There is a game called Chinese whispers that is very entertaining especially when children are playing it. The object is that a message will be passed on to a line of players, whispered from one to the other. By the time the message reaches the last participant, it would be very far from the original.
There is no winner in the game. Everybody will have fun and laughs while doing it.
A version of Chinese whispers happens in boardrooms, conferences or meetings. The result, however, is very far from funny.
I have a colleague who was asked to attend an important meeting. Our Supervisor had to attend a separate, more important meeting scheduled at the same time. The Supervisor needed to know what the outcome of the other meeting will be so he sent my colleague.
After the meeting my colleague submitted an incomplete report. The important points, the reason why he was sent to attend the meeting, were not included. He was unable to remember what the discussions were regarding the issues that concerned the Office.
This could have been avoided had my colleague been able to properly collect data during the meeting and rendered a proper report.
In our Office, not everybody can effectively take notes and generate a report based on the discussions made in the meeting. In this modern age of technology where audio recorders are ever present, the skill of being able to absorb what is being said in a meeting and report it should still be an indispensable skill because most of the time, audio recorders are not allowed in meeting rooms.
The same with Conferences, most speakers may not allow the use of audio recorders. Most of the time, companies send one of their people to attend a Conference, Convention or Seminar with the intention that that representative will echo train the others at the Office. It is a kind of an investment. Imagine if that person goes back to the Office with a less than acceptable knowledge of what the Conference was about.
One of the main duties at work is to communicate effectively. An Organization needs an effective system where accurate information can travel freely. In this system, the first step is developing the skills of the people working below. When a report is drafted by an employee, it will be reviewed by our Supervisors then gets sent up the Managers, the CEO, etc. Important decisions can be made based on these reports; decisions that can affect the future of the company.
A few tips on how to improve note-taking and reporting:
1. We’ve got to really listen intently, internalize what is being discussed and focus on the flow of the conversation or discussion. We won’t be able to report anything unless we understand the meeting that we attended.
2. We should make an outline in our notebooks or note pads. To make an outline, we have to know what the meeting is about before we attend it. One way to do this is to talk to our Boss and ask what the meeting will be about. We can also secure a copy of the Minutes of the previous meeting (if it is a regular or follow up meeting) or the agenda for the upcoming one (if the meeting is the first).
3. Let us get as much details that we can from the meeting. This is easier if we are allowed to use a digital recorder or if we know short-hand. Unfortunately, digital recorders are not always allowed and short-hand is a skill not all of us possess. Writing long-hand and following what the speaker is saying is an alternative.
4. When drafting our report, we should use clear and concise language. Our Bosses go through numerous reports each day, sometimes with voluminous pages. We need to make sure that what we have to report goes through fluidly.
5. Keep the flow of logic in the report straight. In meetings speakers sometimes digress and what they say may or may not related to our concerns.