Keeping an official record of what occurs at chapter meetings is one of the primary responsibilities of the secretary. Don't be intimidated by this responsibility. The very process of recording minutes can give you a deeper understanding of the issues faced by your chapter along with the ability to focus on what's important. In keeping the minutes, the secretary should record what was done at the meeting in an objective and impartial manner. Opinions, favorable or otherwise, should not be recorded. As secretary, don't make the mistake of trying to record everything that is said. Concentrate on getting the gist of the discussion and taking enough notes to summarize it later. Think in terms of issues discussed, major points raised, and decisions taken.
There are several organizational steps you can take to make your job a little easier:
- Make attendance lists to help when you work with large chapters or committees. Make a master list of everyone and just check off each person’s name as they arrive.
- Prepare an outline based on the agenda ahead of time and leave plenty of white space for notes. By having the topics already written down, you can easily switch to a new topic when the discussion moves on.
- A structured format will help you keep the minutes succinct. For example, you may wish to develop a note taking form with headings such as "Agenda Item" followed by subheadings "Discussion" and "Action Taken."
- Develop standard forms to fill in during the meeting such as a "Motion" form that must be completed by the person making a motion and submitted to you. This helps ensure that the correct wording of motions is entered into the minutes. After the meeting, type up the minutes as soon as possible, while everything is still fresh in your mind. It’s easy to forget details if you wait too long.
Include the following items in the minutes:
- Name of the group or committee
- Place, time, and date of the meeting.
- Names of members present
- Names of members excused or absent.
- Items discussed in the order listed on the agenda. Briefly describe main points discussed and state actions taken such as votes, resolutions, motions, etc. If a member of the committee or chapter is assigned a task or volunteers for an assignment, state clearly the person's name and the responsibility accepted. It’s a good idea to attach a separate sheet to the minutes that summarizes all action items for future reference. List each item on which action is needed and the responsible chapter member. Proofread the minutes before submitting them and be sure to have the minutes approved by the president, committee chair, or adviser before distributing them to the members.
For more resources, Google "Taking Minutes" for a variety of online resources.