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Peggy Lucero wondered: <<Part of my job is to capture the meeting
minutes for the team's weekly meetings. *I am trying to learn how many
other tech writers have this kind of a responsibility and how they do
I've done it in the past, and it's a worthwhile effort. Some people
resent the seemingly low status of this job, but I always relished the
opportunity to attend the meetings, get a chance to ask questions and
make suggestions, and keep up to date on a project.
<<These meetings get very involved and a number of the key participants
talk very fast. Initially I was trying to capture these events
manually (and no, I don't know shorthand.) It was impossible.>>
A few tips. First, arrive with a laptop and the meeting agenda already
open in your word processor. Now you can enter points under those
headings instead of having to type the headings. Second, for everyone
who will be presenting, obtain a copy of their support material (the
stuff they'll be presenting) _before_ the meeting and add that to the
outline as a summary. I've chaired some meetings where I insisted that
participants bring a brief, typed summary of the points they intend to
make, and you can add that to the outline. For stuff you can't type in
advance, write short telegraphic sentences and use point form; you can
edit it into real English later.
Third and most important: As in any other technical communication task,
clearly define what is expected of you. Sometimes the boss wants a
word-by-word transcription of every utterance. In that case, you really
do need the tape. Most times, all the boss wants is a summary of the
consensus on each point, and not on any of the details that led up to
that consensus. Is it possible that you're recording far more
information than is necessary?
I've found that it's very effective to ask the chair of the meeting to
explicitly state the consensus before moving on to the next point; that
also gives you a chance to verify what you've recorded. More
importantly, it lets everyone present confirm that they actually heard
the same thing, which avoids future problems. If the chair is not
willing to do this, exercise your right as a participant in the meeting
to state the consensus yourself. "So, let me confirm that I've got this
straight: We agreed that..."
Last point: digital voice recorders are cheap nowadays. You mentioned
an iRiver combo digital voice recorder and MP3 player. Try it out at
home (read yourself 10 minutes worth of your favorite book or magazine)
to see how well it works. If, like many hybrids, it's quality is
marginal, consider investing in a dedicated recorder that has a better
microphone and more capacity.
<<My boss actually keeps telling me that I rely too much on the
recorder and that I should go back to doing it manually-I entirely
DISAGREE on this. She brings this up often!!! : (>>
That's another important issue. It doesn't pay to tick off your boss!
_Why_ does she say you rely too much on the recorder? Are you taking
too long to transcribe the results, or typing too much information?
<<Meetings are typically 1 hr and several of the participants are on
the speaker phone (remote in another state) and one has a heavy accent
and one speaks really low.>>
Enlist their aid: Send them a summary of what you thought they said,
and ask them for a reality check!
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