The style of minutes has changed a lot over the last ten years – there is less emphasis on verbatim notes and more focus on actions. The saying goes, “prior preparation and planning can prevent poor performance” and this applies as much for taking meeting minutes as it does for any other task. So, if taking minutes for meetings leaves you in a cold sweat, here’s a few tips to get you ahead of the game:
Agendas and Papers
If you’re not the person preparing the agenda and papers, ask for copies along with previous minutes and make sure you review them before the meeting. This will help you anticipate the discussion and decisions that need to be made. It will also give you a guide as to what actions might arise.
Use previous meeting minutes and/or the agenda to create a template for your minutes. Most meetings will follow the order of the agenda and often the meeting papers will outline the decisions or actions to be taken. You can prep these in your template, meaning you can better focus on what is said in the meeting.
Speak to the Meeting Chair
The Chair will be able to guide you on how formal the minutes will need to be. They will also be the person who has the final sign off on the meeting minutes, so can give you guidance on the level of detail and format they expect.
Choose your Technology
Some people still prefer to take minutes using paper and pen. Others prefer going straight to the laptop. Personally, I prefer to take minutes on the laptop as I type quicker than I write and if the agenda order changes, it’s easier to shift things around. If you are planning to use a laptop make sure it is fully charged or that there’ll be a plug close to where you are sitting. It’s also helpful to keep your original typed document, creating a new document when it comes to the editing process. Always make sure you have a notebook and pen just in case your technology doesn’t work!
Be the first one in the meeting room. Make sure any technology you plan to use is working and, as above, if you’re using a laptop, choose a seat close to a power supply. As people arrive, if you don’t know them, introduce yourself and make yourself a seating plan – this will make it easier to note who said what and who has received actions in the meeting.
Minute taking is a great skill to have, regardless of your role within a company, and it needn’t be daunting.