What We've Found
If the focus of
a large meeting is to collect information and discuss ideas, recording notes on
flip charts is essential. Large, posted notes allow everyone to visually see
what is being discussed and help ensure that everyone has similar understanding
of the discussion. After the meeting, the write-ups can be mailed to attendees.
The meeting notes can be used for content in newsletters and
to reach an even larger audience.
Just the Facts
Capturing notes on flip charts usually involves summarizing every speaker’s
statements and/or group decisions. This is not the same as taking formal meeting
minutes as minutes can tend to generalize or only record highlights. But like
minutes, these recorded notes become the official record of what
Flip charts and ink markers are one medium to use. White boards, overhead
projectors, or a computer with a projection unit are others.
How To Do It
Purchase a set of good quality washable markers. Avoid
colors like yellow, red, and orange which are harder to read from a distance. If
the smell is bothersome, get scented pens. You also need flip charts, at least
one stand, and a means of posting sheets once they are filled up. It is
important to check with personnel at the meeting facility as some have very
stringent rules about posting. Tape may be an option; some rooms have cork
runners along the walls to tack up paper (that means thumbtacks need to be on
the purchase list). For a bit more money, you can buy pads of poster-size
self-sticking paper.2. Announce the intent
meeting, before the discussion starts, tell participants what will happen to the
notes that are captured. Tell them if, after transcription, they will be mailed
out, posted online, filed for future publication, or a combination of these
3. Record the quotes
- Print LARGE and neatly in short, understandable phrases.
- Use the speaker’s exact phrasing, or if summarizing, the facilitator should
verify with the speaker that the summary communicates the original intent.
- Write each idea on the flip chart in alternating colors such as green and
- Number each page and also write the date of the meeting or
4. Post the pages
Determine before the
meeting if the facilitator will also be the recorder or if there will be a
person for each job. If one person is doing both, ask a volunteer from the
audience to post the completed sheets. That way the flow of conversation is not
stopped if the facilitator has to hang up each sheet. If you are using a white
board, some electronic models are attached to a printer so that the notes can be
printed before the board is erased. If the model is not electronic, or if you
are using an overhead projector, you can take a photograph of the board or
capture the notes on video for transcription later. Alternatively, someone in
the audience will need to be copying what is captured. White boards and overhead
projectors are not the best tools if a meeting is expected to generate a volume
of notes. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to refer back to previous
statements. Even using a computer and a projection unit can be unwieldy to
scroll and find specific comments.
5. Transcribe the
After the meeting, the notes should be typed out verbatim. Do
not expand on the thought or even turn a phrase or fragment into a complete
sentence. It is important that what people saw at the meeting is exactly the
same as what gets printed. Doing this reveals how necessary it is for the
recorder to print neatly and not use abbreviations that may be understood at the
meeting but cannot be remembered a few days later. These transcribed notes will
be a good reference for future discussions and decisions.
A means of recording people’s
comments, opinions and ideas for purposes of group discussion.
Use It If..
- You want a group to work towards a consensus by first understanding each
other’s opinions or meeting to determine priorities.
- You want to create a project history: what was accomplished, decided upon,
Forget It If...
- You do not have plans to make use of the notes.
- You are leading a small, informal meeting and the participants are meeting
each other for the first time.
Timing is Everything
charts throughout a project at any appropriate meeting.