writing meeting minutes
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Writing Meeting Minutes

Writing meeting minutes is a valuable skill, and this article will take you through the key requirements and the different ways of doing it. Having accurate minutes increase the likelihood that the actions agreed in the meeting actually happen!

Why Take Minutes at a Meeting?

The Minutes are a written record of what happens at the meeting, any decisions made and future action to be taken. They are distributed to all who are involved in the department, group or club represented by the meeting. Having accurate minutes increase the likelihood that the actions agreed in the meeting actually happen!

What will a Typical Set of Minutes Include?

  • The date, time and place of the meeting
  • Names of those present
  • Names of those submitting apologies
  • A list of correspondence
  • A brief summary of any discussion
  • Conclusions reached
  • Decisions made
  • Amendments that were made
  • Formal votes taken
  • Actions decided on and the names of those who are to undertake the action
  • The date and place of any future meetings

Important Points

As minute taker it is your responsibility to ensure that any points of which you are doubtful are checked with the chairperson as soon as the meeting is finished. Also if you are unsure about any points being discussed in the meeting or if the proceedings are going too quickly for you – check with the chairperson as soon as possible, do not postpone it.

Hints

When capturing an action item, get the person to whom it is assigned to help you word it and set the due date. Not only does it help you ensure the Minutes are correct, but it also re-enforces that they’ve taken responsibility for the action.

Taking Meaningful Minutes

  • Understand the relevance and the use of the Minutes
  • Prepare yourself to understand what will be said
  • Get acquainted with the likely terms
  • Concentrate on what is being said and agreed
  • Pick out the main ideas, points and actions
  • Know the procedures in meetings
  • Know when and how to interrupt to clarify information you are unsure of

Techniques for Writing up Minutes

  • Make your Minutes ‘reader friendly’ by summarising the points
  • ‘Summarise your summary’ – keep your minutes to the point
  • Use the correct tense for reported speech
  • Highlight action points
  • Calm, clear and distribute the Minutes

Styles of Minutes

There are three main styles of Minutes:

  1. Verbatim
  2. Summary
  3. Action

1.Verbatim Minutes

These are not actually word-for-word but record who said what.

Example Verbatim Minute

Attachments to Different Divisions

Mike Readwin suggested that the secretaries should have the opportunity of short attachments to other divisions.  This would operate in the same way as the managers’ programme.  Lesley Thompson asked what the point of this was since the managers used the scheme to gain experience prior to promotion.  Mike explained that the secretaries would find out how the other divisions worked and gain greater understanding of how the organisation worked.  Communication across the divisions would benefit, and best practice could be shared.

Khalid Ahmal asked how the system would work and Mike suggested that the attachments would be limited to a two or three-week period.  Khalid asked who would cover for the secretaries and suggested that rather than an attachment there should be a job swap.  This was supported by Sue Cotterell who pointed out that otherwise there would be times when in one department two secretaries would be doing the job of one, whilst no one was doing the work in the other department.

Lesley pointed out the problems of confidentiality and of a grade three secretary taking on the role of a grade four secretary, perhaps without the skills to cope.  Toby Maxwell suggested that the issue of confidentiality was no different from that for the managers and that with regard to the grading, it often bore little relation to the work undertaken and in any event, the ‘real’ secretary would be within the building.

Toby suggested that consultation e-mail is circulated to the secretaries asking for their views and suggestions on how a scheme might work.  If the outcome from this were positive, the proposal would be put to the director.

ACTION: Mike Readwin

2. Summary Minutes

Summary Minutes are much shorter, easier to take and quicker to read.  Much of the detail is left out and ‘the committee’ replaces the attendee’s names.

Example Summary Minute

Attachments to Different Divisions

The committee discussed the possibility of the ‘Attachment’ programme being broadened to include secretaries.  This would benefit the secretaries through experience of how others worked and a greater overall understanding of the organisation.  This would benefit their managers and communication across the divisions would be improved.

A job swap was felt to be better than an attachment to ensure even cover.  The problems of confidentiality and mixing grades were considered but felt to be not serious.

The committee decided to circulate consultation e-mail to secretaries, asking for their views and suggestions on how a scheme might work.  If the outcome from this were positive, the proposal would be put to the director.

ACTION: Mike Readwin

3. Action Minutes

Action Minutes show only the heading, the decision and who is to take action.  They are simple to take and easy to read but not so useful if they have to be read and understood by non-attendees.

Example Action Minute

Attachments to Different Divisions

It was decided to circulate consultation e-mail to secretaries, asking for their views and suggestions on how a scheme might work.  If the outcome from this were positive, the proposal would be put to the director.

ACTION: Mike Readwin

Conclusion

By taking Minutes effectively, you can have an impact on the efficiency of the meeting and improve the chances that the agreed actions will take place.

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