Wednesday, May 13, 2015

OneNote Meetings

OneNote Meetings for Efficiency and Effectiveness

Did you ever attend a meeting and not get minutes until three, five, seven days later? Did the minutes match your recollection of the meeting? Do action items line up, are commitments captured? Do you keep your entire life in email - every message, every task, every appointment? This may work great if; your meetings are super effective and everyone steps up to meet their commitments, your email system has unlimited space and you have a good method to search.

But people don't meet all of their commitments. Action items get deferred, then forgotten. Have you been archiving and deleting old messages because your email system is limited? Even if email space is unlimited, searching email messages is a problem. 500 emails about "Project Gadget" with similar content and keywords - needle, meet haystack.

Consider OneNote - simple, flexible, and customizable for your meetings. You can improve your workflow, improve communication of action items and key decisions, and maybe encourage absentee resources to attend your meetings.

This post will review a simple process to take notes for a meeting - starting in Outlook, working in OneNote, then returning to Outlook to distribute the meeting notes. For notes or brainstorms collected after the meeting, we will show you how to create a link to the original meeting. 

OneNote Tags (covered in our blog post: OneNote Tags and Summary Page) offer line item marking of notes that require additional follow-up. As you work through your notebook and Tag your content you may find an entire page of notes that need to be linked to a meeting.

Outlook Integration to OneNote

Microsoft Outlook Appointments include a command "Meeting Notes" in the ribbon. (Click on any graphic in this post for a larger version).

Ribbon in MS Outlook Appointment Screen

Clicking this command will  open a dialog box allowing a choice to share meeting notes, or to take notes own your own. When you select take notes on your own you will be prompted to Select a Location in OneNote to begin taking notes. Several sections will be offered, and you can scroll down to see all of your notebooks if you need to choose a location that is not in the quick pick list. 

OneNote will insert data from the invitation with a couple of cool features.

First, is a link to the Outlook item - which does exactly what is says, clicking the link will bounce you back into Outlook and open the meeting invitation. You can also return to this page from Outlook by clinking the Meeting Notes command in Outlook.

Details from the invitation message will also be carried into OneNote. Click Expand and you can see the message. In my case this is usually conference call details, Lync meeting details, and maybe an abbreviated agenda. Please note that any attachments in the invitation are also carried into OneNote.

Meeting Details Inserted from Outlook into OneNote

Finally, a Participants List will carry over. The meeting organizer is listed at the top, then all invitees. When integrated with Lync, and approved by your system administrator, the "Attended" check box may auto-populate. If this integration is not setup, you can simply check the boxes next to the attendees (which also identifies resources that did not attend).

OneNote has accomplished several key tasks in this simple process: 
  1. It captured key meeting details
    • Topic 
    • Organizer 
    • Date/Time 
    • Location 
    • Invitees/Attendees
    • Meeting Message and any attachments
  2. It created a new page and container to capture notes in your chosen section
  3. It created a link back to the original invitation
Now, take notes as usual during your meeting. 

Once your meeting is over, run a quick spell check, skim your notes for clarity, then click File | Send | eMail Page. OneNote will trigger a new Outlook email message with: 
  1. All Invitees listed in the To: field
  2. The meeting topic in the  Subject field
  3. The entire OneNote page as the body of the email message (if your audience uses OneNote you can also send them a page in OneNote format that can be inserted directly into their notebook.
  4. A link to the OneNote page (which you may want to delete if the location is not shared)
  5. Consider a sentence at the top of your message asking your audience if you missed any detail, or if anything need clarification
  6. If the notes are long, consider pulling all Action Items or key points to a summary section above the meeting details. 
Click for larger view of the details.

Using the Outlook Meeting Notes in OneNote process is a simple practice to have your meeting notes distributed immediately, including all action items, follow up items, and enough detail that people that may have missed the meeting can remain in the loop.

Oops - Working Backwards

Maybe you took notes during the meeting and did not create the link from Outlook. Or, you had a brilliant idea about something discussed in the meeting... three days after the meeting was held. Or, you attended a meeting where the organizer was lax about taking and distributing minutes. What can you do to link your notes to the meeting?

Start on your page in OneNote and click the Meeting Details command. If needed, you can choose a meeting from a different day. You can also refresh meeting details. Use the blue arrow keys to move backwards to the meeting date, highlight the meeting, then click Insert Details.

Forget to Link Meeting Notes? Try this!

OneNote will insert the meeting information at the top of your page, with all of the information described above. Now, your notes are tied back to the meeting and you can distribute if you need to.

A couple of caveats: 
  • If you sent your meeting notes previously, you may want to resend this page as a correction or an update. If the details are new, may sure you highlight changes from the previous version of the minutes. Or, send the new ideas as part of a new conversation.
  • Using the "Refresh" command will update the meeting details. You may want to think this through before using the feature. 
    • Example 1 - I have a business partner that reschedules meetings, rather than creating new appointments or creating a recurring appointment. When he moves the meeting, it creates an empty time slot in your calendar, when you probably have spent some time on their tasks. If you need to account for time and effort you may have to create your own Outlook meeting in the original time slot, with a link to the notes.
    • Example 2 - I have a PM that keeps all meeting notes in the invitation. Each meeting changes the content. The paper trail is constantly evolving, so actions, decisions and accountability is blurred. Use OneNote and iterate the meeting minutes to be able to trace changes over time.

Bottom Line

Using Outlook and OneNote for Meetings will boost your efficiency and effectiveness. 
  • Meeting details are all captured in one place (OneNote)
  • Decisions, action items, commitments are all captured
  • Meeting notes are delivered immediately, via email 
  • Links to and from Outlook and OneNote are set - simplifying data retrieval
  • Your process is professional, fast and easy

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