April 17, 2018
Meeting minutes are written, accurate accounts of the proceedings that take place at meetings. They should record important details, decisions and assignments. Meeting minutes provide references for future meetings and clarification of previous meeting details. Written minutes can help prevent disagreements and misunderstandings because people can review the minutes to determine exactly what occurred at the meetings.
It is important for administrative assistants to provide clear information that attendees can refer to when questions arise later. Concise, understandable minutes can help resolve issues about details that people may forget soon after the meetings.
Administrative assistants can be effective minute takers by following these guidelines:
Gather the tools needed for efficient minute taking, but verify that rules do not prohibit the use of recording devices or laptops before bringing those instruments to the meeting. Having multiple minute taking devices will give you the ability to have a backup in the event that your primary device fails on you.
Although a tape recorder can verify accuracy, do not rely on it completely. Even if you tape the meeting, take notes as well. A tape recorder can malfunction, or it may not pick up every conversation clearly. Having an audio recorder can also be a distraction if attention is brought to it. Make sure you have a audio recorder that can be used discretely while still picking up clear and concise audio.
If you can type rapidly, you may find it easier to use a laptop than to use a pen and paper. Do not be concerned about spelling and punctuation as you type; you can correct all those details after the meeting. Using a tablet with a pen is another great alternative to paper as it allows for great written notes and can often translate right into text. Using your mobile device can also be a great way for recording or note taking althought it can be limiting based on the speed of the meeting or the notes required to be taken.
Paper, Pens, Pencils and Clipboard
Even when you plan to use a laptop to take minutes, it is a good idea to be prepared for any contingency. The battery in your laptop could run down, and you may not be near an electrical outlet, so it is best to have an alternate plan for taking notes. Bring plenty of paper and at least two pens and pencils. A clipboard can hold the paper if you do not have a table available or if the table is at an uncomfortable height for writing. When you can read your writing, it does not have to be neat. Your notes serve only as a reminder from which to type the minutes that will be a permanent record of the meeting.
Clock or Watch
Use a timepiece to document the time the meeting begins and the time of adjournment. In addition, record the times that any latecomers arrive as well as when anyone leaves early along with the times that votes or decisions occur. Those records will indicate who may have missed important information even though they attended the meeting.
If possible, obtain information about the meeting several days in advance of the event. Ask for a copy of the agenda and a list of those expected to attend the meeting. If there will be discussions about topics with which you are unfamiliar, learn what you can about those matters before the meeting takes place. It is easier to take notes when you understand the subjects about which you are writing. If the agenda does not include items tabled at the previous meeting, notify the leader about the oversight before the meeting begins.
Create a Template
Make a template before the time of the meeting at which you will take minutes. The template should include the organization’s name, meeting date, location, time, purpose, leader’s name and title, attendees’ names and titles and any other pertinent information known in advance of the meeting. You can then concentrate on recording details as the meeting progresses. When you have more than one page of notes, number each page as you write. That will help you to avoid confusion when making your final copy.
As attendees arrive, check their names off your list, and after the meeting, cross off the names of those who did not appear. Add additional names to your list if unexpected people attend the meeting. When time allows, sketch a rough map of where attendees are sitting to help you record their names accurately when necessary.
If it makes your job easier, you may opt to ask attendees to sign an attendance sheet as they arrive at the meeting.
Outline Style of Taking Minutes
You may prefer to take minutes using an outline style instead of a template. For that method, list each item of the agenda along with the name of the person presenting the information. Under each topic, summarize the information presented, decisions made and the results of any votes taken.
Arrive well ahead of time to ensure that you are ready to take minutes when the meeting begins. Locate an electrical outlet if you will need electricity for your laptop or recorder, and get your supplies organized. When you do not feel rushed, you will be more efficient at your job.
During the Meeting
One of the first things you record should be the approval of minutes from the last meeting. Note any corrections made to those minutes. When participants make announcements, report important details of the announcements along with the presenters’ names.
During the meeting, sit near the front of the room where you can hear the speakers plainly. Ask participants to repeat anything that you do not hear clearly and to explain anything that you do not understand. If you do not know some of the speakers’ names, ask them to identify themselves either before they begin speaking or immediately afterward.
Record each discussion and decision in the order in which they occur rather than according to their locations on the agenda. Leaders may change the sequence of some items to accommodate participants or attendees concerned with particular items who must arrive late or leave early.
Include the action necessary to implement the decisions and who is responsible for accomplishing the action along with the time allowed for completion. Record the result of any vote that takes place along with whether it was by ballot, voice or a show of hands. You may also need to report the names of those who voted yes or no and include the names of those who abstained as well.
If possible, ask the meeting leader to give a brief summary at the conclusion of each item on the agenda to clarify the issues.
Record a list of any materials distributed to attendees at the meeting, and attach copies of those materials to your typed minutes, or note where people can find the materials if you do not attach them to your minutes.
Include the next meeting’s location, date and time along with the proposed agenda items.
Remain Neutral and Concise
Report the facts in a concise, clear manner, and avoid using adverbs and adjectives or recording your own observations and opinions about the issues discussed at the meeting. It is not necessary to record every detail or the name of every person who speaks. However, include the names of those who make motions, second motions or who will be responsible for acting on the decisions made. Always remain neutral, and never record the emotions displayed by presenters and attendees. If you have a personal interest in the issues discussed, do not let the minutes reveal your concern.
The amount of information to include in your minutes may vary according to the type of meeting and how officials will use the minutes. You may need to produce a concise summary and paraphrase lengthy discussions, or you may have to provide a word-for-word transcript of the proceedings. Detailed reporting is sometimes easier because you do not have to decide what to include and what to omit in your minutes. However, most minutes should consist of brief summaries of the discussions but each word of the motions. If you have any questions about your assignment, ask the leader about the depth of reporting expected before you begin.
Effective meeting minutes have a good balance between brief summaries of ordinary subjects and in-depth reporting on complex issues.
Do Not Enter into the Discussions
You can be more efficient at taking minutes by not participating actively in discussions at the meeting. It is difficult to concentrate on taking effective minutes while talking about various issues as well.
After the Meeting
If you have any uncertainties or questions, speak to the leader immediately after the meeting to clarify anything of which you are unsure.
Review your notes directly after the meeting while it remains fresh in your mind. Correct any errors you may find, and make additions if necessary. Type the minutes from your informal notes, watching for automatic word processor corrections, which may actually be inaccurate interpretations of your intended words. Proofread your work, and ask someone to be an editor for you. The editor should be a skilled writer with an eye for detail who can check your work for accuracy. When you both agree that the minutes are correct, sign and date your completed minutes, and distribute them to attendees and others concerned as soon as possible after the meeting.
Organize your meeting minutes in chronological order in a notebook or binder so others can easily review them when necessary, and do not destroy old minutes without permission from your superiors.
If you need clarification about a discussion or motion, do not be afraid to interrupt and ask for an explanation. However, when you cannot interrupt the meeting, make a note to yourself at that spot on your page reminding you to ask the leader about the matter after the meeting.