, you’re in the right place!

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