How To Take Meeting Minutes

Taking the minutes, or recording highlights, at a professional meeting requires careful attention to the proceedings and efficient organizational skills.

Recording the proceedings of a professional meeting can be a challenging task. Sometimes committees rotate this duty, or they may appoint a committee member to take the minutes for every meeting over a period of time, such as a year or two.

If you are asked to take notes for the meeting, here are some tips that can help you do a good job of recording the most important information for the file, to remind committee members of assigned duties, and as possible future reference.

1. Arrive at the meeting ahead of schedule. Find a good seat in the middle of the group where you can hear everyone speak plainly. Be sure your pen or pencil works if you will take notes by hand, or check to see if the laptop provided for this purpose (unless you have brought one along) is plugged in and working as needed, with access to a software writing program. Adjust lighting as needed to ensure that you can read the notes.

2. Consider using a tape recorder. Important meetings may benefit from the use of a recording device that will help you ensure accuracy in transcribing proceedings. If you use such equipment, arrange to have it on hand at the time and location specified for the meeting, and be sure the equipment works properly by testing it before the meeting begins.

3. Use a template or consistent format. Follow the same or a similar outline for recording the minutes as your predecessors. The usual criteria includes the meeting's name, location, date, and starting as well as ending times. Also mentioned at the top of your list are the names of attendees. If other people scheduled to appear do not show up, list those people as "absent" or "excused" if they have called in ahead of time to report their absence for legitimate reasons.

4. Follow the agenda. Assuming an agenda was posted or distributed before the meeting, cover each of its points in your minutes. If an agenda item gets missed, dropped, or postponed, be sure to indicate that for the record.

5. Be succinct. Rather than writing each word that everyone says, capture just the highlights. Avoid a "he said/she said" style. Instead, use general comments like "a ten-minute discussion followed after which a vote was taken." Also, find out whether attendees wish to be identified by name or prefer to be kept anonymous for general observations:

NOT: "John Doe objected to the proposal."

BUT: "Objection to the proposal was discussed."

6. List specific outcomes. Important actions, like motions, votes, new business, or future meetings should be listed separately and perhaps bolded to catch readers' attention. Check previous minutes to follow similar organization. If possible, set future meeting dates for the rest of the quarter or year, and post these in each meeting summary as a reminder.

7. After the meeting ends, write a meeting report from your notes. Depending on your organization's protocol, you may wish to send a draft to all committee members or just the chair for review and feedback. When you receive corrections, make them promptly, distribute the final copy of meeting minutes to all who attended as well as absentees, and file copies in appropriate folders or records. At the bottom of the last page of the minutes, your name should appear with the proper designation and your signature on the file copy:

John Doe, Recorder

John Doe, Secretary

Submitted by John Doe

Organize all meeting minutes in a standard file for easy future reference. You may wish to note this location in small print at the bottom of the distributed copy. Taking careful notes provides an accurate record of meeting proceedings where key decisions are made. Spell names correctly and check your facts before posting the final draft.

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