Following the Agenda
Taking the Minutes
Anyone, including you, may be assigned to take the minutes at a meeting. Often someone who is not participating in the meeting will be called upon to be the minute-taker. Before a meeting the minute-taker should review the following:
- The minutes from previous meeting
- All of the names of the attendees (if possible)
- The items on the agenda
It also helps to create an outline before going to the meeting. An outline should include the following:
- A title for the meeting
- The location of the meeting
- A blank spot to write the time the meeting started and ended
- The name of the chairperson
- A list of attendees that can be checked off (or a blank list for attendees to sign)
- A blank spot for any attendees who arrive late or leave early
Sample Minutes Outline:
Friday, 5th May
Start: _____ Finish: _____
Late to arrive: _________
Early to depart: ________
The minute-taker can use a pen and paper or a laptop computer and does not need to include every word that is spoken. It is necessary to include important points and any votes and results. Indicating who said what is also necessary, which is why the minute-taker should make sure to know the names of the attendees. If you cannot remember someone's name, take a brief note of their seating position and find out their name after the meeting. A minute-taker should type out the minutes immediately after the meeting so that nothing is forgotten.
Watching the Time
One of the most difficult things about holding an effective meeting is staying within the time limits. A good agenda will outline how long each item should take. A good chairperson will do his or her best to stay within the limits. Here are some expressions that can be used to keep the meeting flowing at the appropriate pace.
- I think we've spent enough time on this topic.
- We're running short on time, so let's move on.
- We're running behind schedule, so we'll have to skip the next item.
- We only have fifteen minutes remaining and there's a lot left to cover.
- If we don't move on, we'll run right into lunch.
- We've spent too long on this issue, so we'll leave it for now.
- We'll have to come back to this at a later time.
- We could spend all day discussing this, but we have to get to the next item.
It is easy to get off topic when you get a number of people in the same room. It is the chairperson's responsiblity to keep the discussion focused. Here are some expressions to keep the meeting centred on the items as they appear on the agenda.
- Let's stick to the task at hand, shall we?
- I think we're steering off topic a bit with this.
- I'm afraid we've strayed from the matter at hand.
- You can discuss this among yourselves at another time.
- We've lost sight of the point here.
- This matter is not on today's agenda.
- Let's save this for another meeting.
- Getting back to item number 5...
- Now where were we? Oh yes, let's vote.
When issues cannot be resolved or decisions cannot be easily made, they are often put to a vote. Most votes occur during meetings. Votes can be open, where people raise their hands in favour or in opposition of the issue. In an open vote, the results are evident immediately. Other votes, such as who should be elected to take on a certain role, are private or closed. During private votes, attendees fill out ballots and place them in a box to be counted. The results may not be counted until after the meeting. Here are some specific expressions used during open voting:
- All in favour?
(Those who agree raise their hands or say "Aye".)
- All opposed?
- Motion to hire more tour guides, moved by Thomas.
(Suggestions or ideas that are put to a vote are called motions. When a person makes a suggestion, the term to use both during the meeting and in the minutes is moved.)
- Motion to hire more tour guides seconded by Nolan.
(When another person agrees with the motion, it is seconded.)
When a motion is voted and agreed upon it is carried. When it is voted and disagreed upon it is failed. Most often votes are put to a majority. If there is a tie vote, the chairperson will often cast the deciding vote.
Sample Voting Session:
Jane: Thanks Pierre. Okay, so, as you all probably assumed, we are going to wait until most of the tours have passed through before we have the staff picnic. That way most of you should be able to attend. So we've chosen the last Sunday of September. I hope that works out for all of you. Now, the first option is to have a BBQ at Mariposa Beach. We would do this on the last Sunday of September. The second option is to have a potluck dinner/pool party in Pierre's backyard. The only problem with this is if it rains, there isn't much in the way of shelter there. I don't think Pierre and his wife will want all of us dashing inside in a thunderstorm.
Pierre: Well, if we had to we could probably squeeze everyone in the basement. Anyhow, those are the options, so let's put it to a vote. All in favour of option number one? Raise your hands please...okay, one vote. And, all in favour of option number two? That's four. Okay, so it looks like a pool party at my house.
Jane: Great. I'll put up a sign up sheet and everyone can write down what they plan to bring.
Comments and Feedback
During the meeting, participants will comment, provide feedback, or ask questions. Here are some ways to do so politely:
- If I could just come in here...
- I'm afraid I'd have to disagree about that.
- Could I just say one thing?
- I'm really glad you brought that up, Kana.
- I couldn't agree with you more. (I agree)
- Jane, could you please speak up. We can't hear you at the back.
- If I could have the floor (chance to speak) for a moment...
- We don't seem to be getting anywhere with this.
- Perhaps we should come back to this at another time?