Use the tips below to learn to keep useful notes if you are the recorder during a meeting.
Keep in Mind
- record the main idea of what’s said
- use the speaker's own words – ask the speaker if you "got it right"
- abbreviations and misspellings are OK
- write fast but ask the group to slow down if you are behind
- write legibly and large (text should be about one and a half inches tall)
- alternate colors by line, and use two different, easy-to-see colors
- use bullets, numbers, or horizontal lines to make each point distinct
- put the topic and date on top of each page
- at the end of the meeting, number the flipchart pages consecutively
- for fast-moving brainstorming sessions, use two recorders
There are several types of information that can be recorded at a meeting. It is valuable to preserve the key points of discussions and the ideas in a brainstorm. Other flipcharts that a facilitator can label and hang ahead of time include Action Items, Decisions, and Parking Lot. A description of each follows.
Action Items: This is a place to record the items people have agreed to complete after the meeting. Be sure to record the item, the person's name and when the item is due (what, who, by when).
Decisions: The Decisions chart records the agreements reached at your meeting. Writing decisions on a flipchart gives group members an opportunity to confirm that they have the same understanding of an agreement or decision.
Parking Lot: The Parking Lot (also known as the "Bin" or "Issues") is a place to record ideas, questions, or future agenda items. This chart is especially useful in deferring a conversation to another time, without losing track of the current agenda. At the same time, it ensures that the item will be addressed in the future.
At MIT, we see people record meeting information in two primary ways. Sometimes a recorder may simply take notes at his or her seat, for the purpose of producing minutes. Other times a recorder may stand at the front of the meeting room and write what is said on a flipchart or whiteboard.
If you've never recorded on a flipchart or whiteboard before, it may feel strange at first. Here are some reasons why this method is effective, and can help groups work more collaboratively:
- people have a place to focus their attention
- speakers can check how accurately their words were recorded
- flipcharts can be saved and brought to the next meeting
- speakers feel legitimized by seeing their words in print
- the group can think more effectively when they can see proposals and ideas in print