Taking of meeting notes is a task that seems simple and ordinary from a distance, but up close, you will see they require special skill and special understanding.
Writing a meeting note is rather a delicate responsibility as focus and attentiveness is required to be able to put down every useful information. Minutes are the summary of the main ideas discussed in a meeting and the future actions to be taken on the matters.
Succinct meeting notes that capture the purpose of the meeting and its future recommendations can save time and resources. Recording minutes is essential because the details can be referred back to in the future for follow-up purposes.
When minutes are not taken, it is observed that members of the association or organization would have different versions of recollections of the meeting’s outcome. They will also have conflicting ideas about what was agreed and the important points would be forgotten or not achieved by the supposed date.
The secretary is responsible for taking minutes in a meeting; however, the duty can be alternatively handed to someone else and he has to be responsible to write the minute and produce a final document to be sent to the attendees.
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This post will look into and explain how you can write minutes effectively. Having these tips handy will always aid you to produce useful notes that would successfully be turned to a final minutes document.
Things to record during a meeting:
- Attendees’ names
- How the meeting started
- Description of discussion in the meeting
- Actions proposed in the future
Writing a meeting notes
Your responsibility as a minute writer is not just to write down what is discussed but also to know in advance the agenda of the meeting and have a basic understanding of it. A basic knowledge will help you to write effective notes as you follow the discussion with ease.
Preparation is key as you will not bump into embarrassing moments and begin to whisper to someone for clarification, though it’s not in bad taste to ask for a repetition when you didn’t hear clearly a useful point that was said.
Below are important tips on writing effective minutes at a meeting
Identify points worth putting down
You might be tempted to make notes of everything said at the meeting verbatim. It is in good taste to compose yourself, focus on what the discussant says and think about how much of the speech is worth recording. With good preparation, you shouldn’t be struggling to identify or confused about what to put down.
Know when to listen
It is in excessive bad taste for a minute taker to absolutely concentrate on writing. There should be moments you should pause and listen, and this is after you must have determined the part of the meeting you will write down about.
You are a part of the meeting and should also participate either by listening or making contributions and not just write.
Meet and discuss the meeting with the chairman in advance
The chairman is in charge of managing the meeting and should be your first point of call for any information and clarifications. This should be done before the meeting and you can initiate that as you are the one who knows what information would make you confident.
Deliberately prepare for the meeting
Preparation will eliminate a lot of confusions that would come up while taking minutes because you already had known the agenda and probably the sub agendas to be discussed.
Without preparation, your notes would be haphazard and difficult to use to form a good final minute to be distributed to members.
Using a template
I am not a fan of template, but a lot of people are comfortable using it as it make things a lot easier. This is often better if you would be taking the minutes in more than one occasion. It also inform you what information you are going to insert and have more time to listen.
Talk to attendees before the meeting
It is a good habit to have a chitchat with attendees in advance as this would make you have different version of views of the meeting. This will further give you a solid knowledge and confidence. Ask questions and probe further to know what they expect and you will be able to glean more information.
Sitting close to the chairman
Sitting around the chairman gives you ample room to hear clearly what is said as much of the speech is going to come from the platform. You are a part of the management team.
Producing the note into the final minute document
Typing the notes into the final document as soon as possible as the information is still fresh in your memory is good for expanding the minute further. If you wait for a few days you might be struggling to have a good final minute document.
Your minute should not contain your personal opinion or be influenced by your thoughts no matter how emotional the meeting could be. You should exactly put down what the meeting provides to avoid arguments and conflicting opinions later. A biased view by you and letting it reflect on the minute would put in a bad spot and create problems for the meeting.
Tips for taking minutes remotely
Since 2020 when Covid-19 set the world on panic mode with the lockdown and reduction in physical gathering, a lot of meetings have gone remote using technology. It is common to have a board meeting with the attendees in their respective homes or elsewhere to attend meetings on computer apps.
These virtual meetings also require minutes just like the physical meetings. However, there are a few things to consider to ensure you produce useful minutes.
To begin, you must find a quiet comfortable place devoid of rancour and distractions. If you are working from home and family members are present, politely let them know you have a meeting to attend so they would be aware not to be a disturbance.
You need to hear clearly what is being said at the other side and vise versa. If you didn’t hear clearly, politely ask them to repeat. This is true as a result of internet network disruptions that happens in some places
You will take minutes as effectively as during physical meetings if you take these tips seriously.
Typical meeting note construction
The construction of minutes follows a fairly usual form and will be on the following lines:
Description of Meeting
It should indicate if it is sub-committee meeting, annual general meeting, ordinary general meeting, conference etc. and the place, time and date on which it was held, e.g. “A meeting of the executive committee of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Enugu Chapter, was held by 6 p.m. at the Allais Francais, on 11th February, 2016.
The name of the chairman should always be given. Other names, if a small meeting; otherwise, the number, e.g. “Chairman: Mr. Sunday Musa. “Those present: . . .” or “49 members present”.
Apologies for Absence
In a small meeting, all names should be recorded; in a large one, the names of any officers or leading members and the number of the remainder, e.g. “Apologies for absence were received from …….”
Meeting notes of the last meeting
These will either be read or have been duplicated and circulated to members; e.g. “The minutes of the last meeting were approved by the meeting and signed by the chairman”.
Business arising out of the Minutes
This is merely a report of action taken as the result of decisions made at the last meeting. In no case, of course, should any discussion have taken place. E.g. Mrs. Sule reported that her husband is willing to lend his hall for the convention on the 6th September. Mr. Godswill reported that Sir John regrets he is unable to open the Convention. The secretary reported that S. & S. caterers can supply lunch at N500 per head for the convention”.
Reports (if any): From sub-committees, treasurer, etc., e.g. “the chairman of the Association reported that …..”
Further Items: Then follows a record of the result of discussion on other items of business before the meeting, e.g. “A resolution was proposed by Mr. Musa and seconded by Mr. Chidi and carried, “that the words, at a weekly wage of N5000, be added.’ The amended resolution: “That a new cleaner be employed at a weekly wage of N5000′ was carried by a large majority.” E.g. “The question of a new bus for was discussed but no decision was reached”.
After being drafted, the minutes should be shown to the chairman for approval and are then dealt with in one of two ways:
- Duplicated (to enable a copy to be sent to each member) and pasted into the minute book.
- Hand-written into the minute book. Use a good-sized minute book, folio or larger and leave a margin at least 1.5” wide on the left-hand side of each page, in which the headings should be placed; this makes for easy reference.
The minutes should be available to any member, but no one can claim to see them as a right. Learn more about writing a minute here.
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