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Minute Taking: 8 Key Steps for Pre-Meeting Preparation

On average, people speak 3 words a second. Can you write that fast?
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Office Management

Minute taking: 8 key steps for pre-meeting preparation

When just the thought of creating official meeting minutes makes your writing hand freeze, take note: Preparation starts well before the meeting.

In fact, 60% to 70% of a minute-taker's most effective time will likely be spent in the pre-meeting stage, as one meeting expert pointed out. The work you do during this phase lays a foundation that helps ensure your success upon entering the meeting room.

Do you have to take minutes of meetings, jot down telephone messages, write long lists of tasks from your manager and remember those on-the-fly comments? Can you do it quickly? Learn a new technique to increase your note-taking speed.

Follow these pre-meeting steps:

1. Choose your technology

What tool will you use to capture information? While some minute-takers still use shorthand, more often nowadays people are using a laptop, which can be a real timesaver. You need to determine which method is going to work best for you.

Either way, you can use audio or video recordings as a back-up. Just be sure you get permission first to do that. Find out what the rules are, based on where you work and the meeting itself.

2. Review previous minutes

Before you start, it's a good idea to review the minutes from prior meetings. Notice the organization of the minutes—the amount of detail, phraseology and other characteristics.

3. Obtain the meeting agenda, other pertinent materials

The agenda for an informal meeting lists only the items the attendees will discuss during the meeting. But the agenda for a more formal meeting could list the times, the events, speakers, rooms and activities. Make sure you get a copy of the agenda beforehand, especially if you're not the one who helped prepare it.

Why are agendas important? They show the time frames for each segment of the meeting. They also make you aware of what you can expect from the discussion.

Other materials you might want to request: minutes of past meetings, handouts and glossaries of relevant subjects.

Ask the meeting chair or facilitator to copy you on all materials sent prior to the meeting and to send you an advance copy of any handouts that will be distributed.

4. Speak with the chairperson in advance

Go through the agenda together to establish the main topics and the group's goals. Then determine with the chairperson whether the meeting is going to be formal or informal. Oftentimes, that will dictate the type of notes you will have to take, as well as the format to use when writing up the minutes.

Also, decide on a signal to use during the meeting in case you will need clarification from the chairperson.

In recent years, there has been a myth that shorthand is no longer required for most administrative professionals in this digital world. But as most admins know, shorthand is still a sought-after skill. The most savvy administrative professional knows that each word is important. And learning shorthand is the perfect way to ensure you never miss anything.

Join us Tuesday, September 1, for the Pitman Shorthand Workshop. You'll discover how to improve your efficiency... add to your skills and career development... and avoid the stress of trying to take notes with only longhand techniques.

5. Arrive early to check equipment, materials

Of course, you'll want to check your audio or video equipment in advance, and make sure you have enough batteries and extension cords. If you will be using a laptop, make sure to bring every accessory you'll need.

Check your recording device prior to the meeting. Set your volume level by walking around the room and experimenting with audio. (During the meeting, you may have to adjust the volume if one of the speakers is soft-spoken.)

Some additional materials to bring: sticky notes, highlighters, a red pen, a note-taking pad, extra pens, note pads for visitors, any necessary file folders and meeting handouts.

Make sure you have a copy of the agenda—and bring extra copies, in the event the meeting chair forgets to bring them.

6. Create a seating chart

This is a good idea, especially if you don't know the attendees or have a large group—eight to 10 people—in the meeting. Before everyone arrives, draw a diagram of the table in your notes. Then, as each person takes a seat, write his or her name in the right position.

7. Determine your position at the table

Ideally, you should sit next to the meeting leader or chairperson. That way, you can more easily signal the chair if you need clarification. The chairperson is likely to appreciate the strategic positioning as well. It's easier for him or her to say quietly something like, "Oh, did you capture that? What Bill just said was really important."

8. Introduce yourself

If you don't know some of the attendees, plan to introduce yourself and your role at the meeting. Remember to smile and be confident. It's good for people to get to know you.

Master trainer Heather Baker will have you taking better notes (and faster!) with her Pitman Shorthand Workshop. You will have the opportunity to understand the Pitman system, including:
  • The principles of Pitman shorthandHeather Baker
  • How to abbreviate consonants
  • Position to indicate vowels
  • Some prefixes and suffixes
  • Halving, loops and hooks
  • Shortforms for common words and phrases
  • Tips on taking notes
  • Take dictation
  • Personal action plan and questions
Don't wait another minute! If you find minute-taking and note-taking frustrating and find it hard to keep up, this webinar is the one for you. You'll come away ready to start taking more effective notes and have an action plan to ensure you can continue to improve. Register now for this September 1 event!
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