minutesmadness

Write clear, concise and condensed meeting minutes and still keep your sanity!

OK, hands up if you’ve ever felt irritated when a meeting is just about finished but it gets stuck on General Business and it drags on and on and on..

To me, this is the worst part of a meeting. It’s like punishment!

Yes, General Business can be painful for the following reasons:

  • it becomes a free-for-all; anyone and everyone, particularly those who haven’t had the opportunity to say much in a meeting, feel that this is the place to get their point across – any point!
  • it can take a long time sometimes almost as long as the actual meeting
  • a chance to either re-litigate things that have just been discussed or things from another meeting
  • a chance to discuss anything regardless if it relates to the meeting or not.

Here are some tips to help you and the chairman manage this part of the meeting.

Be gone with you!

A lot of organisations are now removing the General Business section from the agenda. That solves the problem nice and easy!

Pre-warning No. 1

If someone wants to raise a matter at the meeting then it must go on the agenda as a separate item before the agenda is distributed.

Pre-warning No. 2

You can still have a General Business section but at the meeting, just after Apologies, members can flag that they would like to bring up a matter for discussion. This agenda item is called “Items for General Business”. The reasons for this are:

  1. everyone gets to hear what that issue is so there’s some pre-warning
  2. the chairman can either approve or disaprove the item at that point
  3. everyone knows that once you get to the section of General Business that there will only be a certain number of people who have additional items of General Business.

 

The above three tips should help go some way to managing what can be an arduous part of the meeting.

Do you have any tips for managing General Business?

 

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As you move further up the career ladder and your responsibilities as an administrator increases, this inevitably means that you’ll at some stage be leading or facilitating meetings.

This could take many forms – from project team meetings to your own staff meetings. And when it’s your own staff meeting, your credibility is at stake.

Listed below are some tips to ensure that the meetings you conduct are professional and focused.

Clear objective

Ensure everyone is clear about the purpose of the meeting before the meeting eg to decide venues for the Christmas function.

This is so people can arrive at the meeting knowing exactly what’s going to be discussed and to allow time for them to do any preparation work.

Agenda

This goes hand-in-hand with having a clear objective.

An agenda will list the topics to be discussed and who will be talking to that agenda item.

Meeting participants should be asked to contribute to the agenda before the meeting and a finalised agenda should also be emailed to the participants before the meeting.

Keeping to time

I’ve heard often that people will judge how good a manager is by how well they run a meeting. This includes keeping the meeting within its allocated timeframe and ensuring that there is adequate time within the meeting to discuss items.

A tip that can help you keep a meeting on track is having a suggested timeframe for each item printed on the agenda.

Good control

A wise meeting facilitator will understand the balance between allowing for a good discussion amongst participants, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to have their say, all points of view have been covered and probably one of the biggest aspects of successful meeting management is managing personalities (watch out for a future post on this). This can be a tricky area to manage, but meeting facilitators need to know when it’s time to rein in people without hurting feelings.

Summarise discussion

Probably the most understated skill of a facilitator is the ability to summarise discussion.

This should happen at the end of each agenda item. The facilitator should summarise the following:

  • key points
  • decisions made
  • actions to be undertaken
  • who is to do what and,
  • by when.

 

If, as a facilitator, you:

  • ensure there is a clear objective for your meeting
  • have an agenda
  • keep to time
  • exercise control
  • summarise.

meeting participants will speak highly of you as someone who runs excellent meetings.

 

Do you have any additional tips that are essential to being a good meeting facilitator?

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In a number of previous posts I’ve mentioned what a key role the chairman has in assisting the minute taker in a meeting.

There are a number of ways this can be achieved, but the most important part is ensuring the minute taker is clear about the key points, decisions and actions.

On my Art of Minute Taking course, I encourage minute takers to work with their chairman and educate them to provide a summary at the end of every agenda item.

The understanding by the chairman in the role he/she takes in a meeting is critical. Some chairmen get it, others don’t. In fact, some of them believe it’s the minute taker’s job to summarise the minutes.

Recently I connected with Bob Boze, who read Minute Taking Madness and was kind enough to write a review, which I read with glee! Why? Because here was someone who had been in the manager/chairman role and had attended many meetings.

Bob has kindly given permission to post his review on this blog. Thanks Bob!

Minute Taking Madness Review

Rating: 5 Stars

I am probably the last person in the world who would be asked to take minutes at a meeting. However, as a Project Leader, Program Manager and finally Department Manager, several times over, I have conducted more meetings than most people ever will. I’ve also attended numerous meetings at customers’ facilities all over the world where I walked away being responsible for most, if not all, of the action items.

In more cases than I care to admit, I later stood scratching my head as I read the minutes from a meeting asking: What is that? When did that come up? Is that an action item and if so, whose? Uh, where is….? Wasn’t there a second item to that? And on and on.

Being a manager, I did what most managers do. I blamed the poor person designated as scribe for the day, who typically was unfairly forced to take minutes. Did they get any training in minute taking? No. Did I help them accurately record minutes in how I conducted the meeting? No. Did I even know any of this? Not until I read Robyn’s book.

Reading Minute Taking Madness woke me up to several things. Minute taking is not an easy task and the person tagged to do so should be properly trained. Accurate minutes from a meeting are critical; especially to those who weren’t able to attend, those assigned action items and whoever is responsible for making sure the meeting is accurately reflected and all items are closed. (Uh, that last one would be me!)

One other thing Robyn made me realize? The most important person in the meeting room is the minute taker!

Minute Taking Madness should be mandatory reading (as well as taking her training course, if possible) for anyone designated to take minutes. It should also be required reading for anyone conducting meetings. That’s because, as she points out, how the meeting is chaired either helps or hinders the minute taker greatly!

Even if you’re just an attendee at most meetings, I urge you to take a moment to read this well-written, easy to understand and extremely helpful book. Who knows? It maybe you up there one day conducting the meeting and wanting the most accurate minutes possible.

While Robyn was too polite to say it, I will: The minutes from your meetings are a glaring reflection of your skills as a manager!

A must read for anyone taking minutes or conducting meetings.

Credentials:

Project Engineer/Program Manager, Communications and Navigation Systems, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Electronics Division

Department Manager, Turbine Engine Monitoring Systems, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Electronics Division

Senior Technical Advisor to Vice President of Advanced Systems Design, Titan Corporation

Department Manager, Airline Communications and Engine Monitoring Systems, Teledyne Corporation, Controls Division

Senior Technical Advisor to Vice President of Advanced Technology, B/E Aerospace, In-Flight Entertainment Systems Division

Department Manager, Customer Service, Airline Seats, Airline Interiors Inc.

 

Follow this link here to purchase Minute Taking Madness.

A year has passed since I first started blogging about minute taking. Apart from a few weeks over the Christmas period and the last few weeks when I was away on holiday I’ve blogged every week. That’s almost 52 blogs – on minute taking! I didn’t ever think I would find so much to say about minute taking, but I guess that isn’t hard when you’re passionate about the subject.

Feedback has been great and I’m proud that I have 71 blog followers which hopefully means I’m writing something that at least is some way helpful in providing some tips so we can become better minute takers.

The top four blogs

In reflecting back these are the top four blogs that generated the most comments:

Skills required to be a good minute taker

Should a minute taker follow up actions from a meeting?

Is shorthand still a relevant skill for a minute taker?

I’m a minute taker – so can I speak at a meeting?

Going forward, I’m dreading the day when I might run out of minute taking things to blog about.

If there’s something about minute taking you’d like me to blog about please feel free to put up a comment!

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I love it when I come across websites that provide useful content to help me in life in general plus also professionally.

Listed below are my top four go-to websites for minute taking and meetings resources.

GoToMeeting

Videoconferencing and collaboration solutions

For those of you who have a lot of virtual meetings, GoToMeeting has a good blog on how to make sure these are run effectively.

BoardEffect

Stay up to date on the latest issues, trends and best practices in board management and governance.

While not so much on minute taking, BoardEffect have a great blog that discusses a lot of issues around board governance. A minute taker working at this level needs a good understanding of governance issues so that you can provide the best support to management (and ultimately the board).

iBabs

Paperless meetings with iBabs.

Some good blog articles including the future of meetings and meeting trends.

99U

This website encourages people to be creative in their work and this includes thinking outside of the square in terms of meetings.

Do you have any good meeting/minute taking websites that you go to?

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There are generally three ways to write minutes:

Verbatim or Narrative minutes

These minutes are virtually word for word of what was said and who said what at a meeting.

Summary minutes

Records detail around what was said.

Action point minutes

Minutes that summarise the discussion.

What style do I use?

There are advantages and disadvantages to each style and these are outlined in my recently launched book Minute Taking Madness.

The style that you use may well depend on the type of meeting you’re taking minutes for.

What style do you use and why?

 

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Have you ever tired to change the way something is done at work and met with resistance? People don’t generally like change – change can be scary, it means a different way of doing things and I might not like it.

Some of things I try to do on the minute taking courses I run is expose participants to different types of minute templates and the preferred style of recording minutes (ie a summarisation of discussion without naming people).

In some instances this can be a complete change to the way minutes have been formatted or displayed for some meeting participants.

I can say that just about all of my course participants embrace that there could be a better way of doing something, they could see how it would work and are willing to give it a try. However, they have reservations as to reactions to the change back at work. And this is mainly because they know they’ll meet with resistance.

There are a number of ways you can implement change without rocking the boat or ruffling too many feathers and I’ll outline two of those suggestions here:

Trial it

I’ve already outlined the reasons why people can be negative about change. A common response when you ask why something is done a particular way is, “this is the way it’s always been done.” This is a poor excuse and we should always be questioning why something is being done so we can be more efficient and effective.

Ensure you outline the reasons and benefits for the change – what will make it better and why. You should have people’s buy in at this point. If not, or your still meeting with some reluctance, a good way to move things forward is to suggest that the change be trialled. That way people don’t have to commit up front.

An example of this was a woman who attended my course really wanted to change the format and style of the minutes. She worked for an old organisation where the minutes style had not changed for 20 years. We talked through some options. In the end we decided that to get the buy in she needed, she would produce two sets of meeting minutes – one in the old style, and one in the new style. She presented this to the committee members and immediately they could see the advantages of the new style, but they were still reluctant to commit. She suggested that they trial using the new style for three months at which time the group would make a decision as to which format they would use. The group agreed to this. When the three months was up, guess which style and format they adopted? Yes, the new one.

Small changes

When you want to make a lot of changes, be careful about making them all at once. You’ll freak people out! List out the changes you want to make, prioritise them and then start with the first one. Once everyone is comfortable with this change then move onto the next one. Rinse and repeat!

By doing it this way you’ll be more likely to implement successful changes and keep people with you as you go. Even if it takes six months or more. And by the end of the six months you’ll have all the changes embedded.

Part of driving efficiencies in any organisation is about asking why, coming up with a more efficient and effective way of doing things and then implementing them by a process of trial and slowly but surely.

Have you implemented any changes in taking minutes and, if so, what did you do to ensure those changes were implemented successfully?