WRITING TO WIN: Meetings and the Minutes that Represent Them

At any time in your academic or professional life, you may be called upon to keep a record of a meeting. Meetings can occur on the job, at school, in the community center, even in your home. They are a tool for any organization–be it a committee, work group, project team, or advisory council.

In the classroom, this could be a group project that might require the members to keep track of discussions and activities as they march down the road toward a final product. In the workplace, it could be a project management meeting. Minutes are a chronicle of what happens in meetings.

What are minutes exactly? They do not mark the passage of time. Minutes are a record of key points discussed during a meeting. Keeping a record of what takes place in a meeting has several purposes:

  • Minutes provide information that can aid in future deliberations.
  • An accurate account of the meeting provides background for members who could not attend.
  • Having accurate minutes can serve as reminders of assigned tasks to the members.
  • Minutes capture document items in a proposed action plan.

MEETING MINUTES MUST ALWAYS BE….

  • Accurate
  • Clear and comprehensive
  • Objective in tone

MEETING MINUTES SHOULD…

  • Never record emotional exchanges that will spread negative light on the attendees. Meeting minutes should objectively record discussed business in a neutral manner.
  • Not interpret. They should only report.
  • Never veer away from the established agenda. This can make the reporting difficult. If this occurs, never be reluctant to ask the person leading the meeting to slow down or clarify what the unintended detour means.

MEETING MINUTES MUST BE…

Presentable–Meeting minutes are always distributed to the attendees and at times senior leaders.

  • Take care to write your document as if the CEO of the company, the president of the university, or the head of whatever organization is on the distribution list.
  • Therefore, you should adhere to all the rules of business writing. If you use a template in a word processing program, make sure the basic content areas are addressed. Templates are good in that you can use them on site at the meeting if you have a lap top. This will prevent you from having to transcribe the minutes later.

BASIC CONTENT AREAS FOR MEETING MINUTES

These are some areas that should be included in your document:

Date and Time

Type of Meeting

Meeting Called By Note Taker

Members Present

Decisions on Agenda Topics:

New Business

Discussion Items

Items accepted or rejected

Future Action Items and Owners

Next Steps

Next Meeting Date and Time

GUIDELINES FOR NOTE TAKING

  • Always write the minutes directly after the meeting. Do not rely on your memory. You will inevitably leave information out or misinterpret what you thought was discussed.
  • Pay attention and take good notes if you do not have a laptop template.
  • Make the minutes readable. Use headings and lists. Write them clearly and succinctly.
  • Stay away from personal commentary. Remember, do not interpret the proceedings. Record objectively.
  • Record all agenda items, action items, who owns action items, and any conclusions.

GUIDELINES FOR THE FINISHED DOCUMENT

  • Do not forget to list and distribute the document to all of those who attended the meeting.
  • Manage your tone. Do not write your personality into the document.
  • Keep your document free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Format your document appropriately with the proper content headings, margin settings, font size and style if you do not elect to use a template.
  • Keep the font size to 12-point, the style to a conservative Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.

For some expanded discussions on effective business writing and workplace etiquette, see my book:  Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., The Guide to Persuasive Business Writing: A New Model that Gets   Results. Iowa: Kendall-Hall, 2016.

This guest article was contributed by Royce Murcherson, Ph.D., on how to improve your writing skills and behavior. Dr. Murcherson is a faculty member in the School of World Languages, Cultures, and Communications (English & Humanities) at Richland College in Dallas.

If you want to improve your communication skills or learn/update your computer software skills, consider taking a Business Office Systems & Support (BOSS) course at Richland College. Richland College, which is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, offers both online and on-campus courses in flex-term and full semester formats. For more information email RichlandBOSS@dcccd.edu, or call 972‑238-6215.

**Richland College is an authorized Microsoft Testing Center.

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