In Other Words
Notes, Minutes & Records.
Notes are brief written reminders of a speech, statement, testimony, or of someone’s impressions or an explanatory or critical comment for future reference. Notes do not have a specific format and are not legally required.
Minutes are the official record of the proceedings of a meeting within a formal environment and are usually required by law. They can have a specific format and are can be formally and legally recognized by all participants.
Records are a written account aimed at preserving the memory or knowledge of facts or events. They have a specific format and the information or knowledge preserved is formally required and legally recognized.
Think of function: Why keep written accounts?
Notes, Minutes & Records contain vital information and are commonly used to:
1. Remind stakeholders present at a meeting of what was said and decided.
2. Inform those who were unable to attend of what was said and decided.
3. Provide valuable clues of what priorities were set and what was considered important.
4. Provide a commonly agreed perspective of what transpired during a meeting.
5. Concentrate on the points and actions that require attention and actions.
6. Help stakeholders to reach a consensus and list views voiced during an official occasion.
7. Create a unique source of information that cannot be found elsewhere.
8. Ensure that open meetings are carried out in a transparent and accountable manner.
Think of form: What are effective written accounts?
Notes, Minutes & Records need to be accurate, brief and clear. In particular:
1. Accurate written accounts include a number of details like:
a. The time, place and duration of the meeting
b. A list of participants (present or absent)
c. A list of points discussed and decisions taken
d. A list of actions to be undertaken and the names of people responsible for them
e. A summary of points raised with possible comments from participants
f. All facts that were referred to and are essential for understanding the outcomes of the meeting.
2. Brief written accounts include the following:
a. The key points of the discussion, avoiding secondary details.
b. Short words and phrases as well as abbreviations that can be understood by all.
c. Agreement on what needs to be included and what needs to be left out.
3. Clear written accounts adopt one or more of the following characteristics:
a. Spacious layout, with plenty of white space for the text to breathe.
b. Commonly agreed language and abbreviations
c. Consistent formatting features (numbering, underlining, spacing, bold and capital characters and bullet points)
d. A flow from discussion, to decision, to action following the agenda.
e. A summary of conclusions and/or actions.
Think of content: What should written accounts include?
Notes, Minutes & Records may require different content depending on the occasion. However, as a minimum standard, they should make reference to:
1. The nature of the meeting – e.g., scheduled or extraordinary;
2. The name of the office, department or organization holding the meeting;
3. Date, time and location of the meeting;
4. The list of stakeholders – invited and attending;
5. A copy of the agenda sent to participants;
6. Summary of the discussion, decisions and actions on each of these points;
7. Summary of the conclusions
Tips and tricks
Before the meeting
1. Familiarise yourself with the agenda and all support materials that are available.
2. Familiarise yourself with the names and roles of the participants.
3. Prepare a note taking template mirroring the agenda item with ample blank space to write on.
4. Copy as many details/key points from the agenda to the template as necessary.
5. Familiarise yourself with the terms and concepts to be discussed
During the Meeting
1. Take notes consistently.
2. Avoid trying to write down every word.
3. Avoid jargon as much as possible.
4. Use your template and/or the agenda for guidance.
5. Concentrate on the main points and key information.
6. Write legibly and use abbreviations to help you consistently.
7. Number your notes as well as each section mirroring the agenda numbering.
8. Listen for cues that signal an explanation, additional information or a change of topic.
9. Use quick diagrams or graphs to summarise information where possible.
10. Ask for clarification if there is a point that you are uncertain of.
After the meeting
1. Review your notes immediately (or as soon as possible) after the meeting.
2. Make certain you understand them and rewrite them in the format that is appropriate for distribution.
3. Correct any language errors and fill in any missing parts.
4. Discuss any unclear points with the meeting leader before contacting the participants involved if needed.
5. Edit your notes and store your rough copies in a safe place for future reference.
6. Ask the meeting leader to have a look at the final product before distributing.
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