14 Tips for Taking Meeting Minutes During Remote Calls
Virtual meetings have become the new normal as a result of the COVID pandemic for hundreds of millions of professionals around the world. The number of virtual audio and video calls took technology providers to a breaking point. Zoom experienced a 354% growth in customers with more than 10 employees and hit 300 million users in a single day in April. It wasn’t simply Zoom. Microsoft Teams, for example, saw a 775% increase in users.
A significant portion of the growth can be attributed to business meetings. Six-plus months into the COVID pandemic and meeting fatigue is setting in; researchers and organizations are seeking ways to ensure virtual meetings are productive and participants are engaged.
Importance of Meeting Minutes
One of the things business professionals can do to ensure their meetings are productive and collaborative is to take meeting minutes. Meeting minutes seem like a fairly straightforward task. But the reality is that there is a distinct difference between good and bad meeting minutes. With the rise of virtual meetings, there are additional nuances in taking meeting minutes that business professionals need to heed. It ultimately boils down to what to include and exclude.
For boards and their committees, it is important to remember that meeting minutes are more than a summary of what was discussed and assigned as action items. They are a legal requirement based on the stipulations found in Section 172 of the Companies Acts 2006. Meeting minutes demonstrate they have fulfilled their legal and fiduciary duties.
Tips on Taking Meeting Minutes
Following is a list of tips for taking meeting minutes for business professionals:
1. Assign the Meeting Minutes Role to One Person
One person should be given the task of taking meeting minutes, and the decision needs to be made before the meeting so that she or he can prepare in advance of the meeting. The assignment should go to someone who has a grasp of the issues being covering during the meeting as well as knowledge of the different participants.
2. Prepare for the Meeting
It is important to understand meeting objectives and logistics as well as obtain a list of attendees. This information will enable the recorder to prepare for the meeting as well as better follow the discussion while recording notes. In addition, those taking meeting minutes need to determine the medium for scribing notes—whether pen and paper, a laptop, or a notes-enabled app. For some, a tape recorder or recording app on a smartphone may be needed.
3. Create a Template for Meeting Minutes
As most meetings follow a standard sequence and with knowledge of an agenda beforehand, the one taking meeting minutes should create a template for taking notes. A meeting template can include a long list of items such as …
a. Type of meeting (daily, weekly, monthly)
b. Purpose of the meeting
c. Date, time, and location of the meeting
d. Name of the meeting facilitator and moderator
e. Attendee list
f. Quorum achieved
g. Approval of previous meeting minutes
h. Summary of reports made
i. Resolutions not voted on
j. Information on next meeting
k. Adjournment time
l. Vote to approve the meeting minutes
4. Test and Verify Mediums
Regardless of what medium is being used to capture meeting minutes, testing and verifying that they all work (whether pens, laptop computer, or notes-taking app). Holding up the start of a meeting to find a pen that works or rebooting a computer because of an app hasn’t installed can doom the success of a meeting before it starts.
5. Designate Names and Titles
For in-person meetings, a seating chart with assignments for each meeting participant. This makes it immensely easier for the person taking meeting minutes to accurately record who makes motions. This is particularly important for meetings where recording who makes motions is required. In addition to names, it is important to know the titles and roles of each meeting participant (e.g., who serves on our heads specific committees).
To achieve the above requirements for remote meetings, choosing video conferencing software that allows for the designation of each participant’s name and title/role is crucial. At the same time, the meeting recorder needs to establish before the meeting the need for each participate to include their name and title when logging into the meeting.
6. Listen with Discernment
The person taking meeting minutes must listen carefully and scribe minutes for topics that matter and leave out those that are irrelevant. The meeting recorder needs to focus on facts and stay away from opinion that are subjective and can be disputed by others.
7. Scribe Clearly and Simply
Recorders will likely edit and tune their original meeting minutes. This version needs to be clear for the sake of others. Language needs to be understandable and concise and provide explanation where further context is required.
8. Be Exact
Depending on the type of meeting in question, meeting recorders must accurately scribe the facts of a meeting. Once approved, the minutes become official documents of the organization and in some cases even be used as written evidence in courts. Missteps in meeting minutes can create significant legal challenges, penalties, and risks. In the case of remote meetings, accuracy is even more important to ensure.
9. Record Motions
For certain meetings, participants will make motions. Not only must the content be recorded, but the individual who made the motion must be noted at the same time. However, it is important to indicate the name of the person who seconds a motion. In addition, motions made by a committee do not require a second since committees are made up of two or more people.
10. Indicate Issues on Hold
In some instances, there may be subsidiary motions to postpone votes on motions. Recorders must indicate when this happens and log whatever information is available as to when a vote will be taken on the motion.
11. Prepare as a Participant
Not every recorder will also be a meeting participant. But in cases where a recorder is also expected to contribute and add their voice to the discussion and motions, they should write out their questions before the meeting so that they have no distractions.
12. Summarize Initial Scribing
The recorder will be writing at a rapid pace during the meeting. Thus, it is important for the recorder to go back through her or his notes and to summarize them and ensure they are concise. Focusing on the major points made during the meeting and organizing the content around those is a great tip.
13. Check and Proofread
Check for grammatical issues, misspellings, and other issues that may detract or even negate the credibility of the meeting minutes. Abbreviations should be rarely used—only when all recipients of the minutes know the derivation.
14. Distribute and Approve
Before meetings are adjourned, the recorder needs to ensure the minutes are distributed to each of the participants and are approved by the meeting’s chair or facilitator.
Minutes Facilitate Successful Meetings
Before the COVID pandemic when many meetings were in person, the majority of professionals believed most meetings were unsuccessful. With most meetings now virtual, this feeling has not improved. The number of meetings have actually increased and the number of attendees have grown. Meeting minutes can be a crucial facilitator helping organizations to ensure their remote meetings are successful.