12 September 2012

Wednesday 101s: 7 steps to mastering minute-taking

Wednesday 101s
Taking minutes is easy-peasy. Don’t freak out; just pay attention and you’ll be fine. Remember, you’re there as an observer to record what went down in a particular meeting, who said what, so everyone knows what was discussed and what their next steps are. This is called “on the record”.

While people are fussing round the boardroom table, note down the names of everyone present, starting with the boss and going around the table clockwise. Be very careful about the spelling of names – get it right! Then assign them initials; example: Chris Brown becomes CB for shorthand purposes. You’ll also need to know their job title, but you can look that up offline later when you type it up properly.

Make a note of the date of the meeting, the time and venue. If there’s an agenda, keep it a bullet-style list and include in your final document. Also make a note of absentees.

Taking minutes is like writing down what a professor has said during a lecture, except this time you want his wisdom and everyone else’s, even if it means writing notes dialogue-style. If the discussion is about a specific agenda item, always make sure to note what was said, what the next steps are, who’s accountable for doing them and the deadline by which things need to get done.

If any votes happen, note how many were for, and their names. How many against, and their names. And how many didn’t respond, and their names. Then note the result of the vote.

Note the time of any breaks or adjournments – and recommencements – as well as the time the meeting ends. Get a deadline from your boss on when he expects to see the first draft. This is usually before close of business or first thing the next day.

Using a company letterhead, type up the minutes so that they make sense – we all have shorthand we use but not everyone’s is the same, so keep things understandable. Check out the example below on how to present the document. Also make sure that the minutes run to the agenda, even if the meeting didn't. Spell-check your document before you print out your first draft and give to the boss for checking and approval. Not all bosses need to approve minutes as every company has different systems in place. 

Example of minutes

Once approved, mail a copy to each of the attendees of the meeting, as well as the people who were absent and invite their comments and/or any amendments by a certain date. Print out a copy and put it on file.

Do you have a system that works better for you? Let me know below...

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