How to Create a Helpful Meeting Summary With Action Items

How to Create a Helpful Meeting Summary With Action Items

Sep 6, 2023

Meeting notes are important, but sometimes, when you just want a quick refresher or to get a colleague up to speed on a big decision, a meeting summary is what you need. A meeting summary is similar to meeting notes or meeting minutes, but it’s more concise and highlights the most important details and action items from your meeting.Here’s everything you need to know about creating an effective meeting summary of your next meeting — and how to use AI to capture actionable items for you.

What Is a Meeting Summary?

Meeting summary: man saying, three things

A meeting summary is a document, usually sent out by email after a meeting, that sums up the important points of a meeting for participants or other stakeholders. It’s basically a recap of what was discussed and any decisions that were made.A meeting summary can be short, and can take the form of a few paragraphs or bullet points — but it still needs to be thorough and accurate. Your meeting summary should make reference to all or most agenda items, and highlight any action items that team members need to follow up on later.It’s usually the note-taker’s job to put together a summary of the meeting — but instead, you could use an automated note-taking tool like Anchor AI, which can create a meeting summary and highlight key takeaways for you.

Meeting Summary vs. Meeting Minutes

Meeting summaries, meeting notes, and meeting minutes — are these all different ways of saying the same thing? Not quite. A meeting summary differs from other note-taking methods in several ways and isn’t meant to serve as a detailed record of a meeting.First, a meeting summary can be more casual. You want the recipients of your meeting recap to take the time to review it, so make it snappy and engaging. If someone needs more detail, they can refer to the complete meeting notes or meeting minutes.Next, it isn’t a play-by-play. Meeting notes typically follow the structure of the meeting agenda: Agenda Item 1, Agenda Item 2, and so on. You might even use speaker tags showing who made which key points about important decisions. While your meeting summary template can stick to this script, it doesn’t have to.Finally, a meeting summary doesn’t require approval from other meeting participants. Since meeting minutes serve as a formal record of a meeting, every meeting attendee needs to okay them. While you can get someone to proofread your meeting summary for accuracy, you don’t have to vote it into the official record.

Why You Need a Meeting Summary

Meeting summary: old man talking

If you’re already taking meeting notes or meeting minutes, why bother with a meeting summary? Don’t you already have the information you need? Here are three reasons why it’s important for every note-taker to know how to write a meeting summary:

1. To Save You Time

Sending out a meeting summary is a little extra effort up front, but it can save you time in the long run. If you need to remember something from a previous meeting, you don’t have to read through the complete set of notes or watch the Zoom recording. You can simply re-read the summary for a quick but thorough recap.Of course, if you automate the process using Anchor AI, you’ll save even more time, since you won’t have to create the meeting summary yourself.

2. To Reinforce Key Points

A meeting summary may not be an official record, but it’s a great way to ensure that meeting participants are on the same page about what was discussed.After all, everyone remembers things differently, and what stood out to one attendee may have been unclear or less memorable to someone else. Sending out a recap shortly after the meeting helps to reinforce key decisions, and to remind meeting participants about action items and due dates.

3. To Inform Absent Stakeholders

Sometimes, not everyone who’s involved in a project or decision can make it to the meeting. Maybe you’re having a team meeting without a key stakeholder, or you’re having a town hall meeting and want to keep all of your employees in the loop.A meeting summary or recap makes it easy for anyone who didn’t attend to follow along. Think of it like a monthly newsletter or update: Those who didn’t attend the meeting won’t catch everything, but they’ll get the most important points.

How to Create an Effective Meeting Summary

Michael from The Office holding a mug while talking

Ready to put your meeting summary know-how into action? Follow these five steps to turn the notes from your next meeting into a short and effective recap:

1. Review the Meeting Agenda

First, take a look at the meeting agenda, if there is one, and review any notes from the previous meeting. It’s always a good idea to do some research in advance so you can put things into context when you write your meeting summary.For example, if you’ll be voting on new corporate bylaws, read the proposed changes and take the opportunity to review any supporting documents, if necessary.

2. Take Thorough Notes

Next, pay close attention during the meeting and take thorough notes. Why take notes if you’re only going to write a brief recap? Because you don’t know yet which parts of the meeting will turn out to be the most relevant and which you can leave out.By taking detailed notes on each agenda item, you’ll have all of the information you’ll need to summarize the meeting later.Besides, just because something doesn’t make it into the recap doesn’t mean it isn’t important. You may still need to enter meeting minutes into the official record.

3. Summarize Your Notes

Once the meeting is over, it’s time to condense your notes into a summary. This can be as simple as a few short sentences: “The team discussed the new app and agreed to move forward with a launch date of 10/12. Next meeting date: 9/20.”For longer meetings, you can create a subheading for each agenda item or use bullet points to make the summary easier to follow, such as:Discussion Points:

  • #1
  • #2
  • #3

Key Decisions:

  • #1
  • #2
  • #3

It can be helpful to use bold and italics so that even someone skimming the recap will know which items are the most important things to focus on.

4. Highlight Action Items

Action items are things that need to be acted upon after the meeting. Often, a meeting participant will raise their hand and agree to take on responsibility for a task.It’s important to include action items in your meeting summary, and to make sure that each item has only one assignee and a due date. This ensures that no one drops the ball or forgets about the action item after the meeting is over.If you keep overlooking action items, use Anchor AI to highlight action items for you. Anchor AI will identify action items and automatically assign a due date, and include them at the end of your meeting summary.

5. Send Out a Follow-Up Email

Now, your meeting summary is ready to go, and it’s time to send it out to attendees and other relevant stakeholders. You can either send it out as an email, or create a shared Google Doc or another cloud-based document that everyone can access.Be sure to send it out in a timely manner while the meeting is still fresh in everyone’s minds. You may want to attach any supporting documents, such as a project brief or product launch timeline, that were brought up during the meeting.And don’t forget to include the date of the next meeting, so participants can add it to their calendar and get a head start on their action items!

Automatically Create Meeting Summaries With Anchor AI

Lisa from The Simpsons talking to some kids

Meeting summaries are a great way to share the most important points of a meeting with participants and other stakeholders who couldn’t attend. Although a summary is less detailed than official meeting minutes, you’ll still need to take thorough notes so you know what to include in the summary of your meeting.Anchor AI can do it all for you, from transcribing and summarizing your meetings, to identifying and assigning action items after the meeting ends. Our AI-powered software improves team productivity by eliminating unnecessary tasks from your workflow, and frees up participants to stay focused on the meeting itself instead of taking notes.Sign up for free and see how Anchor AI can level up your meetings today!

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