How to Record Useful Meeting Minutes
Do your hands cramp up at the thought of recording meeting minutes? Do you question what information you should record and what you should leave out? You’re not alone. Most of us have sat through a meeting madly scribbling what we thought were minutes only to find out later that we’ve missed essential information or that the notes were never used.

Why Meeting Minutes Matter
Don’t give up, meeting minutes are important. They capture the essential information of a meeting – decisions and assigned actions. They keep attendees on track by reminding them of their role in a project and clearly define what happened in a group session. How many times have your colleagues been confused or in disagreement about what happened in a meeting? With minutes to refer to, everyone is clear.

What most people don’t know is that meeting minutes shouldn’t be an exact recording of everything that happened during a session. Minutes are meant to record basic information such as the actions assigned and decisions made. Then, they can be saved and used for reference or background material for future meetings relating to the same topic.

The following instructions will help you take useful and concise meeting minutes.

Before the Meeting
If you are recording the minutes, make sure you aren’t a major participant in the meeting. You can’t perform both tasks well.

Create a template for recording your meeting minutes and make sure you leave some blank space to record your notes. Include the following information:

Date and time of the meeting
The purpose of the meeting
The meeting lead or chair’s name
Assigned action items
Decisions made

Before the meeting, gather as much information from the host as you can. Ask for a list of attendees, as well as some information on the purpose of the meeting. This way you won’t need to scramble to understand what’s going on while you’re recording notes.

Decide how you want to record your notes. If you aren’t comfortable relying on your pen and notepad, try using a tape recorder or, if you’re a fast typist, take a laptop to the meeting.

During the Meeting
As people enter the room, check off their names on your attendee list. Ask the meeting lead to introduce you to meeting attendees you aren’t familiar with. This will be helpful later when you are recording assigned tasks or decisions.

Don’t try to record notes verbatim – it’s not necessary. Minutes are meant to give an outline of what happened in the meeting, not a record of who said what. Focus on understanding what’s being discussed and on recording what’s been assigned or decided on.

Record action items and decisions in your template as they happen – don’t wait until after the meeting to pull them out of your notes or you could make a mistake. If you don’t understand exactly what decision has been made or what action has been assigned, ask the meeting lead to clarify.

After the Meeting
Review the notes and add additional comments, or clarify what you didn’t understand right after the meeting. Do this while the information is fresh in everyone’s mind. Type your notes out in the template you created before the meeting – this will make the notes easier for everyone to read and use.

When you’re writing out your notes, use some of the following tips from the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP).

Number the pages as you go so you aren’t confused later. Remember, though, that the minute-taker is responsible for providing good flow. Don’t force yourself to write the minutes in the actual chronological order of the discussion - it may not work.

Focus on action items, not discussion. The purpose of minutes is to define decisions made and to record what actions are to be taken, by whom and when.

Be objective. Write in the same tense throughout and avoid using people’s names except for motions or seconds. This is a business document, not about who said what.

Avoid inflammatory or personal observations. The fewer adjectives or adverbs you use, the better. Dull writing is the key to appropriate minutes.

If you need to refer to other documents, attach them in an appendix or indicate where they may be found. Don’t rewrite their intent or try to summarize them.

When you finish typing the minutes, ask the meeting lead to review the document for errors. Send the final copy of the minutes to attendees right away. Keep a copy of the notes (and the template) for yourself in case someone wants to review them later.

Recording meeting minutes ensures that the decisions and actions resulting from a meeting aren’t lost or forgotten. By taking the time to record proper meeting notes you’ll make sure the time and effort that goes into a meeting isn’t wasted.

Related Books
Art of Taking Minutes, by Delores Dochterman

The Minute Taker’s Handbook, by Jane Watson









Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.

 


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