“At this point there was a terrible cow manure smell that came across the lake.”
I came across this sentence as I was reading through the minutes of an annual general meeting that I attended some time back. It appears as its own paragraph, in the middle of the document, in italics. These kinds of humanizing moments are peppered throughout every set of minutes I’ve ever read from this organization.
And what I find fascinating is that recording the meetings in this way has become part of the organizational culture. The role of note-taker has changed hands several times since I’ve joined, yet whoever is writing up the minutes seems to pay unusual attention to the spirit of the conversation- comedic moments, endearing personality quirks, the physical environment, and other aspects that stretch outside of the boundaries of official ‘meeting speak.’ The result is that I really enjoy reading them and actually look forward to seeing them appear in my inbox.
Last month I received some meeting notes that had a similar quality to them, this time from my friend Marianne at Kufunda Village who was summarizing a conference call we had both participated in. I was struck by how well her minutes captured the energy of the conversation, particularly since it was a virtual one.
What really brought the meeting to life on paper was the simple practice of garnishing the notes with quotes…not from famous people or historical figures, but from the people in the meeting itself. When someone said something in a way that really captured an insight that was important for the group’s thinking or that reflected a shared sentiment she jotted that down.
These are both simple practices that I find really help me connect back to the actual experience of a gathering, rather than just the content.