Six important things you should do before scribing a meeting (minute-taking):
If you don't have any knowledge of the topic you are scribing, do a bit of research before the meeting. For example, you could ask the people holding the meeting to send you a sample of previous minutes so you can see what sorts of subjects will be discussed. Ask them to email you a link to websites or publications that will give you a better idea of the subject matter. You could also ask them to send you all the documentation that will be tabled and/or referred to during the meeting.
At least one day before the meeting, obtain 1) the agenda, and 2) the list of attendees and apologies, so you can prepare a minutes template prior to scribing the minutes. Also ask for a copy of previous minutes so you can see how detailed (or basic) your Minutes need to be. As mentioned above, it can also be helpful if the organiser gives you a copy of all the documentation that is going to be tabled at, or referred to in, the meeting.
Constant typing is hard work. It's important to make sure you get a break every couple of hours, or your body will suffer.
Prior to the meeting, find out how long the meeting is expected to take and if it might go for longer than a couple of hours, explain to the organiser that to prevent hand-strain you'll need at least a 15-minute break after two hours. Before I learned to insist on regular breaks, I used to scribe minutes at day-long meetings where participants continued to talk while eating lunch whereas I couldn't take a break because the proceedings still needed to be transcribed.
If you're scribing a large meeting and you don't know people's names, ask for someone who knows all the names to sit next to you while you scribe and answer your questions. For example, you might not know the name of the person who has seconded a motion: your 'go to' person will be able to quietly tell you so you don't have to interrupt the meeting to find out. Without a 'go to' person it will be harder to know who said what, and vital information may be missing from the minutes.
If you work for yourself, you are the only person responsible for your own Occupational Health and Safety.
It's important you are comfortable when scribing so ask the organiser of the meeting to ensure you 1) have a comfortable adjustable office chair that will allow you to sit at the right height when scribing into your laptop, 2) are seated close enough to all the meeting participants that you will be able to hear them speaking without straining your neck or ears.
Depending on the reliability of your laptop battery, you may need to plug your laptop into a power-point at the meeting; and you should make sure you have access to a power-point in case you need it during the meeting. Ask the client to 1) seat you near a power-point so you can plug in your laptop if necessary, and 2) make sure that if the laptop is plugged in, where you're seated, there will be no risk of anyone tripping over the cord.
Make sure you have plenty of water (a water bottle is best) next to your laptop - and drink as regularly as you can. Make sure you're dressed suitably for the air-conditioning or heating in the meeting room.
Make sure you know exactly where the event is to be held and at what time, and arrive at least 15 minutes early so you have time to set up your laptop, adjust your chair for best posture while scribing, make sure your seating/power-point set -up doesn't pose any risk to anyone at the meeting, and briefly meet the organiser or Chair, and your 'go to' person, prior to the meeting. Have your documents on the laptop ready to go a few minutes before the meeting commences.
Once the meeting commences, you'll need to scribe the main points of what is said as fast as people say them, as well as the identities of different speakers; and afterwards, edit your transcript of the meeting into well-written, accurate minutes.
Stay tuned for my next article about minute-taking which will give you some tips and tools for accurately scribing and editing minutes of meetings.