If you ever find yourself in the precarious position of having to write minutes at a meeting and don’t have a clue of how to go about doing it, don’t panic! It won’t be a daunting task if you remember a few of the essential elements of note-taking.
The decisions made and issues discussed during a meeting are crucial to the continued functioning of a business or organization. Therefore, it is important to keep a record of those discussions and decisions in an organized fashion.
Before the meeting starts, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts. You should review a copy of the agenda to understand what the meeting is about. Also, examine the names of attending participants in order to become familiar with the context of the meeting. The more you know about the upcoming discussions and participants, the more effective your notes will be.
You can also use the agenda to serve as the format for the minutes. Before the meeting begins, prepare an outline using the topics from the agenda and leave plenty of white space for notes. Remember to include all essential elements, such as the date and time, venue, agenda, names of the participants, time of adjournment, and next meeting date. By having the topics already written down, you can jump right on to a new topic.
If you are not familiar with the participants in the group, you might even want to prepare an attendance checklist. As people enter the room, check off the names. Or, you can pass around a sheet for everyone to sign as the meeting starts. To be sure about who said what, make a map of the seating arrangement, and make sure to ask for introductions of unfamiliar people.
You will find that taking meeting notes is also easier when you are not a participant in the discussion. Not only does this make you impartial and objective in what you write, but it is also very difficult to take minutes of a meeting that you are expected to talk about, too. As the note taker, your focus should be to capture the discussion of the meeting, not on leading or participating in the discussion. You are not in charge of the meeting, the chairperson is.
Use whatever recording method is comfortable for you: a notepad, laptop computer, tape recorder, steno pad, or shorthand. If you are uneasy about taking notes or know that you may have to speak, it might be a good idea to use a tape recorder as a backup.
If you are going to be a participant in the meeting, you should also be prepared! Study the issues to be discussed and have your questions ready ahead of time. If you have to concentrate on understanding the issues while you are taking notes, they won’t make much sense to you later.
Another important aspect to remember is that writing minutes is not the same as transcribing. Effective note-taking does not mean you are recording every word that is spoken, this could lead to you missing the most important points. Concentrate on getting the gist of the discussion and taking enough notes to summarize it later. The minutes of a meeting should serve as a snapshot of the decisions and discussions, so keep them brief and to the point.
It may also help to attach any materials or brochures that were handed out at the meeting to the notes. Having this documentation should make your job easier because you can reference the handouts in your notes rather than include all of their contents. The documentation may also help you should you need to refresh your memory about a topic when finalizing the minutes.
You should type up your minutes right after the meeting has ended so it still fresh in your mind. The longer you wait to do put your notes in a draft format, the greater the possibility of forgetting a critical point. Once you have finished with the draft of the minutes, be sure to double-check it for typographical errors before sending it to the participants. It is probably wise to keep all rough notes until the minutes have been approved.
Once all of the participants have signed off on the draft, you can finalize the minutes and throw your notes away. You should keep all of the handouts and attach them to the minutes for future reference.
Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of taking minutes. Concise and coherent minutes are the mark of a professional. The very process of recording minutes can give you a better understanding of the issues faced by your organization or company, along with the ability to focus on what is important.Don’t be intimidated