Tuesday, August 29, 2006

minutes to a meeting : Clear objectives make powerful meetings

When was the last time you were in a meeting where the reason for being there was unclear to some or all of the participants? How well did the meeting progress? If your experience is like most people's, probably not very well. Lack of shared clarity about a meeting's objective or direction gets any team stuck! Think about times when you were given ambiguous direction (i.e., "Let's get things finished up soon") versus clear direction (i.e., "Let's meet Friday from 10-11 to finalize the budget "). In which situation were you more effective? Most likely, you've discovered that clarity leads to effectiveness and resourcefulness. Remember: when there's lack of clarity about the objective of a meeting it's easy for people to mentally "check out," work against each other or even become actively resistant. Shared clarity can help you avoid all these common meeting pitfalls.

Getting Specific

Most people agree that a productive meeting will follow an agenda. That's pretty good advice, however the most productive meetings are the ones where, even before considering agenda items, attendees get clear about the overarching objective of the meeting. A clear objective provides clear direction for the meeting. For even greater clarity, the objective can be stated in terms of desired results or outcomes. An outcome is a clear description of what you will deliver by the end of the meeting. For instance:

Objective: Finalize budget recommendation
Outcome: Final departmental fiscal year budget ready to submit for corporate budget review.

How to Build Shared Clarity

So you understand the power of clarity and wish to take responsibility for it in your meetings. Congratulations! To do that, consider first what you can do if you are in charge of the meeting. The following steps will help.

Consider why you want people to meet. Ask yourself what you will accomplish face-to-face (or via conference call) that you wouldn't accomplish otherwise. This should help you understand the objective of the meeting (but remember that you aren't the only one in need of clarity). Is it for information sharing, relationship building, decision making, creative problem solving or design?
After you know the objective of the meeting, think about your outcomes for the meeting and record at least two: (1) What is your perfect outcome? (2) What is your minimum acceptable outcome?
Validate the objective and outcomes to the best of your ability. Can you reasonably expect this group to produce your outcome in the time allotted? What can be achieved? What preparation is required? Include others in this validation process if it will help you achieve clarity.
Start the meeting by clearly stating the objective and outcomes. Make sure all of the attendees understand the objective and are willing to work toward it.
When it's not "your" meeting, it's a little trickier to be personally responsible that a meeting has a clear objective and outcome, but you can still do it. If you are a subordinate, guest, or other type of participant in a meeting that you did not plan, then consider some of the following approaches:

Ask for the objective and outcomes of the meeting when you're first invited. Let your host know that you take the invitation seriously, view meetings as important work, and wish to be prepared to help produce the desired result.
If you show up for a meeting without knowing the objective and outcomes in advance, then ask what they are as the meeting gets underway. Doing this in a supportive manner early in the meeting shows that you're there to actively contribute. It will also help the meeting leader because clarity of purpose, shared by all the participants, is the most powerful way to ensure the meeting is successful.
Make every meeting "your" meeting by valuing your time and the contribution you can make.

©3M 1995-2005

minutes to a meeting : Minutes and Group Recording,

In our Meeting Guide on Minutes and Group Recording, we recommend capturing three specific things in your meetings: Decisions, Action Items and Open Issues. This type of record is typically shorter and more useful than the traditional narrative known as "meeting minutes."
A technique for simplifying the capture of these three items is the use of templates. A template, in general, is any system or tool to help guide, form or remind you of some structure. In this case, the structure you want to be reminded of is what to capture in your meeting (namely, the decisions reached, action items assigned, and open issues). How do you implement a template? That really depends on how comfortable you are with various meeting "technologies."

Using templates

Let's start low tech. At the beginning of the meeting, tape three flip-chart sheets to the wall (or better yet, use self-sticking Post-it® Easel Pad sheets) and label one DECISIONS, one ACTION ITEMS and one OPEN ISSUES. As these items occur during the meeting, just add them to the appropriate flip chart. The same approach can be used with a whiteboard, by the way.

Now let's go to "level two" on the meeting technology scale - overhead projectors. Prepare three transparencies just as you did the flip charts and capture the items on them. This is easy to do, and almost every meeting room has an overhead projector. You may want to use colored pens to distinguish the various categories, or alternate between two or three colors for items in a single category to help people scan the different items at a glance.

Level three involves a laptop computer and a multimedia projector. Using this combination allows you to create a template using any software you like. It could be a word processor, presentation software, or even spreadsheet software. The advantage to using a word processor is that you can start with the meeting's agenda, and easily create these three categories under each agenda item. That way, the notes you capture are associated with specific agenda items - and this helps make it clear when in the meeting, for example, the decision was reached. At the end of the meeting this "annotated agenda" automatically becomes a formal record of what happened that can be printed, e-mailed, or filed (electronically, of course!).

©3M 1995-2005

minutes to a meeting : Meeting Minutes

Minutes of meetings form a historical record of a group's work. They serve as a record of decisions and details when people's memories fail or when they disagree. They remind people of assignments they've taken on and deadlines they need to meet. They inform those not present of what happened at the meeting. They give future members of the organization a way to build on past successes and avoid reinventing the wheel.

Some groups designate one person to take the minutes at every meeting; others rotate the job. Do what works best for your group, as long as the information gets recorded and preserved somewhere.

The minutes of a meeting should include the following (if they apply to your particular group and your meetings):

date, time and place of meeting
list of people attending, and any members who were absent
time the meeting was called to order
approval of the previous meeting's minutes, and any amendments
summary of reports, announcements, and other information shared
proposals, resolutions, motions, amendments, a summary of the discussion, and final disposition (if you are using formal parliamentary procedure, record who made the motion and who seconded it)
time of adjournment
next meeting date, time and location
name of person taking the minutes.
Motions and resolutions should be recorded verbatim and should be read back during the meeting to make sure they have been accurately transcribed.

Summarize the discussion, capturing key points and decisions reached. When someone takes on an assignment, a deadline is set, or other important agreements are reached, make sure to record them. This will serve as a reminder when the minutes are read later on.

Separate fact from opinion. Facts are objective and indisputable; opinions are personal views. Take this sentence: "The low turnout for the event could be due to poor advertising." Whose idea is this? Attribute opinions to their source (e.g. "Jane suggested that..." or "The group concluded that...")

Sometimes, it can be helpful to distribute the minutes before the next meeting. This gives people a reminder of assignments and deadlines, as well as when and where the next meeting is.

Distribute copies and read the minutes near the beginning of the next meeting. Any corrections or additions should be recorded in the minutes of that meeting. The group should then approve the minutes, meaning that they agree that they are accurate and complete, either as read or as amended.


Friday, August 25, 2006

minutes to a meeting : How to Take Minutes at a Business Meeting

Business meetings may be conducted formally or informally, depending on the company and the circumstances. The following guidelines are based on Robert's Rules of Order.

Taking Minutes

1. Obtain the meeting agenda, minutes from the last meeting, and any background documents to be discussed. Consider using a tape recorder to ensure accuracy.

2. Sit beside the chairperson for convenient clarification or help as the meeting proceeds.

3. Write "Minutes of the meeting of (exact association name)."

4. Record the date, time and place of the meeting.

5. Circulate a sheet of paper for attendees to sign. (This sheet can also help identify speakers by seating arrangement later in the meeting.) If the meeting is an open one, write down only the names of the attendees who have voting rights.

6. Note who arrives late or leaves early so that these people can be briefed on what they missed.

7. Write down items in the order in which they are discussed. If item 8 on the agenda is discussed before item 2, keep the old item number but write item 8 in second place.

8. Record the motions made and the names of people who originate them.

9. Record whether motions are adopted or rejected, how the vote is taken (by show of hands, voice or other method) and whether the vote is unanimous. For small meetings, write the names of the attendees who approve, oppose and abstain from each motion.

10. Focus on recording actions taken by the group. Avoid writing down the details of each discussion.

You do not need to record topics irrelevant to the business at hand. Taking minutes is not the same as taking dictation.

Consult only the chairperson or executive officer, not the attendees, if you have questions.

The person taking minutes does not participate in the meeting.

© 1999-2006 eHow, Inc. How things get done.

minutes to a meeting : An Important Skill

At some point your boss may ask you to take minutes at a meeting. This task isn't reserved for secretaries only. Any person who attends a meeting may be asked to do this. Since the minutes will serve as an official record of what took place during the meeting, you must be very accurate. Here are some pointers to help you master this skill.

Before the Meeting

Choose your tool: Decide how you will take notes, i.e. pen and paper, laptop computer, or tape recorder.
Make sure your tool of choice is in working order and have a backup just in case.
Use the meeting agenda to formulate an outline.

During the Meeting

Pass around an attendance sheet.
Get a list of committee members and make sure you know who is who.
Note the time the meeting begins.
Don't try to write down every single comment -- just the main ideas.
Write down motions, who made them, and the results of votes, if any; no need to write down who seconded a motion.
Make note of any motions to be voted on at future meetings.
Note the ending time of the meeting.

After the Meeting

Type up the minutes as soon as possible after the meeting, while everything is still fresh in your mind.
Include the name of organization, name of committee, type of meeting (daily, weekly, monthly, annual, or special), and purpose of meeting.
Include the time the meeting began and ended.
Proofread the minutes before submitting them.

©2006 About, Inc., A part of The New York Times Company.

minutes to a meeting : Proof Speedwriting and Shorthand

You might be confused after reading: "Idiot-Proof Speedwriting and Shorthand". Is that made for stupid people? Not at all! Our system is so unique and easy that anybody can master it. Check out our Flash demo.

EasyScript/ComputerScript books are the first place to turn to when you're new to speedwriting and shorthand. Even if you've studied this subject and wish to continue using some your abbreviating techniques, EasyScript can be a great addition to combine it with your existing method. In other words, EasyScript books are intended for individuals who are:

Intelligent. They know that they need to learn how take fast and accurate notes quickly but don't want to waste time with other speedwriting and shorthand books.
Frustrated. They have tried to do master shorthand or speedwriting but found them too complicated.
Confused. They're simply mystified by failing to grasp the subject. Are you intimidated and confused by shorthand? Do you find that traditional shorthand and speedwriting books are overloaded with symbols to memorize and you'll never use them? If you know what you need to do - but just don't know how to do it - then EasyScript/ ComputerScript is for you.

EasyScript/ComputerScript books are written for those intimidated and hard-working folks who know they're not dumb, but find that the complexities of shorthand and speedwriting make them lose motivation. EasyScript/ ComputerScript is the proven method for anyone who needs to take fast notes and accurate at meetings, on the phone and in school.

Copyright ©2004-2006 Legend Co.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

minutes to a meeting : Effective Meetings Begin With a Goal

Goals are critically important for the success of a meeting. You must know what you want so you can ask for it. And the participants need to know what you want so they can help you get it. Without goals, a meeting becomes a journey without a destination.

Unfortunately, many meetings are called without goals. So, you hear people start meetings by saying, "Well, what do you want to talk about?" This is similar to walking into a factory and asking, "Well, what do you want to make?" You could end up with anything from ant farms to xylophones.

Thus, your first step is to write out a statement of the results that you want to have by the end of the meeting. I want to emphasize that you must write out the goals for the meeting. This forces you to define exactly what you want. Certainly, if you're unable to express your goals on paper, you can expect to have difficultly explaining what you want to the attendees.

Writing goals also provides important benefits. It allows you to consider, explore, and discard possibilities. And then you can show the goals to others to obtain their comments and suggestions.

Asking for help preparing goals is especially useful when working on complex or controversial issues. Now you can 1) use their comments to refine the goals, 2) win support for your goals by including others in their development, 3) gain information on issues related to the goals, 4) uncover issues that may conflict with the goals, and 5) develop strategies for achieving the goals.

Once you complete the goals for your meeting, put them on the agenda. That helps everyone focus on your purpose for the meeting. And it significantly increases your chances of ending with the results that you wanted.

by Steve Kaye

minutes to a meeting : Another Use for Meetings

Every meeting is a laboratory where you can observe and learn important things about the people who attend. In fact, you can use meetings to identify people who merit being promoted into leadership positions. Watch for:

Is it planned?
Effective leaders always begin with clearly defined goals and then prepare plans for achieving them. They have the courage to set a direction and then make changes as new information becomes available. They communicate with candor knowing that people perform at their best when they know what is expected. Thus, did the person who called this meeting prepare an agenda? Was the agenda distributed before the meeting? Did the agenda tell you everything that you needed to know to work effectively in the meeting? If so, this serves as a positive indication of effective leadership planning.

Is it efficient?
A meeting is the culminating step in a larger process. It begins by setting goals and preparing an agenda. Then the chairperson should have contacted key participants to inform them of their roles in the meeting, told everyone how to prepare for the meeting, and alerted people who may be asked to accept responsibility for action items. All of this work before the meeting assures that the meeting will progress smoothly, efficiently, and effectively. So, how is the meeting going? Is there evidence of this attention to detail?

Is it logical?
Pay attention to what people say during a meeting. Do their ideas contribute toward achieving the goals? if so, this shows that they're working as part of a team to help find solutions. Do their ideas build upon what others just said? If so, this shows that they're paying attention to the dialogue. Do their ideas demonstrate originality, creativity, and knowledge? If so, this shows they're working hard to add value. Effective leaders possess strong analytical thinking skills.

Is it helpful?
Evaluate the comments and behavior during a meeting. Are the participants working to support each other? Are people contributing to the safe environment that is essential for open creative thinking? Are people adding high-value contributions (instead of stories or jokes that distract everyone)? Note that chronic unproductive behavior betrays either fear, a lack of effective work skills, or misunderstood expectations. People who perform poorly in meetings may need constructive coaching.

Is it controlled?
Leadership involves more than watching people talk. Thus, observe the dynamics of the meeting process. Is the chairperson leading everybody through methodical steps that take them to a result? Is the meeting being conducted in such a way that the participants feel that it is a fair process? Is the chairperson helping others perform at their best so that the group can produce an outstanding result?

Someone who excels in the above areas should be considered for leadership positions. This explains why most executives consider a person's ability to lead meetings when selecting future leaders.

by Steve Kaye

minutes to a meeting : 10 Actions for Effective Meetings

Here are ten things that you can do to hold more effective meetings.

1) Avoid meetings. Test the importance of a meeting by asking, "What happens without it?" If your answer is, "Nothing," then don't call the meeting.

2) Prepare goals. These are the results you want to obtain by the end of the meeting. Write out your goals before the meetings. They should be so clear, complete, and specific that someone else could use them to lead your meeting. Also, make sure they can be achieved with available people, resources, and time. Specific goals help everyone make efficient toward relevant results.

3) Challenge each goal. Ask, "Is there another way to achieve this?" For example, if you want to distribute information, you may find it more efficient to phone, FAX, mail, e-mail, or visit. Realize that a meeting is a team activity. Save tasks that require a team effort for your meetings.

4) Prepare an agenda. Everyone knows an agenda leads to an effective meeting. Yet, many people "save time" by neglecting to prepare an agenda. A meeting without an agenda is like a journey without a map. It is guaranteed to take longer and produce fewer results. Note, without an agenda, you risk becoming someone else's helper (see tip #6 below).

5) Inform others. Send the agenda before the meeting. That helps others prepare to work with you in the meeting. Unprepared participants waste your time by preparing for the meeting during the meeting.

6) Assume control. If you find yourself in a meeting without an agenda walk out. If you must stay, prepare an agenda in the meeting. Collect a list of issues, identify the most important, and work on that. When you finish, if time remains, select the next most important issue. Note: you can use a meeting without an agenda to recruit help for your projects.

7) Focus on the issue. Avoid stories, jokes, and unrelated issues. Although entertaining, these waste time, distract focus, and mislead others. Save the fun for social occasions where it will be appreciated.

8) Be selective. Invite only those who can contribute to achieving your goals for the meeting. Crowds of observers and supporters bog down progress in a meeting.

9) Budget time. No one would spend $1000 on a 10¢ pencil, but they often spend 40 employee hours on trivia. Budget time in proportion to the value of the issue. For example, you could say, "I want a decision on this in 10 minutes. That means we'll evaluate it for the next 9 minutes, followed by a vote."

10) Use structured activities in your meetings. These process tools keep you in control while you ensure equitable participation and systematic progress toward results.

by Steve Kaye

Monday, August 14, 2006

minutes to a meeting : Hold Effective Meetings

A facilitator adds value to your meeting by preparing the agenda, conducting the meeting, and writing minutes to the meeting. All of these services free you to work on other tasks while getting the job done properly.

A professional facilitator will help you save money by holding a shorter meeting. The most expensive part of a meeting is the labor cost of the participants. Estimate this cost for your last meeting by multiplying the duration of the meeting by the number of participants by their payroll cost. (I've seen groups waste over $50,000 on a single bad meeting.)

A facilitator will help you get real results. For example, years ago, a group held three full-day meetings trying to resolve a difficult issue. Each of these meetings broke down after hours of painful arguing, bickering, and complaining. Then they hired me. My meeting lasted five hours and produced a list of realistic solutions, ranked in priority of their applicability.

A facilitator does more than watch people talk. A skilled facilitator knows how to apply creative thinking, problem solving, and decision making tools within a meeting. These help the group make methodical progress toward agreements, decisions, and solutions. And they produce results that everyone will support.

A skilled facilitator is an expert on business. Thus, a facilitator knows how to take your group through the steps that produce a realistic plan that accomplishes your business goals.

A facilitator frees you to participate in your meeting. It is impossible to facilitate and participate in a meeting because facilitation is a full time job.

by Steve Kaye

minutes to a meeting : Make Writing Meeting Minutes Easy

Some people think that minutes are unnecessary.

This is true for any meeting where people wasted their time accomplishing nothing. In that case the person responsible for the mess would want to hide it.

But good leaders like minutes.

They want to publicize the work that they accomplished. They want others to know that they hold effective meetings. And they want to document the action items, decisions, and accomplishments from the meeting.

But writing minutes can be a chore.

So, how can you produce minutes - easily, quickly, and effectively?

Use these tips:

1) Ask a facilitator (or scribe) to attend your meeting. During the meeting the facilitator will write all of the key ideas, decisions, and agreements on chart paper.

This helps make your meeting more effective by letting the participants see their work as they produce it.

It keeps people focused on the issue.

It frees you to participate without having to work at recording the meeting.

And it documents the results of the meeting as it progresses.

After the meeting, ask the facilitator (or scribe) to prepare a draft of the minutes from the chart notes.

2) Put only the highlights of the meeting in the minutes. This would include action items, decisions, and agreements. Avoid creating a word-for-word documentation of everything that was said. If you need to capture every detail, use a recorder.

3) If you must write the minutes to a meeting, use the notes written on the chart pages as a rough draft of your minutes. If possible, have an assistant copy them and then edit the draft.

Some organizations skip typing the notes: they just make letter-sized copies of the chart pages and distribute those as the minutes.

4) Send the minutes within a day after the meeting. This publicizes the meeting while people still remember it, and it conveys the news while it's still relevant.

by Steve Kaye

minutes to a meeting : How to Lead an Effective Meeting

Leaders determine the success of every event. Here's how to lead a meeting.

1) Open the meeting by reviewing the goals, outcomes, and activities. This helps everyone work with you to accomplish what you want.

2) Start the meeting by describing the culture you expect during the meeting. For example, you might say, "I value all of your ideas. I want you to think creatively because we need powerful solutions to this issue."

3) Compliment the participants during the meeting. Brief praise such as, "Thanks," "Good idea," or "Excellent," will motive the participants to work with you.

4) Maintain a safe, positive working environment. Harsh, predatory cultures inhibit creative thinking. Insist on respect.

5) During the meeting, remind the participants how much time has been budgeted for each activity.

6) Present each issue in the form of a specific question. This focuses thinking on specific solutions. For example, ask, "What could cause Unit #2 to produce 5% more defects?" This is far more effective than saying, "Let's talk about Unit #2."

7) Maintain a state of benevolent urgency. You want to push just hard enough to make the participants aware of offering high value comments. And you want to allow enough time for adequate consideration of an issue before making a decision.

8) After completing a major part of the meeting, summarize what the group accomplished. This celebrates the achievement, reminds everyone what they finished, and formally ends the activity.

9) Introduce each part of the minutes of the meeting by stating the goal for that issue and describing the process you plan to use. This helps everyone focus on the same task.

10) Model the behavior that you expect from the participants because this determines how they will act during the meeting.

by Steve Kaye

Friday, August 11, 2006

minutes meeting : Running Successful Meetings

Running Successful Meetings

We all complain about meetings which are a waste of our time and the truth of the matter is that so many are exactly that. We've also seen the "corridor" meeting that takes place afterwards where it seems the real decisions are taken, or the agreed decisions are overturned.

You'll get your chance at some point in your career to run your own meeting - is yours going to go the same way? or will you make sure it's effective and does the job it is supposed to?

Well run meetings contribute to team building and high morale; badly run meetings are at best a waste of everyone's time and at worst potentially damaging to relationships and the business as a whole.

Here's how you can get it right:

All successful meetings depend upon a number of independent factors and if you approach each one methodically you'll find that your meetings are the ones that get action.




Structure & control

Records & action


What is the meeting intended to achieve?

what will the meeting actually achieve?

what happens if you don't hold the meeting

who needs to attend and why?

is there a more effective way of communicating?


prepare and circulate an agenda in advance;

invite agenda items before the meeting;

arrange agenda logically;

consider the important - v - the urgent issue;

arrange the timings and set limits;

clarify objectives for each item.


tell those involved what's expected of them;

tell everyone time, date location etc;

circulate any required pre-reading or information.

Structure & Control

Discuss each item in turn;

seek contributions but keep people to the point;

avoid going over old ground;

be aware of thre needs of the group;

prevent splinter discussion groups;

summarise often to bring back to the point;

commend contributions;

confirm any conclusions;

stress actions and who takes it.

Records & Action

record discussions, actions and responsibilities;

produce clear simple minutes immediately.

There are a number of points to learn about the effective handling of meetings:

invite the right people;

set an agenda that's do-able;

control timings and people;

encourage members to listen to each other;

note actions;

review and record, minute meeting

So if you want to avoid the "let's all turn up and see what happens" approach it just means you need to take the time to think through to what you really want and need to achieve, and then get on with it. People will thank you for not wasting their, or your, time.

Monday, August 07, 2006

How to take minutes meeting effectively

Karen Hainsworth discovers the secret to keeping a record of meetings is all in the preparation If you've never taken minutes in a meeting before, you're bound to be a bit nervous. But minute-taking can cause anxiety even in the most experienced of individuals, says Nandi Roos, a trainer on Pitman Training's Meetings and Minutes course.

"The most difficult thing for any minute-taker is knowing what to write down," she says. "The main problem that all my students have is writing too much because they're worried."

If you want to avoid writing a novel rather than notes, do a bit of research beforehand. "Any kind of preparation is going to make you more relaxed and more able to pick up on the important points," explains Roos. And familiarising yourself with what's on the agenda will help.

"Research what kind of topics they'll be discussing by reading the last minutes and speaking to the last minute-taker."

It's also helpful to understand the nature of the meeting. Basically there are two types, says Roos: informal, such as managerial briefings and progress updates; and formal, such as board meetings, annual general meetings and shareholder meetings.

With all formal meetings you need to know what rules and, in the case of shareholder meetings, which laws, govern that assembly.

Problems can arise if the gathering involves people who don't get on. "One of the hardest parts is knowing if there are any hidden agendas," says Roos, "but if you know what the aims are then you can weed out all the rubbish in between."

As a start, she suggests cutting out anything that does not involve the company or the people involved. And if you're not sure whether you should write up the juicy bit about the chief executive, she adds: "You can make a note of it and ask the chairperson if he or she think it is relevant."

A key part of meetings is the final resolutions that are made. These, says Roos, need to be recorded in detail, particularly if someone raises a point of order, such as when the constitution is to be changed.

But any topic should detail the names of individuals who have spoken.

"It's also very important to write in a point form," says Roos. "If you try and get it down verbatim, you are going to struggle."

Though she doesn't believe it is necessary to use shorthand, she says, "It's a very good tool to have, particularly when you are going into six-hour board meetings."

If you're in the unfortunate position of being dropped in the minute-taker's role at the last moment, you may not understand a word of the jargon that is being bandied about. That's difficult to deal with but not impossible. Roos advises that you write down as much as you can. If you miss a point, speak to the chairperson at the end.

He or she should also be making notes and, ultimately, the chairperson needs to sign off the minutes as being a correct account of what took place.

It is up to him or her to ensure they are right.

"It's not the most sought-after job in the world," says Roos. But there are some benefits to the minute-taker's role. "You learn a lot about the business, meet different people in different departments and you get to know what's going on."

And, as we all know, that can be a very interesting (and powerful) position to be in.