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How to make meeting transcripts suck less

By Zvonimir Rac

 

 

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Picture this…

You have 7 minutes before your executive team meeting and you need to recap what was discussed last time, and you absolutely need to make sure you’ve completed all the action items assigned to you.

Are you really going to pull up the full meeting transcript and read through it to find what you’re looking for?

NO!

In moments like these what you really need is a summary of that meeting transcript.

Something that’ll give you all the important details - things like action items and key discussion points – at a glance.

 

The Truth About Transcripts

 

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Let’s not overlook the primary purpose of writing a meeting transcript; it’s there to help you capture in-depth details of any meeting.

For example, an annual general meeting happens once a year and it usually includes numerous topics that go into lengthy detail. When you review an AGM transcript, it usually happens when you are approaching the next one. An in-depth transcript for meetings that happen annually, bi-annually, or even quarterly, allows you to have a detailed reference without worrying about missing a single detail. 

In situations like these, you can transcribe meetings with tools like:

  • Google Docs – which allows you to access your meeting transcription online and anywhere you go
  • OneNote – for Microsoft users, also allows you to embed recorded audio or video notes
  • Evernote – any handwritten notes or hand-drawn sketches can be captured though the mobile app
  • Third Party transcription services – for those who want to outsource their meeting transcription online to a third-party vendor (like Rev)
  • AI-powered meeting transcription – for those who want hands-free transcription services, an AI transcribes your meeting from speech to text and archives your meetings in your own personal dashboard.

 

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Needless to say, not every meeting transcript will be a one-pager, and sometimes, you may not have time to sift through multiple pages of meeting minutes to find what they are looking for.

The benefit of summarizing your meeting transcript allows you to have all the important points at a glance. The added benefit of having a full meeting transcript gives you the option to get more in-depth detail to those meetings if you need it.

Writing a meeting transcript is only the first step to archive your company’s meeting notes (and there are smart tools to help you do that), but summarizing those meeting minutes into a short, sweet, and smart meeting summary will make or break your company’s meeting experience.

Let’s take you through some steps on how you can do just that.

 

Step 1: Planning

 

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In order to provide a good meeting summary, the first step is to be well-prepared. Planning ahead is crucial to writing both effective meeting notes and a clear, concise meeting summary.

It’s already known that each person has a unique meeting note-taking style and there’s no one-size-fits-all meeting summary template.

To start, take our quiz that’ll help you identify the best way for you to take notes based on your personality and working style.

Afterwards, choose a meeting minutes template that will help you record all the relevant meeting notes.

After all, there’s no one-size-fits-all meeting summary template. Each meeting demands a different level of detail, so the goal is to deliver that perfect level of detail for each meeting type.

 

Step 2: Summarize, don’t overanalyze

 

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You have your full meeting transcript. Now what? How do you know what to summarize?

To get a full overview of your meeting, you have to answer the following questions: 

  • WHEN was your meeting?
  • WHO was in attendance?
  • WHAT was the discussion about?
  • WHERE do we go next?

The summary should highlight the date and time of the meeting, the names of the meeting attendees, a short and concise summary of what was discussed, and the tasks or action items that were assigned.

Remember: you’re working smarter, not harder.

 

Date & Time

 The whole purpose of writing meeting minutes is to help you archive and categorize key meeting details and action items, while cutting down the time you spend combing through the crucial information you’re looking for.

When you reach a point where you’re looking through folders full of meeting summaries, the more organized your meeting summaries, the easier they will be to sift through.

So simple, yet so crucial.

 

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Attendees

Whether or not your meetings have a formal roll call, it’s important to note who is in the meeting and who couldn’t make it for two main reasons: 

  • When you attend multiple meetings with different people, it’s always a good idea to record who was present in the meeting. This will allow attendees to recall their memory of being in a meeting room with those specific attendees, and it makes things easier to follow up on commitments, outstanding discussions, or action items, without forgetting someone or wondering who to go to.
  • Meeting minutes will oftentimes be connected with a meeting participant – who voiced opinions, ideas, objections, etc. I.e. “George suggested the accounts team should revisit last week’s numbers; he found a small miscalculation.” Great, but which George? What if your company has multiple Georges?

Clearly listing the names of the attendees eliminates the guess work and prevents your meeting summary from being too wordy.

 

Summary

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It’s important keep your meeting summary objective; you should use common, neutral language and avoid adding bias to your meeting notes. We all have our opinions, but it’s important to remember that the nature of meetings is bringing together a team. Keep your personal opinions to yourself and allow the meeting summary to speak in the company’s voice.

You don’t need to list everything that happens in a meeting – keep it concise.

List only the important things:

  • a headline of the discussion (this is where you consult your meeting agenda), and
  • major points for each topic, such as:
  • anytime a decision is made,
  • anytime a task is assigned (the relevant action items and due dates),
  • and any other important notes in the meeting that are worth remembering.

Finally, summarize a meeting summary directly after a meeting while it’s fresh in your head (it shows a sense of urgency to keep the ball rolling).

If you don’t want to write a meeting summary, there are great tools that will help you automatically transcribe and summarize your meetings, so you can focus on checking off other important things off your list.

 

Step 3: Edit…

 

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Evaluate the quality of the summary before forwarding it to the meeting attendees.

Is the meeting summary clear to those who were in attendance and does it provide enough information to those who couldn’t make it?

If your meeting summary is clear to those who were unable to make it, it’s guaranteed to make sense to those who were part of the discussion.

Keep in mind, this is a document that will be referenced in the future (sometimes years down the road), so it should be unambiguous even if you are reading it a year later.

How, you ask?

Laser-focused grammar/syntax is a given. If your phrasing is wonky, people won’t be able to understand what you meant – which could raise unnecessary questions and foster misinterpretation and miscommunication which could result in things being looked over.

A tip for editing spelling is to read the summary backwards. It’s such a small thing, but it can make all the difference in clear communication.

If you still aren’t sure, a foolproof way to ensure your meeting summary is clear is to have other people review it. After completing your summary draft, give it to a colleague who was not in the meeting.

If they understand it, others will.

 

To Recap…

  • Plan in advance ­– if you have all the tools at your fingertips, you will have a higher success rate to capture relevant details in your meeting summary.
  • Summarize – WHEN your meeting took place, WHO was in attendance, WHAT was the discussion about, and WHERE you will go next.
  • Edit – Does your meeting summary make sense to those who couldn’t make it to the meeting? If so, it will make sense to those who were in attendance.
  • If you don’t want to summarize your own meetings, utilize tools that can do it for you.
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