How to Handle Meeting Minutes in 3 Easy Steps
This post is written by Danielle Chambers, a board member of Shaping Destiny. Danielle acts as secretary during these board meetings and, after learning many tips about taking effective minutes, wanted to share with you some of the key points she’s learned.
1. Find the Right Template for Your Team
There are several FREE online templates for meeting minutes out there that can offer wonderful advantages for note takers. Don’t fret when you see several different templates to choose from, simply observe and you will begin to see that they all seem to have the same well organized sections, the same topics, and are classified as either “simple/basic” or “detailed.” First start by noticing the differences between basic and detailed templates then decide if your meetings require a simple or detailed layout. From there you can observe other similarities and differences and begin to eliminate the topics and sections that your team doesn’t need space for. Once you have found the correct layout you will find it a breeze to organize and record your meetings. This will make it much easier for other team members to stay up to date.
2. Prepare Space
Have your method of taking notes already prepared, whether that be by pen and paper or laptop.
If you choose to use pen and paper, I suggest getting a separate notebook specific for these types of meetings. This keeps you organized and allows you to have the ability to look back on past meetings if needed. If you choose to use a laptop or other another note-taking device, have a separate folder where you can store the notes from your meetings so you have the ability to refer back to them quickly if need be.
Having free range in taking notes seems to be more efficient than trying to organize your meeting minutes into a template during the meeting. Choose to use a blank piece of paper or a blank Word document from the start; this allows you to take down all the notes and not miss an important discussion. You can easily find yourself distracted with organizing rather than listening and recording. If you do choose to use a laptop, it is not a bad idea to bring a notebook along with you just in case. Sometimes you may want to make an extra note, you may need to record something that comes to your mind, a question that you would like to discuss at a later time, or it may even make taking attendance easier for you. Sometimes passing around a notebook will help you accurately record attendance depending on how large your team is. You can then organize your minutes in the template after the meeting is over.
One flaw in using a laptop is that the clicking of the keyboard and light from the monitor can sometimes be quite distracting to other attendees so be aware of this when choosing your method of note taking.
3. Know the Minutes Before the Meeting
It is good, and necessary, for all members to be prepared by knowing the minutes prior to the meeting. It is especially good for you, as the note taker, to know what it is that your team members need to discuss in this specific meeting according to the minutes. Most meetings will end with at least one topic that needs to be discussed or followed up with in the next meeting. If these topics don’t get discussed and moved forward to the next step, then the “To be Discussed” list on your template will continue to increase and before you know it you’ll have an overwhelmed team and note taker. So help the time keeper and the rest of the team stay on track and prioritize by encouraging members to get the important topics discussed and moved forward to the next step. Also, because you have probably looked at the meeting minutes more than anyone else on the team, take it upon yourself to make sure topics are not being skipped over. It is easy to go off topic or get side tracked (good and important topics do come to mind at random) or simply overlook a topic that needed to be discussed.