Taking minutes in an interactive meeting

Taking Minutes in an Interactive Meeting
In addition to understanding traditional meetings, it will be helpful for you to understand how to assist a facilitator in an interactive meeting. These are an excellent way for groups to brainstorm and problem solve.
In this lesson, you’ll learn the basic skills to take notes and make a permanent record of an interactive meeting.
The traditional style of meetings discussed so far is not particularly suited to informal problem solving, collaboration, or for working out complex, interdependent issues. Progressive organizations are cutting meeting time with interactive meetings.
In conventional meetings, the chair normally has the most authority. The chair controls how the meeting proceeds, talks more than anyone else, and is responsible for the final decisions. This can affect group participation and morale and can result in poor dynamics within the group.
The Role of the Facilitator
In an interactive meeting, the chair separates procedural and decision-making responsibilities and appoints someone to handle a new role: that of the facilitator. This enables the chair to sit and listen fully to the opinions of the group.
The facilitator’s job is to accomplish a specific set of tasks. The facilitator must solicit opinions from the entire group, ensure that everyone feels comfortable with the process, and keep the meeting on target.
The facilitator is assisted by the recorder, who ensures that all the members’ main points are written on large sheets of paper taped to the wall in front of the group, or written on a whiteboard. In this way, everyone has a clear and immediate understanding of what is being said and can see that all statements are accurate. All ideas are considered to come collectively from the group, not from individuals, so names are not recorded.
Both the facilitator and the recorder must remain neutral and refrain from voicing their opinions or editorializing. If either one feels the need to make a personal statement, they must ask the group’s permission to temporarily step out of the assigned role.
An ideal situation would have all the members of the group taking turns to act as facilitator and recorder. In fact, the facilitator and recorder may even be invited from an outside department or group.
Interactive meetings are highly creative and productive. Members feel less intimidated and have equal opportunity to participate in brainstorming and problem-solving sessions. They leave feeling heard, validated, and energized. They have specific tasks to accomplish.
Taking Minutes at an Interactive Meeting
If you are appointed recorder at an interactive meeting, remember that your role is always to support the facilitator and the group.
As a recorder, you must have:

  • Good listening skills
  • Legible handwriting/printing for the flip charts or whiteboard
  • An understanding of the group’s jargon
  • Confidence to ask the group to slow down if you fall behind in the recording
  • A nonjudgmental expression

It is important that you, as recorder, do not put words in the mouth of a participant who is thinking through what they want to say or rephrasing a thought. Be quiet. Talk as little as possible. Defer your questions to the facilitator. You are the facilitator’s teammate and support person.
When listing the group’s comments, make the letters about 1 inch to 1½ inches high. Don’t worry about your spelling. You can use abbreviations, circle key words, or use arrows and signs. Use colored markers to highlight ideas. Remember to number and title all pages. Get the members to restate any points you have missed or misrepresented. The meeting members share the responsibility for accurate recording.
After the meeting, remove the pages from the wall, label and store them, or have them typed. The recorder is also responsible for preparing a summary sheet or action minutes.
Session Nine: The Minute Book
Whether your minute book takes the form of a three-ring binder or is recorded electronically, there are some rules you need to know about how to keep them organized. These will help you and the meeting members find what is needed at the right time.
In this lesson, you will learn about minute books, indexing, and allowing access to the minutes that you have prepared.
The Minute Book
Official copies of approved minutes are kept by the recorder in chronological order, usually in a three-ring binder set up for that purpose or in an electronic format. The cover page may indicate the period that the minute book covers, such as, “The minutes of the Birdwatchers Society, from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012.”
The minute-taker normally has custody of the minutes book and all official documents. However, every member has the right to inspect the minutes. As well, certain minutes can be turned over to a committee if they need them to perform their duties.
The minute-taker is also responsible for storing committee reports and documents submitted at meetings. Before filing this material note on the document the date that it was received and any further action that was taken.
An index is an alphabetical listing of all the main items discussed at meetings. Along with the topic, list the date it was discussed and the page number where the information can be found in the minutes. Indexing the minutes will take a few minutes but it will go a long way toward building your professional image. As minute-taker you are also the group historian.
If you use a computer, most programs can help you identify key words and then automatically alphabetize them and identify them by page number. Anything stored electronically has to be accessible and properly backed up. Make sure that other people can access the information in case of a software problem or if you move on to another job.
Groups who don’t make a lot of motions may prefer to use a motions book rather than an index. The motions book contains all the motions and amendments ever made by that group, with the dates they were made.
The minute-taker should also have a copy of all the rules that the group uses to govern itself, such as the constitution, bylaws, and procedures.
All of this information should be combined into one book that the minute-taker brings to each meeting.