Teaching my online class Meeting Notes Made Easy, I have heard many note-takers complain. They say that they could take better meeting notes and minutes if the meetings they attended were managed better. Because of my experience in meetings, I know they are correct.
The new issue of my monthly e-newsletter, Better Writing at Work, features the article "How You Can Help Your Meeting Note-Taker." You can subscribe for free to get the issue in your inbox. Here are the highlights of the article, along with tips from Better Writing at Work readers:
1. Have an agenda, and distribute it in advance. (The newsletter contains a sample agenda.)
2. Include outcomes on your agenda--not just topics. A topic is "Discussion of team emails." An outcome is "Agree on best practices for team emails." At your board meetings, outcomes may be motions and votes. (Thanks to Ruth Winett of Winett Associates for reminding me to include motions and votes.)
3. Help the note-taker be prepared by discussing the meeting ahead of time and sending the person any presentations in advance.
4. Recognize that meetings are not the best way to disseminate information.
5. Summarize throughout the meeting so attendees will know what they have accomplished, and the note-taker will not need to guess about decisions and action items.
6. Manage the meeting so that it runs efficiently and effectively.
7. Have someone besides the note-taker handle refreshments and the audio-visual equipment you need during the meeting.
Those seven tips--expanded with examples--appear in the newsletter article. Readers contributed the tips below.
From Diane Bishop, the chief's secretary, Perrysburg Police Division, Perrysburg, Ohio:
Especially in technical meetings, be sure that the note-taker receives any handouts before anyone makes a presentation. Handouts will help the note-taker record information accurately.
For large meetings, use place cards (or name tent cards) so the note-taker will know who is who and can cite the correct speaker when necessary.
From consultant Gilda Bonanno:
Have someone besides the note-taker keep track of time for each part of the agenda. Using a timer works well because it can apply to everyone equally.
Set ground rules (preferably created by the group), especially if the meetings will be long or will occur often. Such rules cover things like the use of phones and laptops during meetings.
You can read more of Gilda's meeting tips and other excellent articles on her blog.
I welcome your ideas on making the note-taker's job easier.