The University of Worcester provides great staff development opportunities for its employees; including mindfulness, time management and software skills, to name just a few. I thought I would make use of this opportunity during my time at the Research Collections and was recommended to attend a course on Minute Taking and Servicing Meetings. Initially I was apprehensive as I thought that spending a day learning how to take effective notes was a little excessive. However, I was wrong and I actually learned quite a lot from this session which will benefit both my traineeship and hopefully my future career.
The programme was provided by the enthusiastic Jill Bowman from On Target Training who took us through the full protocol of how to service a meeting alongside the Chairperson. In previous experience, I have frantically written notes verbatim until my hand hurt and my energy had gone. This was because I was unaware of the level of detail required and wanted to make sure I did not miss anything important. This is a very ineffective and inefficient method of writing minutes as you recite information which does not need to be recorded and lose focus of the main points of discussion. Jill suggested that minutes needed to contain the following components:
- Background – why was this item brought to the agenda?
- Discussion – what are the views surrounding it?
- Decision – what conclusions have been made?
- Action – what has to be done? By who? And when?
The decision and action points could be interchangeable but one of them is required for each agenda item. This is all you need to ensure that your minutes are informative and relevant whist capturing areas for concern and objectives for the future. Focus on what the key issues are and make sure these are fully represented in your minutes. The best minutes come from a good rapport with the Chair as they can summarise and go over points to ensure that everyone understands and that you have recorded the discussion correctly.
The day increased my confidence in minute taking and pushed me to try new techniques to enhance my efficiency both in and after meetings. I am very grateful for the opportunity and would recommend the course to anyone who, like me, felt they did not need specific training on the subject.
I will leave you with some top tips from Jill:
- If you are new to minute taking, do your research on the attendees and try to understand the topic of the meeting.
- Sit by the Chair – you can quickly ask questions and clarify any notes with little disturbance to the meeting.
- Once the meeting is finished find a quiet place to immediately read over your notes – clarify your words and make sense of your text whilst it is still fresh.
- Try to compile a rough draft of your minutes (for your eyes only) within 24 hours of the meeting to ensure that you retain as much information as possible.
- Make sure what you present is a true representation of events at the meeting as they will need to be agreed by the attendees / Chair.