Here is a tip that will help you feel more confident taking meeting notes and minutes and completing the final draft. I use it when I take minutes for the board of the Joyful! Noise community choir, a job I do about eight times a year.
When you are scheduled to take minutes at a meeting, put three appointments on your calendar:
- An appointment with yourself–and sometimes with the meeting leader–to prepare for the meeting
- The meeting
- An appointment with yourself to complete the minutes
Too often note takers put only the meeting time on their calendars, but preparation time before the meeting and completion time afterward make the job much easier.
During your preparation time before the meeting, complete any of these tasks that match your situation:
- Download the meeting agenda.
- Create a note-taking template from the agenda.
- Fill in as much as possible on the template, for example, attendee names, meeting date and time, and any information that is not likely to change. I include all attendee names; then before the meeting, I highlight the name as each individual arrives.
- Review the minutes of the previous meeting to be aware of ongoing topics and action items.
- Download any materials people have distributed in advance, for example, team reports and slide presentations.
- Review the materials, looking for any information you might need to know to make your job easier. I suggest flagging any jargon and abbreviations and finding out what they mean so you will feel informed when people use them during the meeting.
- Create automatic entries for any long terms people may use such as "Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center" and ones with challenging spellings such as "Weyerhaeuser." Using automatic entries (for which you type just a few strokes rather than the entire word or phrase) will help you keep up during the meeting.
- Meet by phone or in person with the meeting leader, if possible, to learn about the kind of meeting and minutes he or she expects. For example, does the leader want you to capture information that participants write on white boards? Is he or she willing to let you know when a point in a long discussion should be recorded? Ask questions about anything on the agenda that isn't yet clear to you.
During the meeting, you know what to do, right? If not, take our online self-study course Meeting Notes Made Easy.
After the meeting, have time set aside to finish your notes or minutes. I get home from the board meeting around 9:30 p.m., and I like to finish the minutes then. Although doing that makes it a long evening, I love the satisfaction of sending out the finished minutes the next day. When I don't do the minutes within 24 hours, I regret putting it off. The information is less fresh in my mind, and people do not have the typed list of action items to get started on right away.
Do you have tips that help you take meeting notes efficiently? Please share them here.