Participating in dozens of meetings per week means that it’s not always easy to recall the discussions and decisions that have been made. While it’s a good idea to assign an employee to take charge of meeting minutes or meeting notes, that kind of resource is not always available, especially for more informal discussions.

That being said, it’s always valuable to note down what has been discussed in a meeting. Not only is this going to help you remember what has been talked about but this is going to be a great reference document for you to keep track of project progressions. If anyone was unable to attend the meeting, this way you can also provide them with a valuable recap.

To help you remember more and forget less, Fellow has created a guide to writing an effective meeting summary to keep a record of your meetings. 

What is a meeting summary? 

A meeting summary is a less formal version of meeting minutes. It’s often an email that is sent as a recap or follow-up of the meeting which gives a general overview of the discussion that was had and serves as a reminder of the tasks that have been assigned to different members of the team. By putting action items in this email, with the employees assigned to their specific responsibilities with due dates, the meeting summary holds each member accountable. Your email or meeting summary should also include any other important updates or project information that was covered in the meeting. 

The purpose of your meeting summary is to help you and your team members recall important details that were disclosed during the meeting. An effective meeting means following up with this email which can be referenced in the future as any questions or needs for clarifications arise. What’s better is any clients or employees who were unable to attend the meeting can be filled in on important points. 

What is the difference between a summary and meeting minutes? 

A meeting summary is less formal than documenting meeting minutes and they’re also a little less detailed. Where meeting minutes capture more of a complete and official documentation of a meeting, the meeting summary is brief and concise. Meeting minutes will include a list of all of the attendees, a detailed meeting agenda, action items, decisions, timelines, progressions and dates. They also tend to include the way in which the meeting was conducted such as Robert’s Rules of Order. Conversely, you want your summary to be in easily understood language and straight to the point. Remember that first and foremost, your meeting summary is for your own benefit and recollection of things discussed, so use your own approach and style that is going to be the most effective for you. 

How to write your next meeting summary

Now that we’ve gone through what a meeting summary is and how it differs from formal meeting minutes, here are a couple tips that will ensure your record of a meeting is everything that you need it to be: 

Take detailed notes during the meeting 

When we say take detailed meeting notes, we mean write down any information that stands out to you. When you do have the resources available, it’s a great idea to have a note-taker who can simply share their notes with you for your own interpretation. If you don’t have an extra person available to help you out, consider the possibility of rotating the note taker so that the responsibility doesn’t always fall on the same person. If you are your own final option, focus on the meeting agenda and the decisions that are made under each agenda item. Make sure to note down who is assigned to which responsibilities and the key decisions made.

2 Highlight key decisions made 

Like we briefly mentioned, make sure to highlight any key decisions that were made in the meeting. If you’re going to document anything, document the key decisions that have been made so that you can follow up on them. This way when you review your notes, you can decipher which kinds of implications these decisions had and how to follow up accordingly. 

Pro tip! If you use a meeting management tool like Fellow, you can use different colours to label different types of decisions. This is going to keep you organized so that you know exactly who you need to follow up with and when. 

3 Assign clear action items during the meeting 

Second important to documenting decisions is noting down the actions items that have surfaced from the meeting. While noting down tasks to be accomplished is helpful, you can really optimize your meeting summary by also noting who has been assigned to that action item and an exact deadline, marking when it’s due. This is going to keep you on top of the steps that need to be completed in order to accomplish goals that have been set in previous meetings. Use a tool like Fellow to track your meeting’s action items, so that you don’t have to do it manually. This is going to keep you more organized and give you more time to focus elsewhere. 

4 Share the meeting notes with all attendees 

Seems intuitive, but an important part of writing your meeting summary is actually sending it out to all of the attendees… A quick trick for finding your list of employees to send it out to is to simply copy and paste from your calendar invite. Outside of that list, think about any clients or employees from other groups who may benefit from catching up to speed with what was discussed in the meeting discussion. Again, if you use a meeting management tool like Fellow, you can use the simple to use “send notes” feature to save time crafting an email. Since we know there are only so many hours in a day, we’ve got your back with these shortcuts. 

5 Include a note highlighting what was agreed in the meeting 

It’s a great idea to include a note closer to the end of your meeting summary that includes any agreements that were made. By noting these agreements down, you are also documenting who is responsible to hold up their end of the bargain. This way, team members can hold each other accountable and take responsibility for giving their word to deliver. You can keep this short and sweet, even crafting this part of the meeting summary in point form so that is easily read and understood. 

6 Attach supporting documents, if necessary 

Where it makes sense to, attach any supporting documents that may help paint the picture a little more clearly. In an effective meeting, these documents are typically attached to the invite so there’s not any more leg work for you to do. Think about if any kinds of documentation or information were provided to you in advance. If they helped prepare you for the meeting, consider attaching them for the benefit of your teammates as well. These supporting documents don’t necessarily have to be formal. They can also be any articles or blog posts that have provided you with any kind of valuable insight. 

7 Include a reminder of the next meeting date 

It’s a nice touch to add a reminder of when your next meeting will take place. This record of a meeting gives participants an idea of how much time they may have to get started on their action items in order to provide some kind of update the next time there’s a discussion. If an invite hasn’t been sent yet, it also provides future participants with the opportunity to put it into their own calendars and come prepared to the next discussion. 

Example of a meeting summary (email)

Hey team!

Thanks for attending [meeting name] today. I hope the meeting was helpful and inspiring.

Here are the main talking points we discussed:

1. Talking point A

2. Talking point B

3. Talking point C

Finally, these were the action items that came out of the meeting:

1. [name] will do [task] by [date]

2. [name] will do [task] by [date]

You can always review the action items tab in Fellow to see when these action items are completed!

Example of a meeting summary (Fellow)

With Fellow, your meeting summary is formatted and ready to be sent to all attendees with a click of a button! Here is an example of what your summary could look like:

Final tips to write a great meeting summary 

  1. Use the summary to clarify expectations

The meeting summary is a great opportunity to clarify any expectations that you would like to set with your team. Make sure to highlight what you expect from them and when so that your team can hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for their tasks. 

  1. Repetition is important, don’t feel bad about being “repetitive” with next steps/goals/etc

If something is super important, repeat it! The more your team members read over a certain point, the more they’re going to remember how significant it is. Employees are a lot more likely to act on information they’ve seen a few times throughout an email versus a brief mention, so don’t be shy and highlight important points. 

  1. Meeting summaries can be a great tool to ensure everyone leaves the meeting on the same page

Distributing your meeting minutes is a great way to get everyone on the same page. It’s easy to construct our own understandings and takeaways from meetings but when you put the most important information in the meeting summary, it confirms where employee’s focus should be and ensures that individuals aren’t diverting from the most important goals