Taking minutes at meetings
March 19, 2017
TAKING MINUTES AT MEETINGS
We are often faced with taking minutes at meetings and often you worry you might not be able to record the relevant information/follow ups.
Below is a brief guide on the main points to consider.
Firstly, do have an understanding of what the meeting is about. Make sure at least a day before that you have had a copy of the last set of minutes and the agenda for today’s meeting. Spend a little time reading through and also getting to know the terms and names of people who attended last time and also the ones attending this time.
When taking minutes makes sure you know the correct spelling of each of the people attending and their job titles. Also make sure your account for any absences.
Also before the meeting do draw a plan of where people are sitting eg Mr Smith will be No. 1 Mr Brown will be No. 2 then when you are taking minutes you can note down No. 1 reported…..Then of course when you type up the minutes you will refer to No. 1 by his full name/initials
When taking good minutes it is important to leave plenty of time for preparation for the actual meeting and also writing up the minutes after the meeting.
Do arrive at the meeting around 5-20 minutes before the start, so you can see the layout, set up properly and be ready. After the meeting has concluded (and before everyone leaves). If you have any questions or queries do ask immediately. Also I would suggest writing up the minutes the same day or certainly no later than the following morning. This is vital as the minutes need to be checked and then circulated. Also if there is a delay in circulating the minutes it can mean a delay in action. Prompt meeting minutes are likely to be not only more accurate, but more effective.
How long it takes to write-up the minutes depends on several things. Some organisations like just to have the main headlines, others like to go into details. So check beforehand of the style your organisation is using.
Inexperienced minute takers often underestimate how long it will take them to create the final minutes – leading to a final document that is difficult to read, inaccurate, or badly delayed.
For the meeting itself, make sure you know where you’ll need to go. As a minute-taker, there is nothing worse than rushing into the meeting at the last-minute – unless it is arriving late! Leave ample time for train delays and traffic jams.
At the actual meeting make sure you can see and hear everything clearly. Make sure your laptop is working; you have plenty of note paper and plenty of pens. If you are using a recording device make sure you have checked it in advance that it works! Make sure you have plenty of spare batteries.
Do also check that plenty of water, tea, coffee etc has been ordered and also make sure you keep a bottle of water near you as you cannot just keep getting up to get water and miss a vital piece of information.
A good meeting often brings together people who have interesting ideas and a lot to say. Sometimes this means that debates can get overheated. You must make sure that you only take minutes that are relevant. Neutral, objective minute-taking is all the more important in the face of controversy. So make sure you don’t take sides – either in the meeting itself or in your minutes.
As a minute taker do not get involved in the meeting. You cannot take and take notes at the same time. Also you must be seen by the others as being objective. Ideally, the person taking minutes should have no personal interest in the outcome of the meeting.
A hallmark of good meeting minutes is the right balance between in-depth coverage of complex topics, and concise summary and paraphrase of repetition.
Yes, a certain amount of physical note taking speed is necessary – but it’s not the most important skill. A good minute taker also knows when not to type or write. In these moments, the minute taker will probably be pausing, listening, rephrasing and mentally summarising. It’s also important that the minute taker can express the information clearly.
What to put in the minutes can vary from one person to another. It does vary and your meeting may require a very concise summary to a word for word report. Do check with the organiser before to check what they require.
When writing up the minutes you need to consider the format. Do you have a regular template you use? It is best to try to follow the same format as previous meetings.
The layout of meeting minutes doesn’t need to be fancy. But it does need to be well-designed for its purpose. And because the purpose varies from one type of meeting to another, the layout of the minutes may vary, too.
Once the first draft has been completed pass the minutes to your organiser who will review and perhaps amend slightly. Also they may have some questions to ask so make sure your notes are readable.