Now you know that the Minute Taker’s role is not just to walk in and sit down and start taking notes. It is to:
- organise the meeting,
- prepare the agenda (and that doesn’t necessarily mean organising what is on the agenda, but it does mean probably typing it and distributing the agenda) actual minute taking during the meeting,
- typing and distribution of minutes and
- following up of the action.
Now, you may as a minute taker not do all of that but you can actually save time by taking on those other roles. You see, if you’re relying on other people to do all those things (especially during the preparatory stage), then you lose a bit of control in the overall management in the process of the taking of the minutes.
Staging the Meeting to Success
If you are tasked with the responsibilities of setting up the meeting, informing participants, collating reports/presentations/documents and the like, going through this module will relive you of some of the frustration associated with these tasks. If the meeting is online and coursed through Gotomeeting, Webex or Zoto, most of the functions have been automated and you only need to inform and confirm by email, set-up your hardware, send meeting documents (agenda and supporting reports) and you are good to go.
However, onsite meetings have other problems other than the propensity to discuss topics not on the agenda (hidden agenda?).
1. Choose meeting time that is optimum for concentration. Research shows that after 9 am and after 3 pm are great for meetings.
2. Ensure that reference documents are complete, have been double-checked for content and distributed for study at least two days before the meeting. This aids in decision-making and creating action plans. The level of discussion is high when participants come to the meeting prepared and well-informed.
3. Immediately after the past meeting, send off the minutes with the shortest turnaround time possible and include the CUT-OFF DATE and TIME for submission of agenda items (Main business) for the next meeting.
4. When creating the agenda, try to include only those related to the goals of this particular meeting. Those that can be resolved by email or memo could be done so to decongest the meeting for more productive endeavors.
Answer these questions:
Who should attend and why? Availability of attendees – if people responsible for outcomes, decisions and action plans are not available, it might be better to reschedule the meeting.
5. Make sure you have the correct participant name, details and the like.
6. Request that attendees confirm their attendance and send soft-copy of documents (except confidential ones) especially if they are the presenter or discussion leader.
7. Choose the right location (if you have the liberty to do so) because some presenters may have equipment requirements you can’t provide at the Boardroom or office. Refreshments, especially water would be appreciated.
8. A day before the meeting, send a confirmatory email to remind participants of goals, their roles, venue etc.
9. An hour or so before the meeting, confer with the Chair for last minute instructions.
10. Minute Taker Checklist for tools and equipment :
- Agenda and Minute Template printed out or on your laptop
- Pens and paper for everyone
- Microphone that can be passed around for those whose voices are too soft to be heard comfortably.
- Supporting correspondence, reports or any document pertinent to the meeting but for some reason was not attached to the Agenda or emailed for perusal prior to the meeting.
- LCD projector or any other audio visual equipment required by presentors. They may prefer to use their own laptop so make sure you have cables ready. Ask beforehand if they require audio output (for video, flash and Powerpoint) so you set up external speakers.
- Laptop or PC
- Whiteboard, markers and laser pointer
11. Remind everyone to turn off their celphones or at least keep on
- Decision to keep or delete General Business from the Agenda.
- Decision to keep or delete Business Arising from Minutes from the Agenda.
- Decision to exclude Discussion from final Minutes.
- Decision to write Minutes in the order that it appears on the Agenda and not the actual chronology during the Meeting.
- Seating arrangement with Minute Taker seated next to Chair.
- Decision to ‘tape/record’ the meeting. This is discouraged because:
- Expensive (tape costs)
- Not very useful; usually archived
- Participants may not be as candid or may ‘grandstand’ to create an impression.
A Few More Notes on “Domestic Arrangements”
So let’s look at something else about the meeting that you need to know about, because it will nearly always be you, the minute taker who does this. Let’s look at the domestic arrangement. Some of these things you won’t be able to influence, but it is still very good for you to know, so that when you do organise a meeting, you organise it in the most productive way.
The first is that the time of day is important. Morning meetings are nearly always more productive than afternoon meetings. The day of week, Tuesday morning meetings are the most productive. You may be asking, we’ll how do you know that? We’ll there has been studies done, plenty of studies on meetings, and Tuesday morning meetings tend to be the most productive. The reason for that, is that the weekend is over and Monday is over and people are into the swing of the week. Also, there is Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to get the work done. The least productive time, is Friday afternoon. The second least productive time is Monday morning. Tuesday morning is the time to go and if you can.
The length of the meeting. The optimum length for any meeting is 40 minutes. Research has shown that the most productivity comes out of meetings that are 40 minutes in duration. Now, I know that you won’t be able to limit a lot of your meetings to 40 minutes, but try and build in a break if you can, at least after every hour, even if it is only just a stretch break, rather than necessarily a tea or coffee, but build in a stretch break after every hour if you possibly can. Surprisingly enough, temperature has an impact on meetings, the cooler the temperature, within reason, the shorter the meeting will be and the more productive it will be, and also by the way, the less conflict.
Lighting even has an impact. The higher the light level, provided that there is no glare, the lower the conflict. It is interesting the research that has been done on this sort of thing. So, the higher the light, providing there is no glare, the lower the conflict. Don’t have meetings in rooms that are not well lit. Make sure that there are no distractions in the room, telephones, fax machines, that sort of thing.
Try to draw curtains or blinds if have a window that looks outside to a pleasant view, try to draw those, it will focus the meeting more and make the meeting shorter and therefore makes it easier for you as the minute taker.
Make sure that there are tables and chairs, gone are the days of effective business meetings being run around coffee tables or in comfortable lounge type chairs, make sure that there are tables and chairs – table meaning table that people can write on. In meetings, people nearly always write, so make sure that you provide that mechanism. A whiteboard will always be useful to have in any meetings. A whiteboard gives you the ability to put on the board different options, for which people can see and consider.
The colour, surprisingly or not makes difference to conflict. The more esthetically pleasing the room, the better the meeting will be and the less conflict there will be. Now I know you’re probably won’t be able to change the colour of the room, but I guess what I’m really saying here, is choose the best room if you have a choice.
The size of the room is important too. Obviously, the size needs to be right for the right number of people. Silly to have a meeting in a room that will hold 20, when the meeting has only 6 people, and off-course vise versa trying to crowd in 20 people when the room will only hold 10. So think about the size of the room, it actually does make for comfort and therefore better decision making and it makes you task easier, because guess who is going to be given the most uncomfortable position if the room is crowded? It will be you, the minute taker.
The room setting is important, the more you can get to a circular format, the better. A square or a rectangle is fine, but try not to have it in what is called as “theatre style”, that is rows of people, because they don’t make for good meetings.
Additional Resource: Example of an off-site
Additional Resource: Example of an off-site meeting/conference checklist
Additional Resource: Some Meeting Terminology
Additional Resource: Meeting Groundrules
Additional Resource: Meeting Etiquette