Sunday, February 12, 2017

Minutes of the Meeting

A well-planned meeting helps ensure effective meeting minutes.  If the Chair and the Secretary or minutes-taker work together to ensure the agenda and meeting are well thought out, it makes minute taking much easier.

Meeting agenda = outline:

At the very least, it’s important to get a copy of the meeting agenda and use it as a guide or outline for taking notes and preparing the minutes – with the order and numbering of items on the minutes matching those of the agenda. In addition, the agenda and/or meeting notice also provides information that will need to be included in the minutes, such as:

• the names of all the meeting attendees, including guests or speakers
• documents that are sent out with the agenda or handed out in the meeting – copies (digital or hard copy) of  handouts should be stored with the meeting minutes for future reference and for sharing with those who were unable to attend the meeting (and others as determined by the meeting’s Chair).

Before you start taking notes, it’s important to understand the type of information you need to record at the meeting. As noted earlier, your organization may have required content and a specific format that you’ll need to follow, but generally, meeting minutes usually include the following:
•             Date and time of the meeting
•             Names of the meeting participants and those unable to attend (e.g., “regrets”)
•             Acceptance or corrections/amendments to previous meeting minutes
•             Decisions made about each agenda item, for example:
•             Actions taken or agreed to be taken
•             Next steps
•             Voting outcomes – e.g., (if necessary, details regarding who made motions; who seconded                    and approved or via show of hands, etc.)
•             Motions taken or rejected
•             Items to be held over
•             New business
•             Next meeting date and time

Tips that might help your note taking:
  1. Create an outline – as discussed earlier, having an outline (or template) based on the agenda    makes it easy for you to simply jot down notes, decisions, etc. under each item as you go along. If you are taking notes by hand, consider including space below each item on your outline for your hand-written notes, then print these out and use this to capture minutes.
  2. Check-off attendees as they enter the room - if you know the meeting attendees, you can check them off as they arrive, if not have folks introduce themselves at the start of the meeting or circulate an attendance list they can check-off themselves.
  3. Record decisions or notes on action items in your outline as soon as they occur to be sure they are recorded accurately.
  4. Ask for clarification if necessary – for example, if the group moves on without making a decision or an obvious conclusion, ask for clarification of the decision and/or next steps involved.
  5. Don’t try to capture it all – you can’t keep up if you try to write down the conversation verbatim, so be sure to simply (and clearly) write (or type) just the decisions, assignments, action steps, etc.
  6. Record it – literally, if you are concerned about being able to keep up with note taking, consider recording the meeting (e.g., on your smart phone, iPad, recording device, etc.) but be sure to let participants know they are being recording. While you don’t want to use the recording to create a word-for-word transcript of the meeting, the recording can come in handy if you need clarification. 

Once the meeting is over, it’s time to pull together your notes and write the minutes. Here are some tips that might help:
  1. Try to write the minutes as soon after the meeting as possible while everything is fresh in your mind.
  2. Review your outline and if necessary, add additional notes or clarify points raised. Also check to ensure all decisions, actions and motions are clearly noted.
  3. Check for sufficient detail: For Board of Director’s minutes, an Association Trends article (by lawyers Jefferson C. Glassie and Dorothy Deng) suggests the following for Board minutes: include a short statement of each action taken by the board and a brief explanation of the          rationale for the decision, when there is extensive deliberation before passing a motion, summarize the major arguments
  4. Edit to ensure brevity and clarity, so the minutes are easy to read
  5. Be objective.
  6. Write in the same tense throughout
  7. Avoid using people’s names except for motions or seconds. This is a business document, not     about who said what.
  8. Avoid inflammatory or personal observations. The fewer adjectives or adverbs you use, the       better.
  9. If you need to refer to other documents, attach them in an appendix or indicate where they may be found. Don’t rewrite their intent or try to summarize them.  

As the official “minutes-taker” or Secretary, your role may include dissemination of the minutes. However, before you share these, be sure that the Chair has reviewed and either revised and/or approved the minutes for circulation.

Online sharing
The method of sharing or distribution will depend on the tools that you and your organization   use. Since minutes and other documentation can create a pile of paper, it’s great if you can use       a paperless sharing process. For example, if you are using a word processing tool (e.g., Microsoft      Word) that doesn’t offer online sharing, you might want to create a PDF of the document and            send this and the other attachments or meeting documentation via email. Alternately, if you are  all using Google docs – for meeting invitations, agenda and additional document sharing – you can simply “share” the document with that group once it has been finalized. Committee or Board members can simply read the documents online and save a few trees!

Most committees and Boards review and either approve or amend the minutes at the beginning of the subsequent meeting. Once you’ve made any required revisions, the minutes will then need to be stored for future reference.  Some organizations may store these online (e.g., in Google docs or SkyDrive) and also back these up on an external hard drive.  You may also need to print and store hard copies as well or provide these to a staff member or Chair for filing.


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