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The Etiquette of Meeting Minutes
Business etiquette affects how other people perceive you in the workplace -- including coworkers, supervisors and clients. If you're asked to take the minutes for a meeting, the most important point is to keep them clear, concise and accurate.
Preparation and Basics
Whenever you attend a business meeting, get there early and be prepared for anything task you may be expected to perform at the meeting. If you're keeping the minutes you should have your notebook or computer ready, along with other necessary items such as pens or recording devices. Attendance is recorded in the minutes, so prepare a sign-in sheet ahead of time. The sign-in sheet should have the name of each attendee and a space to mark arrival times.
Although it's against business etiquette to interrupt other speakers at a business meeting, the minute taker is expected to keep accurate notes of what was said and done at the meeting. Any formal motions must be recorded verbatim. Speak up and ask clarifying questions if you didn't hear or understand something well enough to record it accurately.
It is the job of the person running the meeting to create an agenda and keep the meeting on track. If the meeting drifts away from the established agenda, the minutes should reflect this. There is always the possibility that you will someday be asked to clarify exactly what happened at a meeting. No matter what, you should make sure your minutes accurately describe what really happened and in what order.
Meeting minutes are not just notes for the convenience of the people who attended the meeting. The minutes of a meeting are a legal record of what was done at that meeting according to an article by registered parliamentarian Nancy Sylvester.
You don't need to record every detail of what was said. Except for official motions, just summarize the contents. Include only details that will still matter in the future to anyone looking over the minutes. Use keywords to sum up the gist of each discussion.
Avoid any commentary, personal opinion or descriptive language in the minutes. Not only are these subjective, but they could embarrass the subject of your comments later. For example, you can add a note reading "Mr. Smith left the meeting at 2:45 pm," but you should not phrase it as "Mr. Smith became angry at Ms. Jones and stormed out of the meeting."
To avoid unnecessary commentary, don't try to describe the emotional tone of the meeting in any way. For instance, "Ms. Jones insisted that sales figures will improve in the next quarter" is too subjective and would be better phrased as "Ms. Jones said that sales figures should improve in the next quarter." Let the facts speak for themselves.
Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.