How To Take Minutes Of A Meeting
Meetings are one of the unavoidable processes of any event such as business, academic gathering etc. We’ve all arranged them, held them, attended them, and no doubt sometimes wished they didn’t exist. Without minutes being taken, they would be one of the least productive processes. At any given point in your professional life, it’s likely you’re going to have to take minutes at a meeting. It needn’t be daunting, and it’s an easy skill to learn. Here’s how to make the process painless, professional, and productive.
The best way to understand how to write minutes starts by understanding their purpose. The human memory can be unreliable – people often think they heard one thing when in fact something else was said. Hence, minutes are required as a written record of what was said and what decisions were made during a meeting. They are taken as the meeting progresses as an accurate record of the proceedings. Then they are tidied up, typed up and distributed to all those involved in the meeting, and anyone else deemed necessary, such as individuals who were unable to attend.
What kind of language should be used in minutes?
Now that we know what minutes are used for, it’s easy to see that they should not be complicated or long and there’s no need for fancy language either. They should be a clear and simple record of what was talked about and what decisions were made during the meeting. However, be careful to ensure that they are clear to those who did not attend the meeting, but not so detailed that they record every word.
Format to use when taking minutes?
If you are asked to take minutes you should prepare yourself – you do not want to miss anything important!
1. Start by getting hold of a copy of the agenda for the meeting. Make sure you are clear on what is going to be covered in the meeting and clarify anything you are unsure of with the chairman beforehand. Have a reliable pen or pencil and a decent pad of paper to write on. You could also use a dictaphone to catch what has been said at the meeting.
2. Make an attendance sheet in advance so that as people enter the room you can ask them to sign it to confirm they were there.
3. Prepare your pad of paper so that you can make clear, logical notes that can be easily translated into typed minutes and understood by everyone. You should start with a clean sheet of A4 paper. Mark it with the name of the meeting, the date, where the meeting is taking place and who is in attendance. Use an underlined heading for each new item on the agenda
4. Leave a few lines in between each of the items – this will allow you to make further notes should the conversation return to the item later on
5. Concentrate on what has been decided and who is going to do it and underline these details
6. If there’s a long discussion, try to pick out the main points and decisions and note in the following way: ‘Following a long discussion it has been decided that…
7. Try to go through the minutes of the meeting with the chair after the meeting
8. There’s no need to learn short-hand, but it does help if you use abbreviations for frequently used words. You don’t need to learn a set of abbreviations, just make up your own. For example, you could use:
• wt for what
• wn for when
• manu for manufacturing
• dist for distribution
• dec for decided
9. Finally, you should write the minutes up quickly, whilst the meeting is fresh in your mind. If you leave it, you are likely to forget what was said and may end up leaving out important information.
Some problems you may encounter
Meetings can often get out of hand. For example, many people talking at once, the agenda not being followed or the discussion jumping to the next item before the previous item is closed. In these circumstances, it is difficult to keep track of what is being said and decided. If this happens don’t be afraid to ask the chairman, whose job it is to keep the meeting in order, to intervene. And if you are unsure of what has been agreed or who has been chosen to complete a specific job, simply ask. For example ‘So the meeting would like it minuted that Mr. Jones will not face any further action – is that correct?’
Follow these guidelines and you’ll be competent at taking minutes in no time. However, if you’d like to improve other aspects of your writing why not request a prospectus for one of our courses. We have three numerous courses that focus on writing. You have the chance to look through the course to decide if it fits your needs, so you’ve nothing to lose.
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