Meetings. And lots of them! You know what I’m talking about. Meetings are a reality of life and leadership. We’ve all been in meetings that were engaging, stimulating, and productive. And we’ve all been in meetings where we whispered under our breath, “Just shoot me!”
For a moment, I want to think with you about how to get the most mileage out of a meeting by using what I like to call the “recap email.”
In short, a recap email is a follow-up note written to the meeting participants that calls out the high points of the meeting. It’s a pretty simple concept. My guess is that you are already doing this in some form or fashion. But maybe there is an idea or two listed below that can expand your thinking and enlarge your toolkit.
Here are some of the benefits of a recap email.
How’s your recall? Unless you’re batting 1000%, you need to have a system where you can retrieve an informal account of what took place in any given meeting. The recap email is ideal for this. Conveniently filed in your Outlook mail folders, months down the line when the memory fades, it provides a concise and helpful snapshot of what took place. And in the meantime, you have freed up your mind for other items of mental importance.
Given the pace and distractions of life and ministry, often one can leave a meeting less than certain about the outcome. The beauty of a recap email is that it provides clarity on the essential takeaways from the meeting. In a simple bullet format, you can call out what was discussed, what was agreed on, what the next steps are, etc. Scattered thoughts are brought into crisp focus.
A recap email provides the opportunity to make sure that the core elements of the meeting have been appropriately noted—and done so in a collaborative manner. At the end of a recap email, I will make the statement: “This is my best attempt to capture our discussion, but I’m sure I have missed something, so please add or edit.”
Productive meetings can easily vanish into thin air if participants don’t fulfill their stated tasks. A recap email helps to document who owns the next step in a given project or ministry initiative. For example, “We agreed that Steve would bring a draft proposal to our September 30 staff meeting.”
If your experience is like mine, you find that over time there are certain recurring topics that come up in meetings. We spend an hour talking about it (again), but it never goes anywhere productive. A recap email is a tool that captures the important elements of a discussion so that you don’t have to reload the discussion time and time again. When you return to a topic that you discussed months earlier, you can quickly reorient the conversation by simply reading your recap email from the prior meeting.
Typically, I will send out a recap email the day after the meeting, along the lines described above. And then, more often than not, the following week, I will resend the recap email as a “check-in” to assess the status of the follow-up. For example, “Jill, based on our meeting last week, I wanted to touch base to see if you are on track to meet with the small group leaders by the end of January. Please let me know if I can help in any way.”
A wise leader is always on the lookout for ways to build up colleagues. A recap email tees up a perfect opportunity to provide appropriate shout-outs. “Team—that was a great meeting. Thanks for coming prepared, and most of all for your full engagement. Special thanks to MaryAnn for doing the pregame research that allowed us to move right into the discussion with context and a draft recommendation.”
With the demands of life and ministry, yesterday’s meetings can quickly be shoved into the archives of the “distant past.” But if the meeting was important enough to have, then it is important enough to call out and, most of all, sustain its outcomes and create traction. To that end, the recap email serves as a good friend and helpful tool. Give it a shot. I think you’ll agree.