Meetings can be busy and, with so many discussions and topics to cover, it’s easy for quick actions and verbal agreements made during the meeting to be forgotten. But this can affect productivity and waste precious resources, such as time, effort and energy.
Board meetings held in this way may mean that research and projects take longer to complete. This is often due to missed deadlines or miscommunication from either side. If the action’s notes and due dates aren’t clear, it’s not possible to follow up or chase on these items.
So, how can we, as directors and secretaries, prevent these situations from happening? One approach is to note down in the meeting minutes a task list of action items and make sure they are properly managed. Doing so will also make your meetings far more efficient, instead of spending the time discussing previous action items that weren’t done.
In this article, we’ll explore how you can keep track of action items better with a meeting follow-up action item template. Let’s begin…
What is a meeting action item?
A meeting action item is a task that’s discussed and agreed upon between those who have taken part in a meeting. It could be as simple as setting time for another more in-depth meeting to discuss a topic that has been touched on briefly. It could be a quick action to send an email or reach out to a certain client or partner.
Some action items could include project planning or presentations and others are data-led. In any case, the details and expected outputs of the actions have to be discussed at the time of assignment.
All meeting action items should be assigned either to an individual or to a team with a responsible party for the delivery of that item. For example, a task on social media posts could be allocated to the digital marketing team but with the digital marketing manager noted as the person responsible for this piece of work. Highlight action items in your meeting notes and minutes as you go during the meeting itself to make sure you’ve captured all of these.
The importance of meeting action items
By everyone doing their part to complete action items on time, each project can move forward at speed. It’s important to keep the momentum going with deadlines and a robust follow-up process.
Sometimes, one completed action item will then lead to the next action item in a sequence. For example, if the sales team have created a spreadsheet detailing their activity that month and why they’ve missed their revenue targets, subsequent actions for other members of the team could be:
- Arranging a formal meeting with the head of the department.
- Organising sales training sessions.
- Researching potential new sales technology or phone systems partners.
- Creating a data breakdown to show the performance of each team member, using sales performance scorecards.
- Speaking to Logistics or Operations about difficulties with stock and supply levels.
- Hiring (or promoting) a sales team leader to give more day-to-day support to the team.
These actions can help boost sales performance and, in turn, revenue and business growth.
Meeting action item examples
Common meeting action items depend on what type of business you’re running as well as the teams involved. Some examples that might arise from a meeting include:
- Following up with a potential client or particular customer or prospect
- Dealing with a customer escalation
- Preparing a sales presentation or pitch
- Finding new customer data sources to connect to your CRM (customer relationship management) tool
- Exploring new technology or a new tool
- Completing a quote for a new client
- Fixing software or hardware
- Putting together an agenda for the next board meeting
- Finding an answer to a specific question
- Finding a solution to a specific problem
- Finalising a plan
- Making changes to a report
- Creating template documents
- Organising files and folders
- Conducting an interview or writing a blog post
- … the list goes on!
How to efficiently manage action items
1. Make sure the action is clear
The first step is to make sure the action is as clear and detailed as possible. Try not to allocate an action item that simply says “Prepare sales presentation”, with a deadline. Often, further information about what this should include would be discussed within the meeting.
If you’re assigned the action and it’s unclear, follow up with the relevant people involved to make sure the brief and expected outputs are clear. A well-written action item and action description or notes will help to avoid confusion.
2. Keep all your action items in one place
If you have various action items sorted in different places, this is likely to become an issue and lead to confusion between teams.
It can also be demoralising for anyone who had responsibilities and accidentally missed them. To avoid this, store all action items in one place – this also makes all actions easier to manage and follow up on to make sure they are completed on time.
3. Make sure to sort your action items
Tip: Use the template and outline from the next section for inspiration!
There are a few ways to sort your action plan, depending on your method of tracking. You can order them by:
- Status (in progress, on hold, completed, etc.)
- Priority or urgency
- Deadline (closest or furthest away)
- Individual responsible
- Team responsible
By having the flexibility to organise your action items in this way, it’s easy to visualise what’s outstanding and chase the relevant colleagues.
4. Assign a person and a deadline
For each action, clearly assign an individual or team member and a reasonable deadline. You may need to communicate with them to set a deadline based on how urgent/non-urgent the action item is and their current workload and availability. Or, the action item may be time-bound anyway, as set by the meeting leader.
Communication is key to getting this right, as is giving clarity to make sure that each individual is aware of their responsibilities.
5. Communicate any issues or changes of priority
Within the meetings themselves, action items can be allocated without full knowledge of the entire process involved. Sometimes, it’s not until the person responsible gets started that they realise that essential parts are missing, such as data, access to information or a team member being on leave.
You’ll need to give an opportunity, either in your action tracker itself or elsewhere, for members to share this information and potentially add a preceding action item before theirs can be done. This is likely to alter the deadline for delivery.
Similarly, you need to ensure that you’re letting your team members know of any changes to an action item or to its priority. This will have an impact on the individual/team responsible and may extend out to affect other action items, too.
6. Track progress
Finally, use action item tracking. Having everything in one place with clear tasks, notes, priorities, responsibilities and due dates should keep the entire team in alignment on what needs to be done and by when.
Check in semi-regularly on the tracking document, and don’t hesitate to give the action item assignee a nudge on incomplete action items ahead of or on the deadline specified. Or perhaps they haven’t provided status updates on the tracker. Nudge them either way to keep them on track!
Meeting action item template
Lots of businesses use spreadsheets or project management tools for tracking action items. You can use the below table (or a spreadsheet with a similar outline) to make this work for your business. We would recommend using collaborative spreadsheet software, such as Google Sheets or a board management portal such as iBabs, to allow everyone to update the statuses of their individual action items.
You can also colour code and use conditional formatting to give a clear picture of progress, such as allocating colours to the Status, Priority and Due Date columns.
|Status||Action item||Assigned to||Priority||Due date||Notes|
|Not started||Item 1||Head of Marketing||High||00/00/00||Waiting for info|
|In progress||Item 2||CFO||High||00/00/00||Speaking to client|
|Complete||Item 3||IT Department||Mid||00/00/00||Error #4324 fixed|
|On hold||Item 4||Marketing Executive||Low||00/00/00||Waiting for data|
|Overdue||Item 5||Sales Team||Low||00/00/00||Sales presentation|
|In progress||Item 6||Recruitment||High||00/00/00||Outreach started|
|Complete||Item 7||IT Department||Mid||00/00/00||Error #6979 fixed|
How iBabs can help
As a board management platform, iBabs was designed with time-saving in mind for directors and secretaries alike. While noting down actions on a notepad or Google Docs during the meeting is one method, you’ll also need to create your own actions tracker and update it manually. With iBabs, there’s a different way…
During the meeting itself (or shortly after), administrators can capture every action, add an explanation with notes, assign actions to individuals and set deadlines using iBabs. Each action will then be attached to the meeting minutes and the assignee(s) will get a notification in their iBabs profile. There is a red, amber or green status to show progress so the actions can be tracked. You can even create automated follow-up emails to save time manually chasing up your colleagues on their actions.
If you’re ready to reclaim hours of administrative time, request a product demo of iBabs today.
What is the difference between a task and an action item?
While a task is something to be done and ticked off, this can become an action item if you add a deadline and a person responsible for that task. Generally, action items will form part of a sequence of actions that can take place once the initial action is done.
How do you follow up on actions from this meeting at the next meeting?
If you are using a spreadsheet or a board management platform, this can be used as the overarching tracking document for action items. Near the beginning of the next meeting, summarise the actions from the previous meeting – referring to your tracker – and get everyone to update this before the meeting. Then, you’ll have up-to-date information to use, and the next actions can be arranged in that meeting.
When the meeting is over, how can you ensure that the action items get followed up and done?
Within a working day or so of the meeting, the minutes from the meeting (or a quick meeting recap) should be shared with all meeting attendees, and this should include the list of action items. Be sure to add the action items to a live tracking tool and share access with all those who have responsibilities assigned to actions. This is a good timeline and forms an effective follow-up.
For a sequence of productive meetings with momentum, using a meeting follow-up action item template can help keep everyone aligned and on track with their responsibilities. By encouraging the meeting leader to recap the current, due and overdue action items near the beginning of each meeting, you’ll save valuable time and will keep the entire team on track.
Ready to get to grips with follow-up action items? iBabs can help. With our virtual board meeting software, we help secretaries to save hours of time on meeting preparation, ensuring all staff have what they need and creating an efficient follow-up process. Get started with a product demo today.