For the Record: How to Take Effective Meeting Minutes

Author: Cronofy

18th February 2014

Taking minutes at meetings is often left to a secretary or PA, but when they’re not available, or if a meeting does not warrant their presence, many people would be apprehensive about volunteering themselves for this service.

To most, keeping an accurate, concise and legible record of what goes on is difficult, daunting and definitely something to be avoided. But it really shouldn’t be.

Meeting minutes are hugely important in many ways – they make note of who has agreed to do what, remind people what was discussed and what wasn’t, and can be instrumental in solving arguments the next day!

This does not make them difficult to take, so long as you use a bit of common sense and keep your head. Our before, during and after guide to taking meeting minutes should help you navigate the stormy seas of who said what.

Before

Ensure you, and the other participants, have the detailed agenda and are well prepared. It is preferable that you do not plan to play a major part in the meeting if you will also be responsible for taking minutes. Doing both at once can be tricky, especially in detailed discussions, and you may find that you end up taking part without taking the minutes.

Have a template ready to go with key bits of info such as date and time, participants, who is the chair etc.

Decide whether you want to type your minutes on a laptop or tablet or whether you will use a pen and paper. If you know shorthand (you can quite quickly pick up some key outlines for common words or phrases – try Teeline) then all the better!

NB – Recording audio may seem like a good idea, but it will take you longer than the original meeting to listen back through and write up what happened, so avoid this temptation.

During

Check off attendees on your list as they enter and if you don’t know people ask them to introduce themselves. If you are worried about forgetting names draw a quick table plan with initials to indicate where each person is sitting.

Do not try to record every single word – your wrist will quickly tire and it’s not necessary. Focus on keeping a record of the key points of discussion, decisions made and how tasks have been assigned. If you are not sure of the outcome of any part of the meeting then ask the chair to clarify there and then – ask afterwards and they might have forgotten.

Top tips

  • Number pages as you go
  • Focus on action items and decisions, not the complete discussion
  • Be objective and do not take minutes in a “he said … then she said …” manner
  • Keep it dull – avoid using elaborate or subjective words and stick to the facts

After

Review your notes as soon as possible after the meeting and translate any shorthand notes you made. Type your notes up in a clear and concise way and when you are confident that you have got everything down send them out to participants.

If you need to refer to other documents then reference them and attach as an appendix – do not try to summarise them within the minutes.

And do not be downhearted if someone comes back and queries what you have taken down – this often happens, especially when meetings touch on complicated or controversial issues.

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Cronofy

Date: 18th February 2014 | Category: Productivity