Scribe

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We have lots of meetings; you've volunteered (or been volunteered) to take notes. The scribe can help make the meeting flow more smoothly and make sure people and committees follow through on their commitments. Here are some guidelines to help you in the task.

Quick Guide:

Work together with the facilitator to make sure everyone knows what the conversation's about, what they're agreeing to, and to create a record so those discussions aren't wasted.

  • Bring something to take notes (paper, laptop, whatever)
  • Get the agenda (the facilitator should have posted it beforehand)
  • Take names (ask for introductions if you don't know everyone - odds are, if there's someone you don't know, someone else doesn't know them either)
  • On a per-topic basis:
    • Note topic and presenter
    • Summarize the point
    • Try to capture significant bits of conversation
    • If one arises, get a proposal down
    • Before the facilitator asks for consensus, read the proposal back
    • Refine if necessary
    • Note whether consensus was reached
    • Get names and tasks of those who commit to do stuff
    • Rinse and repeat
  • Keep a list of items that should be on next meeting's agenda
  • Post the minutes promptly (in plain text format) to the appropriate email list
  • Some groups may want to keep a hard copy binder for minutes, and may also keep a hard copy list of decisions made at meetings.

Detailed Instructions

Get the agenda; the facilitator should have posted it beforehand to the email list, but there may be changes as it's written down. This will save you typing later as people talk.

Take names: ask for introductions if you don't know everyone - odds are, if there's someone you don't know, someone else doesn't know them either. Note who's the scribe and who's the facilitator, and if there are visitors from other groups, who they represent.

On a per-topic basis:

  • Note topic and presenter
  • Summarize the point briefly. You may want to go back later and add links to email archives if it pertains to something that has been discussed on-list.
  • Try to capture significant bits of conversation; what concerns there are and who brought them up, other informational tidbits that someone who couldn't make the meeting would want to know in order to understand the decision.
  • If one arises, get a proposal down. There won't always be a proposal. Sometimes a meeting item is just a report or something. But if there is a proposal, try to get the wording as clear as possible; you'll be reading it! The next three items have to do with proposals.
  • Before the facilitator asks for consensus, read the proposal back to the group. The facilitator should ask you, but if she doesn't, volunteer to do so. This should help everyone fix in their heads what they are agreeing on, and may bring up further issues.
  • Refine if necessary; just because you wrote it down once doesn't mean it's set in stone. After a proposal is changed, it should be read back to the group before consensus.
  • Note whether consensus was reached; preceding the proposal-become-decision with "DECISION:" so it's easy to spot is good.
  • Get names and tasks of those who commit to do stuff. This is important. If a committee is formed, get the names of everyone who is interested. Get as much info as you can, so people know what they said they'd do. It's easy to forget. It is helpful to keep all of these commitments in their own section of the minutes, as a group "to do" list that can be easily copied to the next meeting's agenda for followup.
  • Rinse and repeat, until time or matter runs out.

Keep a list of items that should be on next meeting's agenda; these may be followups on items in the meeting, reports from committees formed or research undertaken, items that didn't fit in the current meeting, or just things that come up offhandedly. These items should be in a list at the bottom of the minutes.

Post the minutes promptly so people can see what was said, decided, and committed to. Minutes should be in plain text format (not html mail or in an attachment) and sent to the appropriate email list within a day or two of the meeting. The subject of the email should contain the name of the group that met, the date, and the word "minutes". A copy of the minutes should be posted to the minutes email list as well. (Remember to send any corrections to both places.) Some groups (like the board) have a minutes checker role, who will double-check the text for comprehensibility, completeness, and sensitive material that shouldn't be published to the whole wide internet.

See also