How to ... take minutes

- Prepare well

Familiarise yourself with the meeting agenda in advance, plus minutes from the last meeting and relevant background documents. Prepare an outline beforehand. It is advisable to sit next to the chairman in case you need to check on anything.

- Check the attendee list

Jot down a diagram of the seating arrangement and ask for the names of anyone you do not know. It may be best to circulate a list for attendees to sign. Make sure you identify those with voting rights in an open meeting.

- Back up your notes

Take notes using whatever method suits you best (for example, in a notebook or on a laptop) but for important meetings, also use a tape recorder as a back-up, lest members query your notes or your writing proves illegible.

- Record essentials only

Record all the essential information: this includes the date, time and place of the meeting; attendees and absent members; and approval of the last meeting's minutes. For each item of the agenda note the principal points discussed and actions taken.

- Keep minutes concise

Keep minutes as clear and concise as possible: only write down resolutions and motions verbatim. Otherwise, stick to recording the gist of discussions, under topic headings, noting action points and timescales and remembering to separate fact from opinion.

- After the meeting

Type up and distribute your minutes as soon as possible. This may be easiest done by email. Amendments should be made, and final approval given, at the start of the next meeting.

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