WRITING MINUTES OF MEETINGS
Composing Minutes of Meetings
Style and Format - Modern day minutes are typically no more than 2 pages long; written in plain English, and composed of short sentences.
Meetings are not minuted verbatim but rather the essence of the issues are recorded as a comprehensive summary. If in doubt, ask the chairperson how much detail is required in the minutes of meeting. Record all the issues, the main points, the decisions taken, any action points and the initials of each person assigned an action.
Heading the Minutes – Minutes should be headed with the name of the project or committee; the date of the meeting; the start and end time of the meeting, the meeting room number and the full address of the meeting. The actual closing time of the meeting should be recorded at the end of the minutes.
Recording Participants – If the meeting is a one-off meeting, when writing minutes, list participants alphabetically under the heading “Attended” – list the chairperson first. Where the meeting is a recurring meeting, list participants under the heading “Present”.
Anyone attending as a visitor should be listed next to the name of their department/company. The minute-taker should be listed separately under “Minute-taker” or “Secretary”. Anyone attending as a representative for a member of the committee should be listed next to the name of the committee member. You need not record the names of observers.
Apologies – Under the heading “Apologies”, list the names of everyone who sent their apologies. Where no apology was received, record that person as "Absent".
Copies – List the names of all individuals and departments that should receive a copy of the minutes.
Minutes of Previous Meeting – It is important to confirm acceptance of the minutes of the previous meeting. State in the minutes: “The minutes of the meeting held on [date] were....”, and then say whether they were “approved”; “accepted”; “accepted as an accurate record”; or “signed”. Where minutes are not approved you should list changes under the heading “Amendments”. Keep an accurate record of the changes you make.
Matters Arising – Matters arising should only be used to confirm that agreed actions were taken. When writing minutes, record next to each action whether it has been “completed”; or whether it's “in hand”; or state “no action taken due to..”.
Where no action was taken or the matter is still in hand, a new deadline should be recorded. Note that action points should be listed on the agenda under "Matters Arising". The Matters Arising section is also used to record significant issues that have arisen. In some cases an entire meeting may cover matters arising, such as a project planning meeting.
Minuting Reports – If a report is read during the meeting, you should either summarise it, or ask the person who submitted the report to send you a summary.
Agenda Items – Follow and record the agenda items in strict order.
Despatching Minutes - Type up the minutes as soon as possible after the meeting to make good use of your recall. Contact the appropriate meeting participant if you need clarification on a particular point - it's better not to guess. Get the chairperson's approval before despatching the final meeting minutes to participants.
EXAMPLES OF OTHER STYLES OF MINUTES
More Minute Taking Styles
More Minute Taking Styles
Preparation for Writing Minutes
The following tips will assist you when preparing to write minutes of meetings.
1) To assist you with writing minutes of meetings, print a copy of the meeting agenda with plenty of space between each item, then write the minutes in the relevant spaces. Alternatively, you could create a table to structure your notes; with columns for ‘speaker’s initials’; ‘Notes’; ‘Additional Notes; and ‘Action Takers' Initials’. And fill in titles and agenda item numbers.
2) Always skim the meeting papers before the meeting, and ask questions if you are confused about any of the issues. Understanding the main issues will make minute taking much easier.
3) Consider taking the minutes on your laptop. As a Personal Assistant you can probably type faster than you can write. But make sure you have space at the meeting table for the laptop. And check that the chairperson is happy for you to use a laptop - "tapping away" on a laptop could be off-putting to others.
4) Use a digital voice recorder or a smartpen as a backup when minuting important meetings. But don't rely solely on a recording, back it up with comprehensive minute taking, as recording equipment may not distinguish voices clearly. Also, changing a tape could be disruptive to minute taking. Alternatively, invest in a
good digital smartpen,
that can record the meeting as you write.
5) Introduce yourself to anyone you don't know at the meeting and make a note of where they are sitting. Maintaining eye contact with the person who is speaking is a good listening aid.
6) Prepare an attendance list to record attendees and check people off as they arrive. Alternatively, you could pass around an attendance sheet for people to initial.
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