10 Tips for Taking Better Meeting Minutes
A NO-NONSENSE GUIDE TO CLEAR MEETING MINUTES
If you are asked to take the minutes of a meeting; don’t panic! The term does not mean that you are required to record every minute of the discussion. The term actually refers to the definition of minute that means ‘attention to detail’.
The goal of meeting minutes is to provide an accurate summary of the key points. The notes serve as a reference to valuable material that was discussed, votes that were taken, future action plans and any other information that needs to be preserved. It becomes the company’s or organization’s official document for that meeting.
In this age of online meetings, quality meeting notes are essential to keep everyone involved up to date and on the same page.
There are some general guidelines for professional meeting notes to make sure everything is concise and easy to read.
Here are 10 tips on how to take meeting notes.
1. Pick a Method for Recording the Notes
Traditionally, all meeting notes were done by hand and on paper. Some people still prefer to do it that way, while others prefer to input them directly into a computer on a template or document.
If you choose the paper and pen method, make sure you have plenty of paper and extra pens so you will not need to leave the room for more supplies.
Typing them directly into a computer makes the overall process quicker, but make sure if you are using a laptop that there is enough battery charge to last through the meeting or that you can plug it in.
There is also the option of recording the meeting – see our tips on how to record meetings. You can do this to be transcribed later, or just use as a back-up for clarification of any details. Before you proceed, please obtain any permissions required, and all participants must be notified before the recording starts.
You can record using a smartphone, iPad, or another recording device. After the meeting, you can obtain a professional transcription of the information.
2. Understand the Expectations
If this is your first time taking notes, or if you are new to the organization, confirm the required expectations for the notes from the individual in charge.
There may be a specific format they want to be followed. Also, they may have a preference for certain information to be included or excluded.
Being sure you understand what is expected of you will eliminate any miscommunications later.
3. Know the Agenda
Before the meeting starts, take a few minutes to review the agenda. This should layout the plan for the meeting. Use this information to create an outline for the minute notes.
Being aware of the topics to be discussed and any scheduled votes or presentations will help you to record the key elements.
There are many types of templates that are useful for recording meeting minutes. You fill in as much information as you can before it starts, then add the notes as the meeting progresses.
4. Pay Close Attention
It is your job to carefully listen to everything that is said. You are not responsible for writing down word for word what is spoken, but in order to understand the context of the conversation, you need to pay attention.
It will be your job to decide what information is important and should be noted and what is just fluff and commentary. You will need to filter out talk that is irrelevant to the issue being discussed. Stick to documenting the decisions, changes, deadlines and any voting results per the agenda.
Do not include any personal thoughts or opinions in the notes. This is not the place for suggestions or ideas on your part.
5. How to Take Meeting Notes – What to Include
Since you are not writing down everything word or word; what do you include?
The meeting notes should begin with the date, time and place of the meeting as well as the name of the organization or group holding the meeting. It should also include everyone who attended, including yourself. If there were any who were unable to make it, please note that as well.
The minutes should then follow along with the agenda giving a brief summary of each item. If there are any votes taken, the outcomes should be recorded. All motions accepted or rejected should also be documented along with any new business.
Depending on the organization, meeting notes can be used as a legal document in litigation. Great care should be used in making sure the information is accurate, and you should never use direct quotes.
6. Clarify Any Missed Details
If there are several people in attendance, there may be many people talking at one time. It is possible that you will miss a detail or two that should make it into the meeting notes.
If you are unsure about an answer or decision, or even someone’s name or their contribution, do not hesitate to ask for clarification. These meeting notes will be the final historical review of what happened, so it is vital that everything is accurate and true.
7. Organize the Notes
As soon as the meeting is over start the process of organizing the notes. You are more likely to remember small details if you work on this right away. Take time to review all the entries and make adjustments as necessary.
You may need to fix some of wording and grammar. Always use the same tense throughout when writing the notes. The review of the notes should be easy to read and understand even for someone who was not in attendance.
8. The Approval
Before the meeting notes are distributed and filed away as final, obtain the approval from the appropriate individual.
If there are any corrections, make them right away and re-submit again for the final okay. You want to make sure the document is complete and correct before the final distribution.
After the final approval has been given, distribute the meeting notes. These should go to all attendees, any who were unable to attend and anyone else supplied to you as a recipient.
You should confirm the method of distribution. It may be by email as a PDF attachment. Another option is to utilize Google Docs which has a sharing function for the members of the group where they can view them.
10. Filing and Storage
Once the distribution has been made, the meetings need to be filed away or stored.
They can be stored as a printed hard copy in a file, or electronically stored on a hard drive. They can also be stored online using Google Docs or another online storage system.
The Importance of Meeting Notes
Minutes are a catalog of the important details of a meeting. They are used as a point of reference for those who attended and value information for those who could not.
Learning how to take meeting notes the correct way gives an accurate picture of all business that was discussed and any decisions that were made.