Unless you work in a courtroom, writing out meeting minutes word-for-word is not necessary. Here's how to capture the essential information and successfully communicate it to others. To save even more time, fill in a meeting summary template while the meeting is in progress rather than summarizing notes afterward.

Organize Document With Clear Headings

The condensed meeting minutes document should have a clear structure and organization, with each section labeled with a descriptive heading. Write out an outline of headings and sub-headings, then you can fill in each section. For example, headings could be Attendees, Agenda and Discussion, Agreements and Decisions, Action Items and Next Meeting Date.

For future meetings, consider having a template ready to use. You can develop your own or download a standard template. There are many free templates available online that can be adapted for your needs. Using a blank template to take notes during a meeting can be a helpful guide to capturing the essential information.

Summarize Discussion Points

Rather than writing out every word, a summary can be used. Using the agenda as a guideline and the detailed minutes if they are available, summarize the group's discussion for each item. Accurately capture each point of view and the group consensus. If no consensus was reached, outline the main points of view.

List Key Agreements and Decisions

Highlight important agreements made by the group by listing them in a separate section, making them easy to spot in the condensed minutes. You can also include a brief statement as to the reason a decision was made. Using a separate section helps clarify the outcome of the meeting for readers.

List Action Items and Owners

If any follow-up items or action items were assigned in the meeting, list those in a numbered checklist or table format. Include the description of the action, the name of the person responsible and the due date. Using the list format makes the action items stand out for readers.

Identify the Next Meeting Date

If the group sets a date and time for the next meeting, document that in the Next Meeting Date section. Include the location and the agenda, if available. If any action items are to be reviewed in the next meeting, consider listing those or referring to them by number.