Prepared SecretaryIt’s time. Your meeting is next week and the agenda has been prepared and sent out to remind everyone to attend. So how do you, the secretary/recorder get ready? Today we will talk about several tips that will help you not only do a great job of recording what transpires at your meeting, but also give you the ability to participate in the meeting as well.

Preparing to take Minutes

The more preparation that you do before the meeting, the easier it is to take notes and participate in the meeting. Here are a few ideas that I have learned over the years that help in the preparation phase:

  1. Historical Minutes. Spend a few minutes to make a notebook that has copies (NOT THE ORIGINALS!!) of the approved minutes that you, the chair or the members can refer to during the meeting. Glance through them and insure that all items of business that need to come up at this meeting are covered by the agenda — if not, contact the chair and make sure that those items are added and that the amended agenda is posted/transmitted/ noted at the meeting. If the organization is under specific timing/notice limitations, make sure that this step is done early enough that the time limit is met.
  2. Attendance Sheet. Prepare the attendance list/sign-in sheet/seating chart so that you can have a quick and easy way to know who is in attendance at the meeting. If the meeting has roughly 12 or more participants, this is a good time to prepare tent cards for the participants to use at their seats so that, at a glance, you can look up and determine who is speaking.
  3. Prepare Preliminary Minutes. Using the completed agenda, you can type up a set of minutes with blanks inserted that all you have to do is “fill in the blanks.” For example the beginning paragraph might read: “The May 2008 meeting of the ABC Council was called to order at ________ PM on May 21, 2008 by Vice President Amy Waldon with _______ members in attendance (see attached attendance list).” This allows you to fill in the time and the number of attendees while at the meeting and to edit the preliminary minutes into your final minutes very quickly. Under each of the major headings/items of business leave blank space for taking notes, that can be converted to the text in the actual minutes. As the meeting progresses, the notes that you take can be minimized and you can follow along with the meeting.
  4. Prepare Templates. Another method that I have found useful in taking minutes is the use of templates. One of the best templates that I use is an action item list that I integrate at the bottom of the minutes after the meeting is over. My action item list is a table that lists:
    • Who. Who is assigned the action item: an individual; a standing/special committee; the board of directors
    • Does what. What action is to be done? Investigate the feasibility of . . . ; Plan a trip to . . .; or, Locate a new Meeting location and . . .
    • By when. What is the due date of the action? By the next meeting; At the September Meeting; Before the 2009 Convention.

    If you have this (or any other) type of template available, it is a great way to summarize all activities that have been assigned and ensures that they can be tracked efficiently for future meetings.

  5. Materials and Supplies. Collect all of the things that you will need for the meeting a few days in advance. Keep a checklist of the items that you will need to take: Pens, pencils, paper, past minutes, templates, preliminary minutes, flip charts, computer, projector(and spare bulbs!), tape recorder (again, spare tapes!), batteries, power strips, extension cords, etc. Gather all of the items together in one place and note what you may need to pick up at the store before the meeting.
  6. Equipment Check. If you are responsible for electronic equipment — especially tape recorders, computers, projectors — try them out ahead of time to insure that they are in working order. Additionally, check your markers and highlighters to ensure they still work — a cap slightly off can cause markers to dry up rapidly. This saves a lot of time (and embarrassment) at the meeting.

If you follow these few tips, you should be ready to go to your meeting and take notes for your minutes.

Next. You’re Here! It’s Meeting Time . . .

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