The art of writing board meeting minutes is just that: an art. It is learnable, yes, and there are a million and one guides that can be found out there on how to write them. These guides would tell you to always write the date and time of the meeting, the participants’ name, whether a quorum is present or not, the motions and actions taken or rejected, the agenda or any addition to it, and other such things.
The art of writing board meeting minutes, however, is not as bland as what some of these guides might imply. There are actually quite a lot that goes into writing meeting minutes, a lot of things to consider and a plethora of stuff to watch out for and take note of.
Keep these Tips in Mind when Writing Board Meeting Minutes:
The first step in being good at writing board meeting minutes is by checking whether or not you already have everything prepared before the meeting itself commences. That preparation includes not only having the essential tools of the trade – your pen and paper or perhaps a laptop or mobile device, depending on your preferences – but also touching base with the higher-ups and bosses on what specific format, if any, to use, asking for and reviewing a copy of the meeting agenda so you can know who exactly is in the meeting and what topics would be covered ahead of time, and also checking out past meeting minutes if still unsure about the template or format to be used. Ensuring that you are prepared to take minutes is already half of the battle won.
Meeting minutes are often thought of to be boring to both read and write because they seem so cookie-cutter and dry compared to, say, a blog post on a company’s website. This is true, but it is done for a good reason. Meeting minutes actually need to be somewhat bland because injecting even a slight personal bias into it may cause misunderstandings when other people read it. Even a simple inside joke or pun can and will be misinterpreted by other parties reading the minutes who are not privy to your brand of humor, which will surely lead to greater problems down the road. As such, leave out the jokes and the puns for blog posts or social media or inside the office; your job here is to be as objective as possible, and that means being bland in reporting the facts, and the facts only as they happened. Be very, very careful in maintaining neutrality by choosing words that give that specific feeling, and try to maintain a consistent writing style throughout the whole document.
There is a fine line to be treaded between notetaking and transcribing. Transcribing is writing down anything and everything that is said at the meeting, down to the corniest of jokes and the littlest of observations about, say, the weather. Notetaking is jotting down everything that is important while disregarding the rest.
A minute-taker must always remember the difference between the two activities and always keep in the back of their mind that taking meeting minutes is essentially the same as notetaking, except perhaps much more concise and to the point than what one might do when taking notes about something. It might be tempting to just give up and start writing everything one hears, but that urge must be fought. Use active listening to try to get into the groove of things, and look out for keywords or phrases that might signal somebody is about to say something important.
A hallmark of a good meeting minutes taker is that they know exactly when to ask the right questions to the right people. With that said, no one is born a good meeting minute taker, and so they must start with the basics; that is, asking questions.
Do not be afraid to interrupt every now and then when you judge that you need to interrupt, whether to have someone repeat what they said louder so that everyone can hear it, or whether to ask his or her name, especially if in a meeting where someone is participating remotely and the audio is not good or abysmal. If unsure about something, just ask somebody; that might be embarrassing and might make you look like an idiot in the short term, but it’ll ultimately save everybody in the long run because they would be getting meeting minutes with correct information and you would be getting your job done.
Some people shun or even abhor the use of audio and video recorders when in meetings. This is a behavior that is not without basis, for some people do clam up and become rather meek when they are told that what they say is being recorded, and even assurances that that audio or video recording would be used only internally might not be enough to assuage them of their fear or caution. Some people, meanwhile, swear by recorders in meetings and other such gatherings, arguing that the benefits of a recording that is available for viewing whenever needed far outweigh any disadvantages, real or imagined.
Given all these, it is still a fact that recordings are incredibly helpful when taking meeting minutes because the minute taker can then review everything at their leisure after the meeting itself, and thus write much more accurate meeting minutes.
Think long and hard on whether to use a recorder or not in a given meeting. Consider all the factors – the people involved, their personalities and idiosyncrasies – the potential tradeoffs, and then make your decision. Just be sure to get everybody’s consent when choosing to record a meeting, and consult and strictly follow your company’s document retention policies.
Image source: Lina Kivaka, Startup Stock Photos (Pexels)