I know some people spend twice as much time just doing that. Next day such easy actions as remembering what was agreed in details, determining the name of a new team member who participated for the first time, or even considering whether all off-topics are important enough to put them into contact report – takes much too many of precious time. So maybe help yourself out of this unproductive situation, and read on five easy tips for better contact reports.
1. Be prepared
Prepare your agenda in advance. Not only because other participants deserve it, but also you can use it as a framework for a contact report. You should be able to put the date of a meeting, participants and first-level bullets beforehand. Then you’ll need only put some second-level details, add action items, deadlines and it will be finished in no time. Obviously, the agenda has a positive impact on the very meeting itself.
2. Develop on the go
Yes. You should write as much as possible during the meeting. If it’s necessary, ask for a pause to write down what was just agreed. You will tremendously cut down the time needed to remember what all the discussion was about. If you think it’s not doable, tip 3 below to the rescue.
3. Keep things tidy
First of all, I recommend the numbered lists. It organizes the whole thing into movable, easy to reference items. Try to limit yourself to simple, short sentences. Use sub-lists if it’s needed. These two rules translate to clear and effective communication and will help you on the next point as well.
I urge you to separate your contact report into two sections. The first one is built around your prepared agenda (tip 1 again). The second should consist of all action items with deadlines. Keeping the second part in a compact, organized form is of utmost importance regarding tip 5 below.
4. Write down the final version
This one is tricky. For sure this is the skill worth working on. The goal is to use the appropriate form, language, and structure to make later editing unnecessary. If your meeting requires formal language, use as much formal language as you can deliver on the go. In all cases try to avoid language to be edited later.
If you find this tip difficult to incorporate in your practice, a good starting point might be to take the same language/form assumptions beforehand. Take your time to answer questions like how you will refer to participants in your text? Are there common acronyms you can use between parties? etc.
5. Sum things up
When you internalize the above tips and excel in what was written above, you will reach the point when you will be ready to use your final, developed on the go agenda/contact report as a canvas to sum things up at the end of the meeting.
Present it to all participants, and if possible try to make corrections on the go (remember tip 2?). If all went well you will have a ready-made contact report at the same moment as the meeting ends. You can send it and move on.
That’s the way you do it.