NB: I use the word chairman throughout this article as it’s the correct term to use for this role regardless of gender.
A minute taker’s role is much more than just turning up to a meeting and taking the minutes. While, without a doubt, it’s the chairman’s job to run the meeting the minute taker’s subtle influence can have a huge impact on the success of the meeting.
What can the minute taker do to make the job easier for both you and the chairman?
Before the meeting
1 Prepare a draft agenda for review by the chairman
The basis for the agenda is the minutes from the previous meeting, action points that need to be reviewed and upcoming items to be discussed.
2 Briefing meeting with the chairman
The day before the meeting, if time permits, meet with the chairman to review the distributed agenda and note any changes. Sometimes it’s also a good way to find out what contentious or tricky issues might be raised or to be given a heads-up on possible outcomes of items or even reactions from meeting members.
During the meeting
1 Sit beside the chairperson
Hopefully the days are long gone when the minute taker sat at a desk and chair and was seen and never heard. If you sit beside the chairman you can help control the meeting (in some instances you may end up running the meeting!).
2 Keep an eye on the time
Sometimes the agenda item being discussed starts to run away and before long the meeting is in danger of falling further behind time. In meetings where I’ve had a good relationship with the chairman, I would often point to the agenda when time was ticking away. A simple acknowledgement nod from the chairman was enough for me to know that he (or she) had received my often ‘times-up’ message.
This is also a good tactic to use when the meeting has digressed from the agenda.
While the above is really something the chairman should be controlling they sometimes get caught up in the discussions and lose focus and track of time. This is where the minute taker can perform a vital back-stop function.
3 Food’s up!
Always a welcome interruption when the minute taker can advise that food has arrived and everyone can have a break (yay!).
4 What do I write down?
This is probably the most important aspect of the minute taker’s relationship with the chairman. Don’t be afraid to seek clarification on what’s required to be minuted.
A gentle reminder to the chairman to summarise key points, decisions, actions and timeframes will help you ensure you’ve got down the necessary information.
After the meeting
1 Debrief with the chairman
This is an opportunity for you and the chairman to review how the meeting went and whether either of you could do something better next time.
This is also the time where you can ask any questions about anything you were unsure of to clarify the minutes.
2 Review draft minutes
After you’ve typed up your first draft, email your minutes to the chairman for his/her review. Keep on their toes! Chairmen are busy people and reviewing minutes may not be high on their list of priorities, but it’s important the minutes are distributed to everyone as soon as possible after the meeting.
3 Who’s responsible for following up on actions?
Make sure you have a clear understanding as to whose job this is. Is it your responsibility to just get the action points distributed or are you required to follow-up with people to ensure their actions have been completed before the next meeting?
4 Prepare a draft-draft agenda for the next meeting
This is something you may not necessarily work on with the chairman, but I always found it helpful to get a draft-draft agenda underway while things were still fresh in my mind. It provides a good starting point for preparing the draft agenda (see Before the meeting).
A Forbes article on How the Most Effective Executives Avoid Getting Mired in the Small Stuff outlines the four Ps for managers when they’re working with a Personal Assistant (also read minute taker!) – Priority, Power, Panorama and Partnership.
The simple tasks of:
- getting that heads-up before the meeting
- being the right-hand person during the meeting and
- ensuring the necessary bits have been completed after the meeting
will go a long way to assist in building an effective minute taker-chairperson partnership. Always.
What do you do to ensure you have an effective partnership with your chairman (or minute taker if you’re the chairman!)?