How Better Minutes Make Better Meetings
If you’re a student leader who is just starting out, using a meeting minutes template can be a good way of finding out what youdo best as a facilitator, as well as what needs improvement.Some leaders seem so gifted and capable of commanding an audience that they might laugh at the idea of using an agenda or meeting minutes template, but we’re willing to bet that even the best speakers, if they incorporate a meeting minutes template or some other note-taking system into their meetings, will greatly benefit. By keeping a record of what happens, such as by following along with a meeting minutes template, you can start learning from your experience and building on what works.
Before the meeting
Be strategic about when you have your meetings. Of course, your members’ schedules are probably so jam-packed that it might seem like you don’t have much of a choice, but what is important is that it is a time that works for the most dedicated members. Will you try to meet in the evening, once the last night classes wrap up? Or will you try to gather in the morning someplace for coffee?
Keeping a regular meeting time is important, too. Making your group’s meetings a weekly engagement will translate to better turn-out than if you meet only sporadically. At the same time, don’t waste people’s time at your meetings: meet when there is a need for dialogue about something, not when you simply feel like sharing information or telling people about something. Make sure you have activities in mind to keep your members invested in the meeting.
Now, for the meeting minutes template. Before the meeting, reach out to other group members who will be facilitating. Confirm what will be on the agenda for the meeting, and use the meeting minutes template to keep a running record as your plan comes together. One easy way to keep all group members up to date is to store the meeting minutes template in a shared Dropbox folder or upload it to Google Docs.
Research by Roger Mosvick at Hofstra University revealed that in corporate settings, 80% of managers judge one another by how effectively they participate during meetings, so you can imagine what this means for a student organization. In many cases, your organization’s meetings are the first and only place your members will get to interact with you, so It’s crucial to be respectful of your group members, and there’s one simple way to show your respect: be on time. Start the meeting when it is supposed to start and end when it is supposed to end. The meeting minutes template will help you take care of any preliminary business,
At any meeting where decisions are made—official or ad hoc—you’ll want to have a meeting minutes template ready to edit, preferably on a computer, but a print-out works too. The main purpose of the meeting templates is to ensure consistent and time-efficient communication between you and the members of your group.
Grab a copy of the Meeting Minutes Template .doc file. And now, here’s how to use the meeting minutes template:
1. At each meeting, select a scribe. The scribe’s job involves two tasks:
- Keep a record of the key points from the meeting in the “Summary” chart. This includes policies or practices the group agrees to, or topics that were discussed and what the group said about them. Distill the meeting down to several key points.
- List under the “Next Steps” chart what actions will be taken as a result of the meeting, who will undertake the actions, and when the actions will be completed.
2. The bracketed portions on the template are where the scribe should customize the document.
- Fill in [Meeting Name] with the particular topic under discussion.
- Fill in [Scribe] with the scribe’s name.
- Fill in [Date] with the date of the meeting.
3. After each meeting, the scribe posts the completed meeting minutes template to the group’s wiki or emails it to members within 24 hours of the meeting. It is important to post the notes with the next steps as quickly as possible so that group members can verify their responsibilities as needed.
After the meeting: time to reflect!
This is where the magic of the meeting minutes template works best, especially if you’re coming into your own as a student leader. Look back over the minutes, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Did your group stay on track with your agenda?
- Did everybody participate? Who did? Who didn’t?
- Did the meeting achieve its purpose?
- How clear are the next steps?
As the facilitator, these questions will help you pinpoint at which points of the meeting you were most effective and at which others you could improve. What is your style of facilitation? Are you more comfortable standing and addressing the group by yourself, or are you better at moderating discussion among the organization’s members?
Think about what was happening over the course of the meeting among your group members. Was there anybody who surprised you with their insight about something? Did somebody else seem to do a good job of drawing everybody’s attention when they spoke? These are the people you want to approach next time with opportunities for leadership. If you can connect these faces with particular moments in the minutes, you’re well on your way to channeling people into the kinds of work they’re suited for. Capitalize on this interest by inviting them to get more involved.