You might hear people say that taking minutes at a meeting is a big responsibility. But isn’t it just taking notes?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is that there is little point in going to the time and expense of getting a group of people together if you don’t then go the extra yard and document the agreed actions and outcomes.
The issue with taking minutes is that from the outside it looks like a very simple task and so there isn’t a lot of in-house training on how to do it well and correctly but doing it well is difficult.
Because it is perceived as a straight forward task lots of people feel embarrassed to ask for training and help on something so simple.
This article will introduce you to the how and why of minute taking to get you started.
What is the Purpose of Minute Taking?
Minute taking is about listening carefully, accurately recording information and then communicating it clearly to the relevant parties.
The key task of minutes is to gather agreed actions and decisions from the meeting and document precisely, WHAT has been decided, WHO is responsible for the actions and WHEN the actions will be completed.
Minutes provide a structure for reviewing and following up on the agreed-upon actions and so drive those actions forward. In doing so they provide a great way to provide accountability for the agreed-upon tasks and decisions.
Minute also provide an institutional memory. They allow all future employees so see what was discussed when and why the decision that was taken was taken.
In some cases, this protects employees and the company as it shows that certain items (like H&S issues) have been appropriately discussed and debated. In other cases, this simply ensures that the reasons for decisions are appropriately documented.
How to Take Great Minutes
There are essentially three key sections to taking great minutes: 1) Before the meeting, 2) During the meeting and 3) After the meeting.
It is worth saying at this point that as a minute taker you are not exclusively a passive participant in a meeting. There will be times when you need clarification because something is unclear and it is important that you make yourself clearly heard at that point both for the minutes and also to ensure that the issues are fully discussed.
Before the Meeting –
Some people like to use specific apps to take minutes. To be honest some people find that these work well for them and some don’t. All we can suggest is that you give them a try and see how you get on. Examples include: Getminute and Meetingking
During the Meeting –
After the Meeting –
Problems Encountered When Minute Taking
Minute taking isn’t always as straight forward as we would like, especially in a heated meeting or one with a large number of people.
If it’s your first-time taking minutes, it’s a good idea to grasp the potential issues that could come up beforehand and prepare for them in advance.
This can make things very difficult. As minute taker it is perfectly fine to ask people to speak one at a time. They will understand that you need to take notes and are an important part of the process.
Sometimes resolutions don’t come as easy as everyone hopes or meetings get sidetracked and so issues don’t get comprehensively discussed and are left without a conclusion.
It is fine to ask for clarification.
Like all new skills, minute taking takes time and practice to get right.
If you are nervous speak to the chairperson before the meeting to explain that you are not experienced and would appreciate their help. This means that they will keep an eye on you to be sure that you look happy.
You can also meet with the chairperson immediately after the meeting to make sure that you have recorded everything important in your minutes.