Online meetings: Tips for minute-takers

We all seem to be having more work meetings these days, which can be tough – because taking minutes of online meetings can be challenging.

Most of us have experienced the frustration of meetings with attendees who disappear mid-sentence, freeze for key moments or sound like they’re coming from another planet. There’s usually little you can do for broadband disasters, but there are some things you can do to make your life as a minute-taker easier.

One thing to remember is that an online meeting may need an extra 5 or 10 minutes for each hour, to ensure everyone can speak and hear within the constraints of the internet

How to manage online meetings

You and the Chair should work together to run an efficient meeting

  • Check if the Chair will also take notes (or is there a 2nd minute-taker?)
  • Ask the Chair to summarise at the end of each agenda item
  • Remind them if they forget – unless it’s straightforward and you’re 100% sure you have the key points
  • If you message the Chair, make sure it’s private (but don’t write anything that’s not appropriate for everyone to read!)
  • Review decisions and actions with the Chair immediately after the meeting

Use technology to help you

  • Voices often sound clearer if you use a headset
  • Encourage participants to join at least 5 minutes before the start time, so they can check their connection
  • Restart your own computer 20 minutes before a meeting – it will behave better
  • Provide a phone number for people to call in
  • Smartphones often deliver a clearer picture and better signal than laptops – so if people are having connection problems, suggest they join by phone
  • Have IT backup available if it’s an important meeting
  • Remind people how to change their onscreen name, to ensure it’s accurate
  • Can you record the meeting?  You’ll need all attendees’ consent but it can be helpful (and then delete the recording after the minutes have been approved).
  • If recording is allowed, a smart pen is a good buy (it will turn your handwritten notes into text and makes it easy to find the section of the meeting that you want to listen to again)

Don’t be shy

  • Speak up if you:
    • Don’t understand or can’t hear any key points –  as you’re possibly not the only one!
    • Don’t know who’s speaking (and you think it’s important for the minutes)

Should the Chair provide ‘housekeeping’ instructions?

  • Remind attendees of the mute button – to block unwelcome background noise (dogs, traffic, etc.)
  • Ask attendees to keep contributions ‘on message’ and short
  • Ask people to raise their hand if they want to speak

Learn more on an open Minute-taking workshop or book a tailored workshop for you and your colleagues.