You must prepare your mind to filter information for inclusion in the meeting minutes and how you should conduct yourself as the minute taker during the meeting.
- Keep minutes concise, factual and objective
It can be difficult to discriminate from among all the opinions and facts to determine what statements to record. Keep these guidelines in mind:
- You can’t inject personal prefaces into your notes.
- You can’t give more weight to what certain people say and not record the pertinent remarks of others.
- You must be able to interpret statements for what is truly being said, rather than being influenced by the speaker’s voice inflections, intonations or mannerisms.
- Be a good listener
You’re going to have to quickly sort information in your mind—especially when several people are speaking at once—to record the facts accurately and attribute statements to the correct source.Listening becomes a mental exercise when you have to constantly process and determine, “Is this important information? Do I need to capture this? Do I need to put this down? Was this just an action item I heard? Who is responsible for that action? Was there a deadline given with the action?”
- Determine what information to capture
In corporate or organizational meetings, it’s necessary to record motions and resolutions verbatim, as well as the names of those who made them. You must also record amendments, decisions and conclusions. If you need to take formal minutes, it is highly recommended you get Robert’s Rules of Order. It’s one of the best books out there and goes into great detail—especially useful if you need to have formal records kept.No matter what type of minutes you take, though, you must capture and communicate all important actions that took place.
- Be prepared to deal with side conversations
The problem with side conversations: Sometimes people are just chitchatting and saying nothing of value, but other times they are discussing something important.How do you know when they’re saying something you should record? You can give your signal to the meeting chair, who can address those having the side conversation. Or, you can say something like, “Excuse me, but is this really good information that I should be capturing?” or “Do you have something you would like to share with me that I need to write down?”
It may take a while to feel comfortable with interrupting people, but you have the right to do so. If they’re saying something important, your main job is to capture it.
Key information to capture
Depending on whether you’re taking minutes for a daily huddle or a formal board meeting, the extent of what to record may change. But here’s the mid-range of important information you should collect:
- Dates, location and time of the meeting
- Names of attendees present and absent, if there are fewer than 20
- Label of the type of meeting. Is it a weekly, committee, executive board or annual corporate meeting?
- Name of presiding officer, committee chair or meeting leader
- Record of the action
- Record of time of adjournment
Beyond taking notes: your conduct
You should think of yourself as being involved in the meeting. As the minute taker, you must know what is going on the meeting to some extent.
Here are eight ways to be engaged:
- Read the meeting minutes
If you are the recording minute-taker, you may be expected to read the previous meeting minutes. Speak clearly, at a moderate pace and loud enough for everyone to hear.
- Follow parliamentary procedure
As we’ve said, buy a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order. This is a must for anyone who is frequently involved in preparing agendas and minutes and assisting with the organization and conduct of business.
- Signal the chair
As we mentioned, this is something to arrange ahead of time. Be as gracious as you possibly can, and not disruptive to the attendees.
- Be polished and professional
- Speak clearly so people can understand you
- Sit up, look interested
Don’t fall asleep, even though you may be attending a boring meeting!
- Ask questions to clarify
Don’t be afraid to ask attendees to clarify or repeat what you thought they said. You can say something like: “Joan, I believe this is what you said. Is that correct?”