It is often a common misconception that anyone can effectively minute take! You’d be surprised how different four or five sets of minutes from the same meeting can vary. I used to have minute taking as one of the tasks when I recruited for my Clerical team in my previous career. This blog post breaks down the key elements needed to minute take effectively and completes the set of three posts surrounding the focus on meetings.
- Why are accurate minutes important?
- How to take effective minutes
- During the meeting
- After the meeting
- How Busy Lives can help
Why are accurate minutes important?
The minutes taken at a meeting serve as a record of the meeting. They detail what happened at a meeting including who attended the meeting, what important points were made, any goals, action plans or due dates set as well as anything else of importance.
Meeting minutes are useful documents as they document key ideas brought up at meetings as well as the discussions that preceded and followed the them.
Generally, minutes taken in a business setting do not need to record everything word-for-word, that kind of minute taking is for legal or specific HR meetings and known as transcription or transcribing. In a business setting it is okay to condense some discussions and leave out irrelevant ones.
Additionally, having a record of the meeting means that anyone who was not in attendance will remain informed.
How to take effective minutes:
The first thing to do is decide who is going to take the minutes. I feel it is key is to get someone outside of the organisation or one of your clerical team to take minutes as they will be impartial. Having someone else to take minutes means every participant can fully engage with the meeting and make their contributions.
When choosing your minute taker, it is important for them to have a good ear and the ability to stay focused and record details accurately, this means they must be a good multi-tasker.
Once the minute taker has been selected, they need to ensure they are aware of any company formats / styles and ensure they can comply with these. They should also get a copy of the meeting agenda, names of all the attendees and relevant papers which will be referenced to.
Some people find it useful to make a template for the meeting. I always use one. This can be as simple as the agenda items within a table to listed on a piece of paper with space under each item for them to write notes.
During the meeting
During the meeting, the minute taker needs to record important information.
- The date and location of the meeting.
- Time the meeting started.
- Who attended and who did not attend sending apologies.
- Any corrections to the previous meeting’s minutes as a matter of accuracy.
- Any changes to the agenda or its order.
- Key points made throughout the meeting and who by.
- The results of any votes.
- Any goals / action points agreed, who by and their due dates.
- The time and date of the next meeting.
- The time the meeting ended.
When writing the minutes, unless it is a legal proceeding, the minute taker can summarise any arguments or discussions. They must record discussions objectively and not include any personal observations.
The minutes should be numbered to align with the agenda items. During the meeting it may be easier to make summary notes rather than full sentences depending upon your speed. Later, the minute taker can then expand on their notes and make coherent paragraphs. While quick notes are easier to take it is important to have all the important information accurately recorded.
Top tips if you are new to minute taking:
- Ask for permission to record the meeting. Be sure to let the participants know if this is planned. Once the recording is made do not try to make a word-for-word transcript simply use it for reference when summarising notes.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification – if the meeting attendees move topics without deciding an outcome on the previous topic, be sure to ask them for a decision or plan of action if needed.
- Always ensure your completed minutes are ‘sharp’ with their presentation and have a high standard of professionalism.
- Arrive in advance and in good time before the meeting commences so you can get set up and be informed of any pertinent information you need to know.
- Check with the Chair before the meeting commences if they would like names / initials against important points that are made or not.
- If you are minute taking where you don’t know the members present draw a quick shape of the table and as people introduce themselves write their names down corresponding with where they are sitting. When they then speak within the meeting you will be accurately be able to record the initials of who said what.
- Use a handout reference code where circulated papers are discussed within the agenda. Members will all know which exact papers were drawn upon and discussed at a later date.
- If possible position yourself next to the Chair at the meeting. You may not be actually contributing but are still playing a key role at the meeting. It also helps if you subtly need to prompt the Chair if they miss an agenda item for instance.
After the meeting
Once the meeting is over, the minute taker should take their notes and make them into an articulate document. Make sure the minutes are clear and reflect the meeting and each section is numbered to align to the appropriate agenda item. It is a good idea to do this as soon as possible after the meeting ends.
Make sure all decisions and further actions are clearly recorded and everything is written with enough detail to be understood. If other documents need to be referred to include them in either as an attachment, appendix or state where the documents can be found.
Once the minutes have been finished double check all spellings and grammar. Send the minutes to the Chair primarily to approve and be signed off before you distribute them to all names parties.
The next meeting will review the minutes and amendments may be required. If this is so, change the minutes as needed then present them for filing with a version number clearly depicted in the heading.
If possible edit and produce your final set of minutes within 24 – 48 hours of the meeting taking place if possible. This will make a difference as the content will still be fresh in your head.
How Busy Lives! can support you with this
Busy Lives! was created when I left a busy career that left me time poor and not able to give sufficient priority to what really mattered to me. I now provide a wide range of business support for people in that position.
I am happy to help by:
- Helping you prepare for an important meeting.
- Composition and circulation of any agenda and related documentation before your meeting.
- Chairing your meeting so that you can concentrate on also contributing within the meeting.
- Minute taking during the meeting so that you can concentrate on achieving your goal.
Let you help you gain precious time back. Ring Busy Lives! 07565 722 031
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