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Effective Minute-Taking – Part V: Minute Taking Best Practices

Even after years of practice, taking minutes can sometimes be difficult for some people.  Try using these best practices.

  1. Ask yourself, as you’re taking notes, “Will it matter in two days, two weeks, two months, two years?” If yes, include it. You will find yourself putting things in your draft that do not matter and later removing them, but that is okay.
  2. Don’t record conversations word for word.
  3. Do record motions word for word, and indent them for easy scanning. Example: Hurst made a motion to approve the 2008 final ranking list. Seconded by Mr. Goodhart. MOTION CARRIED
  4. Use keywords vs. sentences. Tip: Record minutes in a steno pad. On the left side, write keywords; on the right side, make short notations on the keywords. Want the notes to stick in your memory? Write on a color pad. If you are using a computer, make a table and do the same.
  5. Keep emotions out of the minutes—yours and those of attendees. Example: “Mr. Smith, exasperated by the discussion, left the room.” If you have to say something then just say, “Mr. Smith had to leave  the room.”
  6. Be an active listener. “If someone makes a motion and you didn’t hear it clearly, interrupt the meeting and ask. If you don’t understand something being discussed, but you can’t interrupt the meeting, make a note on your pad to ask the chairperson about it later.
  7. Reflect accurately the order of the discussion, even if doesn’t follow the agenda. These are legal, historical documents, and you are the one who took those notes. You never know when you or someone else will be asked about a meeting.
  8. Take your laptop for minute-taking. It’s an extreme time-saver. Listening to the meeting while recording it and then listening to it again to complete the minutes was double duty. You will save time by typing keywords, short sentences and notations into the agenda. Also use the recorder as a backup.”
  9. Create bulleted lists when recording a list of comments, suggestions or concerns.
  10. Streamline your sign-in sheet. Use at least a three-column template: The first column lists all staff and attendees. Attendees initial the second column and mark their arrival times in the third column.
    • Two days before the meeting, ask staff if any guests are coming, and add them to the sheet. The morning of the meeting, put the sign-in sheet by the door with a pen and a ‘Please sign in’ sign. At the start of the meeting, ask the chairperson to announce for all attendees, including board members, to sign the sheet.