As a meeting attendee, it is good practice to take notes about the important things that happen in a meeting – whether by pen and paper or laptop.In more formal meetings there is usually someone (typically a secretary or PA) present to record the minutes. Here we will discuss some best practices concerning both: taking notes and minutes in the most efficient way.
Taking meeting minutes
When you are asked to take down minutes of a meeting, then you'd be doing it officially to maintain a record of the proceedings. You would be required to do this formally, and yes that means no doodling on pages!
You can take minutes either on a notepad or on a laptop. However, if you are using a notepad, you will need to transcribe them on computer before sending them to all meeting participants.
By using a laptop, you will considerably reduce the time needed to send the minutes. Often people judge a secretary's competency by the amount of time it takes for the minutes to reach them, rather than their factual details.
Also by using a laptop to take minutes, you can show off yourself as a thorough professional. But if you are using a notepad to take minutes, it's better to use a pencil than a pen.
So you are now in the meeting room ready to start. Here's how you should proceed:
- Have a sheet of paper ready to take down names and contact information of all meeting attendees. This will come in handy for future reference, as well as for emailing them the meeting minutes. You can let this sheet pass between participants during the meeting, or if everyone is present on time, then have it done before the meeting begins.
- The first thing you should note down is the time when the meeting starts and then either pass a copy of the draft agenda to everyone or read it out loud.
- Once the motion to adopt the agenda is approved (carried), you can note this down as either – Motion Carried or Motion Failed.
- After the agenda is adopted, you will be asked by the chairperson to recall any minutes from the previous meetings. If you haven't already distributed them on paper to all participants, you would need to read this out loud as well. Then note it down as either carried or failed, along with the name of the person who started the motion. You would do the same with any other reports or updates from any sub-committees or the treasurer.
- Compare previous notes for any tasks that needed to be done. Note this down afresh as either 'done' or 'not done' and the name of the person responsible for doing it.
- Note down any new issues that are discussed in the meeting, exactly in the words of the person who starts the motion for it to be discussed. You will also need to record details such as who starts the motion, who seconds it and also if it passed or failed, along with any designated responsibilities.
- Record the time when the meeting is adjourned along with any other relevant points of information and the points of order.
- You don't need to write down all that happens in a meeting. Just note down any motions as either passed or failed and who proposed it.
- Ensure that you have a written record of all attendees as well as a copy of all reports discussed in the meeting. Also, don't forget to mention the location of the meeting.
- After the meeting is over, go through the minutes and prepare a draft to send it to all members.
While you are taking minutes, it's best to sit next to the chairperson so that you can ask them for clarifications without disturbing the flow of the meeting. Also, try to email everyone the draft as soon as you can.
Taking notes in a meeting
When attending a meeting as a participant, taking notes ensures you are participating attentively in the meeting. Here are some other points to consider:
- Try using a pad and pen instead of a laptop as they set up a barrier screen between you and other participants and also make you look dorky!
- Also, by taking notes on paper you can mark out any important points you would otherwise forget by highlighting it with an underline or by drawing a box around it. You can also note down a final summary for the meeting at the end of the page to compare it later with other meetings you attend for a quick recall.
- Take care to note down any important information that pertains you, especially things like – date and time of the meeting, what it was about, what you need to do, any references, etc. You can fair it down later, organising it properly in groups.
- If you want to save time, then you can even use some software like Evernote which reads text directly from images to organise your notes in one place without needing to type them on a computer.
We have heard arguments about the advantages of taking notes on paper instead of on a laptop. However, the real benefit depends on your role in the meeting. If you are taking notes formally, then using a laptop saves time, whereas for your personal notes, a pen and paper is always better as it lets you interact freely and maintain eye contact with other participants without the need to stare at your screen.