minutes to a meeting

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

minutes to a meeting : How to take minutes meeting effectively

Karen Hainsworth discovers the secret to keeping a record of meetings is all in the preparation If you've never taken minutes in a meeting before, you're bound to be a bit nervous. But minute-taking can cause anxiety even in the most experienced of individuals, says Nandi Roos, a trainer on Pitman Training's Meetings and Minutes course.

"The most difficult thing for any minute-taker is knowing what to write down," she says. "The main problem that all my students have is writing too much because they're worried."

If you want to avoid writing a novel rather than notes, do a bit of research beforehand. "Any kind of preparation is going to make you more relaxed and more able to pick up on the important points," explains Roos. And familiarising yourself with what's on the agenda will help.

"Research what kind of topics they'll be discussing by reading the last minutes and speaking to the last minute-taker."

It's also helpful to understand the nature of the meeting. Basically there are two types, says Roos: informal, such as managerial briefings and progress updates; and formal, such as board meetings, annual general meetings and shareholder meetings.

With all formal meetings you need to know what rules and, in the case of shareholder meetings, which laws, govern that assembly.

Problems can arise if the gathering involves people who don't get on. "One of the hardest parts is knowing if there are any hidden agendas," says Roos, "but if you know what the aims are then you can weed out all the rubbish in between."

As a start, she suggests cutting out anything that does not involve the company or the people involved. And if you're not sure whether you should write up the juicy bit about the chief executive, she adds: "You can make a note of it and ask the chairperson if he or she think it is relevant."

A key part of meetings is the final resolutions that are made. These, says Roos, need to be recorded in detail, particularly if someone raises a point of order, such as when the constitution is to be changed.

But any topic should detail the names of individuals who have spoken.

"It's also very important to write in a point form," says Roos. "If you try and get it down verbatim, you are going to struggle."

Though she doesn't believe it is necessary to use shorthand, she says, "It's a very good tool to have, particularly when you are going into six-hour board meetings."

If you're in the unfortunate position of being dropped in the minute-taker's role at the last moment, you may not understand a word of the jargon that is being bandied about. That's difficult to deal with but not impossible. Roos advises that you write down as much as you can. If you miss a point, speak to the chairperson at the end.

He or she should also be making notes and, ultimately, the chairperson needs to sign off the minutes as being a correct account of what took place.

It is up to him or her to ensure they are right.

"It's not the most sought-after job in the world," says Roos. But there are some benefits to the minute-taker's role. "You learn a lot about the business, meet different people in different departments and you get to know what's going on."

And, as we all know, that can be a very interesting (and powerful) position to be in.
For details of Pitman Training's Minute and Meeting Seminar, call: 020 7256 6668.
Copyright 2002
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.
Evening Standard (London), Aug 12, 2002 by KAREN HAINSWORTH

minutes to a meeting : minutes to a meeting

GETTING YOUR entrepreneurial tasks done in a reasonable amount of time is what time management is all about. We know it's not easy, so we asked James Clark, time-management expert and co-founder of Room 214, a marketing and communications company in Boulder, Colorado, for some tips on how to fit your everyday business tasks, both large and small, into your tight schedule.

1. GET A SYSTEM. Everyone works in a different way, says Clark. Whether you live by your Franklin planner, Outlook calendar, Palm Pilot or whatever, make sure you have a system for organizing your to-do lists. "The hardest part is to dedicate yourself to a system and stick to it," he says. Clark recommends looking to Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen for a possible system of guidelines.

2. SCHEDULE "DO NOT DISTURB" TIME. To get any system to succeed, you'll have to make an effort--whether it's organizing your incoming e-mails and voice mails or clearing out your inbox into to-do files. All that takes undivided attention, notes Clark. He suggests using a bulk of time in the beginning of your day (say from 9:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.) to organize and plan your schedule. Let everyone in your office know you're unavailable during that time. "After a while, when [people] see you're really efficient, they'll start respecting that [unavailable time window]."

3. TAKE ACTION. Divide your list into action items by order of importance and the time it'll take to complete each task, says Clark. If you look at something in your e-mail inbox, ask yourself, "Can I complete this task in two minutes?" If so, do it, because it will take you longer than two minutes to file it. If not, take that time to file it and put it on your calendar.

4. CREATE A PROJECT CALENDAR. If a task takes more than one step, file it as a project. Divide the project into smaller tasks, and plot those on your calendar. If you want to add a blog to your web site, for example, you'll need to procure a blog server, designate an employee or employees to update the blog, meet with them, beta test, review for problems, set a start date, etc. All those smaller tasks can be plotted on your calendar. Clark also finds it helpful to work backward from a desired result to divide it up. Ask yourself, "One year into the future, what would success look like?" says Clark. "Defining the outcome will start driving the next action items."

5. MAKE YOUR MEETINGS EFFICIENT. Meetings are often a huge waste of time, notes Clark. As the leader, you must run them smoothly--starting with defining what will be discussed. Also, have set start and end times, and stick to them. Organize what you want to discuss, keep the meeting moving, and let everyone know what needs to be accomplished by the meeting's end. Finally, notes Clark, "The worst thing about some meetings is sometimes you get out of [one] and no one understands what's happening next." Make sure there is a defined action or set of actions at the end of the meeting for you and your employees to follow.
For more tips on staying ahead of the competition in your business, go to www.entrepreneur.com/fasttracktips.
Entrepreneur, Dec, 2005 by Nichole L. Torres