Meeting minutes--?

Subject: Meeting minutes--?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 09:35:12 -0400

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 it.*>>

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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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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meeting minutes--: From: Lucero, Peggy

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