Writing minutes – the right way

Writing minutes - the right way

Writing minutes is an unpopular job. But necessary to document agreements made and to record them verifiably. And: If you – or your minute-taker – have mastered the correct procedure, taking minutes is far less strenuous than is generally assumed. What types of minutes there are, what preparations you should make, what the contents of minutes are and how the follow-up works – you can find out here!

What types of minutes are there?

The content of a protocol is based on what is to be logged. This can be a meeting, a conversation, a session, a lecture, or any other type of gathering. Depending on what is to be recorded, a distinction is made between different types of minutes: the verbatim record, the minutes of proceedings, and the minutes of results or minutes of resolutions.

The verbatim record

A verbatim record focuses on the statements made by the participants. The purpose of a verbatim record is to enable the course of a meeting to be traced at a later date on the basis of the participants’ statements. Every word can be important. This is why a verbatim record requires a high level of concentration. Fortunately, verbatim minutes are very rare in companies.

The progress log

With a progress log, you trace the course of a meeting, focusing on the key messages in controversial debates or meetings. A progress protocol is therefore often used in meetings in which opposing arguments are exchanged and objections are raised.

The minutes of results or resolutions

The results or resolution protocol is the protocol type that occurs most often. Record the results of decisions or discussions in these minutes. The purpose of minutes of results is that all important information is clearly compiled in the minutes.

Your tasks as minute taker before and after the meeting

If it is up to you to write the minutes, it is a good idea to do some preliminary work before a meeting or session. This includes knowing the topics that will be discussed in the meeting. To do this, read through the individual agenda items and check whether you are familiar with the content. If you are unfamiliar with any topics, obtain information in advance from the meeting leader or via the Internet. Before the meeting, make a note of the most important key words for the individual agenda items.

If your company doesn’t have one, draft minutes template that makes it easier for you to record the content or outcome of the meeting and allows you to jump in at any time if you lose your train of thought. In the minutes template, the names of the participants, to whom you assign an abbreviation in each case, are noted as well as the place, date and time of the meeting, the topic, the objective if applicable, and the name of the meeting chairperson. Enter the agenda items in the template and prepare a separate sheet for each agenda item. Identify the participants to whom the minutes are to be sent later.

Once the minutes are finalized, obtain the necessary approvals from the responsible parties before sending them out. The completed minutes should reach all persons listed in the distribution list within three days, if possible at the same time. When all matters have been dealt with, save the minutes with the meeting documents or in a folder provided for this purpose and file them in your documents if necessary.

Write the minutes promptly

There is often an attendance check at a meeting. Accordingly, note behind each name whether the person in question is present or absent. If the individual agenda items are discussed, note down the respective contents on the sheet of paper provided for this purpose. Take notes in bullet-point form that you can still decipher and understand afterwards. If you have not understood important contents, ask for clarification at the latest after the end of the meeting. If votes are taken or decisions are made, note the results of the vote. Since the memory is still fresh, you should write out the minutes immediately following the meeting.

The requirements for good minutes

There are certain requirements that minutes should meet: The contents must be truthfully reflected, it must be complete as well as clearly and understandably formulated.

Record only what was actually said and decided. What sounds obvious is not always followed. This can also be due to the fact that you have lost the overview due to a turbulent meeting and therefore forget important points. However, it can also happen that you cannot follow the content and therefore put your own thoughts on paper, which do not correspond to the content of the meeting. Mark these points and then ask your contact person and participant in the company whether you have understood the content correctly. These difficulties illustrate why good preparation is necessary and important. This applies all the more the more difficult the issues discussed at the meeting are.

In the minutes, you should be able to record all the important content in writing. During a meeting, you will not always be able to distinguish between important and unimportant matters. In this case, it is better to take notes in more detail and only decide which content is actually relevant when formulating the minutes. Immediately mark the places where you have doubts.

Formulate the minutes in unambiguous and clear language. Write short and concise sentences and avoid nested sentences. Structure the composition, for example, by recording the respective theses of the proponents and opponents in the case of conflicting opinions. Otherwise, the content of the minutes follows the course of the meeting.

After completing the minutes, read them over carefully and, if necessary, have a third person you are familiar with proofread them before submitting them for approval. Of course, it is also possible for you to dispense with the paperwork and write the minutes using a digital device, for example a notebook or tablet, provided that this is permitted and possible. The procedure remains the same.

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