In this episode I share a super easy way to take attendance at meetings–don’t! Instead have attendees take do their own check-in by adding themselves to the minutes (in a shared document).
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My meeting agendas are a shared document (which everyone at the meeting has access to) which morph into the minutes in real time as the meeting progresses. At the beginning of the meeting I remind everyone to register their presence and that’s it. This has the added bonus of avoiding the dreaded, gut wrenching “who just joined?” question that interrupts the beginning of most meetings and usually gets asked 20 times before the meeting starts.
Reaching Critical Mass
Once the meeting starts (and I don’t start unless I have enough people to cover some of the topics), I’m less concerned with who joins. And since I try to keep my invite lists tight it’s easy to know whether the people I really need to start are present or not.
Starting on time–within a minute or two of the scheduled time–is critical. It can take a while for the culture of a meeting to change to starting on time, but I’ve found that over time people know the meeting is going to start on time and if they want to know everything that happened they’ll be on time.
How This Process Works
- I use a shared document for the agenda that morphs into the meeting minutes or notes
- At the start of a meeting I tell people to indicate their presence next to their name
- If someone has told me before the meeting that they can’t come I put “regrets” or “PTO” or the reason they can’t attend after their name
- For someone that doesn’t show up or doesn’t respond to the calendar invite I put nothing after their name
- When the minutes go out that ambiguity is there for the reader to interpret
- Someone that is invited or insisted on being invited and yet there’s never any indicator after their name raises questions over time
Be Clear on Names and Representation
- I like to put names in alphabetical order by first name and group them by role or functional team
- Adding the role each person plays makes it easy to spot teams that are sending too many people
- Always use a person’s full name
- Removes ambiguity as to who “John” is, even if there is one John
- Helps new team members really know who people are
- My minutes go to a central meeting minutes list where context immediately gets lost
Handling People that Come Late
- You don’t have to say “oh, that’s okay, we were just getting started” if they just interrupted the meeting and it isn’t true
- Thank the the person for coming and stop there
- Re-enforce the value of being on time by refusing to go backwards in the agenda to re-hash a topic for the person who was late. Yes, there are obvious exceptions to this, but this is my general approach
- Suggest that late comers read the minutes or get with someone who was there after the meeting to get caught up
I realize people have conflicts, get stuck in traffic, etc. Over time you’ll usually see a pattern of who genuinely had a problem that couldn’t be avoided and the person who lives in their own timezone. I get that we are all wired differently, but I don’t think it is fair for one person to force 15 other people into their timezone.
- Pulse Rock by Kevin MacLeod
- Sax, Rock, and Roll by Kevin MacLeod
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February 25, 2020 at 8:31 am
Why take roll at all?
August 27, 2016 at 8:43 pm
These are great questions which I recently recorded answers to in an upcoming podcast… it should be episode #11 in a couple of weeks.
I am specifically using a hosted web application called Etherpad where all meeting participants have access to the document and help me write the minutes in real time during the meeting. Google Docs can accomplish the same thing, though some companies do not allow it for security reasons.
Yes, my company has a single mailing list that anyone can CC with their meeting minutes. Anyone that is subscribed to the mailing list receives these minutes by email. The mailing list archives are also accessible to anyone. Naturally not every meeting in the company gets sent to this list. It’s usually program meeting minutes.
Thanks again for your questions and comments.
August 21, 2016 at 9:24 am
Excellent write up that is difficult to implement at first (regarding starting promptly & not backtracking) but if done consistently, it does get easier over time. Your mention of a shared document has me curious as to what app you prefer for this. Is this a document that is shared real-time like Microsoft One-Note or one that is shared for posting after the meeting? After the meeting seems like it would get easily forgotten. I have yet to find an open-source compatible application that supports both Linux & Mac (& Windows I suppose).
Also, in regards to your statement “My minutes go to a central meeting minutes list where context immediately gets lost.” Is this a master list of meeting minutes where the context is one step removed but still accessible for anyone to see?