1. Choose your technology
What tool will you use to capture information? While some minute-takers still use
shorthand, more often nowadays people are using a laptop, which can be a real timesaver. You need to determine which method is going to work best for you.
Either way, you can use audio or video recordings as a back-up. Just be sure you get
permission first to do that. Find out what the rules are, based on where you work and the
2. Review previous minutes
Before you start, it’s a good idea to review the minutes from prior meetings. Notice the
organization of the minutes—the amount of detail, phraseology and other characteristics.
3. Obtain the meeting agenda, other pertinent materials
The agenda for an informal meeting lists only the items the attendees will discuss during
the meeting. But the agenda for a more formal meeting could list the times, the events,
speakers, rooms and activities. Make sure you get a copy of the agenda beforehand,
especially if you’re not the one who helped prepare it.
Why are agendas important? They show the time frames for each segment of the meeting.
They also make you aware of what you can expect from the discussion.
Other materials you might want to request: minutes of past meetings, handouts and
glossaries of relevant subjects.
Ask the meeting chair or facilitator to copy you on all materials sent prior to the meeting
and to send you an advance copy of any handouts that will be distributed.
4. Speak with the chairperson in advance
Go through the agenda together to establish the main topics and the group’s goals. Then
determine with the chairperson whether the meeting is going to be formal or informal.
Oftentimes, that will dictate the type of notes you will have to take, as well as the format
to use when writing up the minutes.
Also, decide on a signal to use during the meeting in case you will need clarification from
5. Arrive early to check equipment, materials
Of course, you’ll want to check your audio or video equipment in advance, and make
sure you have enough batteries and extension cords. If you will be using a laptop, make
sure to bring every accessory you’ll need.
Check your recording device prior to the meeting. Set your volume level by walking
around the room and experimenting with audio. (During the meeting you may have to
adjust the volume if one of the speakers is soft-spoken.)
Some additional materials to bring: sticky notes, highlighters, a red pen, a note-taking
pad, extra pens, note pads for visitors, any necessary file folders and meeting handouts.
Make sure you have a copy of the agenda—and bring extra copies, in the event the
meeting chair forgets to bring them.
6. Create a seating chart
This is a good idea, especially if you don’t know the attendees or have a large group—
eight to 10 people—in the meeting. Before everyone arrives, draw a diagram of the table
in your notes. Then, as each person takes a seat, write his or her name in the right
7. Determine your position at the table
Ideally, you should sit next to the meeting leader or chairperson. That way, you can more
easily signal the chair if you need clarification. The chairperson is likely to appreciate the
strategic positioning as well. It’s easier for him or her to say quietly something like, “Oh,
did you capture that? What Bill just said was really important.”
8. Introduce yourself
If you don’t know some of the attendees, plan to introduce yourself and your role at the
meeting. Remember to smile and be confident. It’s good for people to get to know you.