Whether the meeting's been with colleagues or competitors, you're always well-advised to summarize what was discussed and especially what was decided, and to do it in writing, as soon as possible afterward. You can combine relevant pieces from a library of business documents, such as the one on "Inc." Magazine's website.
Start with a friendly but clear recap of the date, time and place of the meeting, who attended in what capacities and a brief statement of the meeting's purpose. For example, "Dear Mike: Thanks again for spending yesterday morning with me and Steve from our art department, discussing plans for redesign of your packaging."
Review what documents and materials were presented in the meeting and any significant items of discussion about them: "I'm glad you liked Steve's ideas as much as I did. We agreed that the hexagonal carton gives your product a significant change to call attention to the features you're adding next year, but that building it to lie horizontally on the shelf will be more stable and allow us to make both ends just slightly convex, instead of one flat and the other an extended point with no real connection to the product."
Provide reports on all action items agreed in the meeting: "Steve has committed to having the new design specs to our fabrication unit today, and they should be able to give me new cost figures for the horizontal carton by the end of the week. Steve and I will both be disappointed if those figures aren't at least 20 percent below the estimates we had yesterday for the upright, high-pointed carton, since the fabrication will be symmetrical and less complex to fit. We will, however, need a decision from you on whether the belt buckle will be printed or embossed, and whether you want metallic ink on it, before we can firm up the costs."
Set timelines for next steps by all parties: "I made a note that you thought you could get those decisions made today or tomorrow. That would allow us to get back to you by close of business Monday with cost figures firm enough that we can begin to formalize a contract."
Close the letter in as friendly a fashion as is appropriate to the nature of the meeting, and restate plans for any other meetings you've scheduled: "It's always a pleasure meeting with you. I have lunch Tuesday at your office on my calendar, when I'll bring the mockup Steve is working on. Please let me know if Jan will indeed be able to join us."
Email is fine as a way to send followup in the most timely fashion, but it's always best to mail hardcopy as well, especially when the meeting included multiple companies and matters that will be formalized later in contracts and purchase orders. Send copies of the recap letter to everyone who attended the meeting or is mentioned in the letter by name, function or department.
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