Posted by: wordsmithsuk | February 19, 2014

Minute writing: how being assertive can help you produce better minutes


You can use assertiveness to help your chair to run a more effective meeting – imagesand you will make your own job easier at the same time. Remember that good minutes are a vital part of an effective meeting. You may need to point out politely and assertively that you can’t do a good job without the help of the chair.

Before the meeting

It is good practice for the chair and the minute taker to meet briefly to plan how they will work together to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and that the minutes are of the highest possible quality.  If this doesn’t happen, you can take the initiative and ask for a pre- meeting with the chair. The things that you may need to discuss are:

  • The purpose of the meeting, who will attend, timings, likely problems
  • Who will be reading the minutes
  • The purpose of the minutes
  • Domestic issues – seating arrangements, equipment needed, refreshments and so on
  • Any  jargon/abbreviations/technical terms likely to be used by members
  • How the chair prefers to run the meeting
  • How much detail is to be included in the minutes
  • Whether the chair will summarise during an item or only at its end.

During the meeting

You will need to sit next to the chair during the meeting.  People will usually address their contributions to the chair, so if you are are next to her/him you will be able to see and hear other members more easily. Get to the meeting early and claim your place at the top of the table. Don’t allow yourself to be pushed to the back of the room. Many chairs are not skilled at controlling a meeting. They may have had poor role models or never understood the rules of meetings. They may be overwhelmed by talkative members or have simply developed unhelpful habits over time. Particular issues to be aware of are:

  • Everyone is talking at once
  • Discussions veering from item to item
  • An agreed action not being assigned to someone
  • Dates not being agreed for when an action has to be done.

It’s the job of the chair to summarise important discussion items and decisions so you know what must be noted. It is particularly important to speak up or pass a note to the chair when a point is unclear so that you can record it effectively. Remember – you and the chair must work as a team to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly and that you are able to produce accurate, effective minutes.

After the meeting

You can save yourself a lot of work by asking for a quick review at the end of the meeting to clarify any points about which you are unsure. Then collate your notes and draft the minutes as soon as possible, while the key points are still fresh in your mind. It is not your responsibility but that of the chair to ensure that the draft minutes are truthful and accurate. Ask the chair to check your draft and make any changes as soon as possible. Once the chair has verified the minutes, s/he takes accountability for them as a ‘true and correct record’. Finally, distribute the minutes to members and your work is done.

Do get in touch to ask me about our popular workshop ‘Effective Minutews-course-brochure-145px Writing’. I run these workshops in-house for a variety of organisations all over the UK. People become more confident minute writers as a result of these training events. They are effective and fun!

Download our brochure for more information.

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