As we all know, writing minutes is a fundamental part of an assistant role and a skill we have to get right. As far as our tasks go, it is an important one but at the same time it can be pretty arduous and pretty dull especially if the meeting is lengthy or you left finalising the minutes until literally the last minute. A few years ago I wrote a blog post about minute taking which has proven to be really popular so I thought I would write a follow-up post with 10 more minute taking tips.
1. Remembering names
It can be quite daunting taking minutes for a Committee that you have never met. Prior to the meeting introduce yourself to the chairperson (if you have not met them before) and ask them to either introduce you to the other Committee members or ask at the beginning of the meeting for each member to say their name. Draw a table plan on your piece of paper with each of their name’s next to their seat. This will help you note down who is speaking and who has been given an action during the course of the meeting.
2. The Committee can help you
When it comes to minute taking the good news is that you are not in it alone. The draft minutes will probably be reviewed by at least two people before they are finalised and if you are unsure of something or you need a point clarified you can ask the Chairperson or the Committee member. They are busy people, but they want to get the minutes right as well. I have often sent a section of the draft minutes to the person who was reporting on that particular agenda item to review and make any changes before I sent the draft on to the chairman. If anything, you will be seen as being thorough.
3. Be prepared
Being prepared prior to the meeting really is the key to great minute taking. If you are new to the Committee ensure you read a few of the previous minutes so that you can gain a little understanding of the jargon used during the meeting, the subject matter and who attends. If you have been writing the minutes for a while, it is still worthwhile reading the board pack. It is particularly important to read the actions in case you have any tasks on there. It can be even more stressful going into a Committee meeting to take minutes knowing you have an action that you haven’t completed!
4. Action tables
Although all of the actions will be captured in the minutes, a lot of Committees find a separate action table really helpful. All you need to do is create a simple table of each action and who the action is for and if it has been completed. I also find it helpful to assign each action with a number so that the Committee can keep track of how many tasks come out of their meetings per year.
5. Key phrases
There are certain phrases minute takers can use so that the minutes are brief and to the point. Here are a few examples:
- The paper / report was noted.
- The Committee members discussed the item and concluded…
- A decision was delayed until the next meeting (followed by an action to add this to the next agenda)
- The (name of guest) briefed the Committee.
- The Committee voted on (name of action), and the results were as followed…
6. Sit next to or near the Chairperson
A simple tip but a good one. The minute taker should always sit near the Chairperson so that the two of you can speak to each other if need be or ask questions. Do remember the Chairperson is there to help you so if you are confused or need something to be clarified the Chairperson is the best person to ask.
7. Make sure everything works
There are now many different ways assistants can take minutes but the important thing is to make sure prior to the start of the meeting that everything is working, be it pen and paper, laptop or a smart pen. Running out of the meeting half way through to find a new pen isn’t going to make you look well organised!
8. Keep your minutes clear and simple
The wording of your minutes must be simple, precise and easy to read. Use plain English rather than flowery language and keep your sentences short and to the point. The minutes must also be accurate. They are official documents for your organisation, so it is important that the minutes are accurate and objective.
9. Finalising the minutes
The quicker you finalise your minutes, the easier the task is. It is that simple. I’ve been guilty in the past of delaying writing up my notes only to finally to get them and not remember the finer details. It is so important to get the minutes drafted and circulated as quickly as possible.
10. Use technology where you can
Minute taking with good old fashioned pen and paper can be a long slow process so if you can use technology to help you with this task it does speed up the process.
If you do still prefer writing out your minutes the award-winning Livescribe smartpen has a family of pens – the Livescribe 3, wifi and Echo that could be a good option for you.
Livescribe smartpens make it easy to connect paper and pen to the digital world and fundamentally change the way you capture, access and share what you write, draw and hear. The Livescribe Echo smartpens digitally capture everything you hear and write, simultaneously. You can instantly replay and re-live the moment to check a word or figure by simply tapping the word or figure on the paper. Then using Livecribe’s free Connect software you can quickly send a combined handwritten note and recorded audio straight from your notepad as an interactive PDF or “pencast” direct to your contacts email, or mobile devices.
They are available in the UK from Apple, Amazon, Selfridges and www.smartpenspares.co.uk
They are priced from £99 for Echo to £129.99 for Livescribe 3 and £169.99 for the Livescribe 3 Pro Pack.