Intersol/Note Takers Report Writers Roles Responsibilities
- 1 Note Takers & Report Writers - Roles & Responsibilities
- 1.1 Note-Taker
- 1.2 Role and Responsibilities
- 1.3 Session Report-Writer
- 1.4 Role and Responsibilities
- 1.5 Report Writing Examples
- 1.6 Advice for Note Takers
- 2 Randy's Notes
Note Takers & Report Writers - Roles & Responsibilities
Role and Responsibilities
Note-takers are responsible for taking the official record of the session – this includes:
- taking notes of what was said;
- obtaining copies of all presentations;
- obtaining a list of participants; and
- gathering all note-taking materials (table report books and flipcharts)
How to Prepare
- Get a copy of the Final Agenda, and any presentations and advance materials available
- Review the agenda, objectives, presentations and materials to become familiar with the topic, vocabulary and general flow of the day; address any questions or concerns to the facilitator or project lead
- Obtain the report template that will be used to format the final report
- Use the final agenda and report template to create a note-taking “shell”: pre-format the report, creating headers from the agenda items, and sub-headers for presentations and discussions and questions
- Obtain and print a list of invitees if available
- Reserve a digital recorder and make sure you know how to use it; this is a good “safety net” for recovering anything that might have been missed in the notes
- Find out if it will be important to note who said what, or if the comments will be anonymous
- Find out if the client wants detailed notes on the presentations, or if a high-level summary will suffice (the latter is usually the case, since presentations can be made available to participants)
- Make arrangements for a laptop; if you have never used it before, take the time to test it out and become familiar with the keyboard layout
Taking Notes at the Session
- Take notes directly on a laptop, and capture as much as you can – if you’re not sure if it’s important, write it down – it’s easier to delete after the fact than to remember
- Don’t try to edit as you go – typos, etc. can be fixed later; while you’re trying to polish what was said a minute ago, you’re missing what is happening now
- Capture speakers’ words as much as possible rather than trying to summarize
- Use a code in your notes to differentiate between what a presenter says and what is said by participants, e.g.: Q for question, C for comment from a participant, and A or P for anything by the presenter; this is especially important in consultations, where the record must show clearly the participants’ feedback
- Note when there is clear general agreement/strong support vs. an individual comment
- If you have a copy of a presentation, there is usually no need to take detailed notes of what the presenter is saying – the focus should be on the questions, answers and discussion that are “outside of the script”
- If you miss something that you think might be important, take a quick side note, and check back with the facilitator at the first opportunity – usually the next break
- Don’t use any fancy formatting – this can be a lot of work to undo when the final report is prepared; “normal” type with paragraphs and no bullets is often the easiest to work with
- Save often!
Digitally Recording the Session
- Test the recorder before the start of the session
- Make sure you have fresh batteries – once batteries start losing their charge, they usually go very quickly and you may have to scramble to get them in
- Stop and restart the recording after each session segment, and note the file number – this will make it easier to find a specific conversation after the session, as you will be able to go directly to the relevant recording rather than finding your way through a day-long file.
At the End of the Session
- If you are not the report-writer, clearly label all materials and give them to the facilitator or project lead; either provide an electronic copy of the notes immediately, or make arrangements to provide them later – be specific about when and how this will happen
- If you are the report-writer, make sure you have a clear understanding with the facilitator or project lead on the date when the first draft of the report is due, and to whom you should send it
Role and Responsibilities
Report-writers are responsible for creating a polished document that summarizes the discussions and results from a session; this includes:
- taking notes at the session (see section on note-takers, above)
- writing in plain language, with proper grammar and spelling; and
- meeting client and consultant expectations regarding the language, content, length, format, style and timing of the report.
How to Prepare
In addition to the note-taker preparation:
- discuss with the facilitator the possibility of participating in at least one design meeting with the client, to get a sense of the client, their concerns and expectations with regards to the session and the report;
- ask for a copy of a report done for this client in the past, and find out whether it met their needs and what the feedback was;
- find out when the report is due, and make sure to book enough time to write the report and have it reviewed by the facilitator before it goes to the client.
Writing the Report
- Keep a separate electronic copy of the unedited notes in case you need to refer back to them.
- If you are unsure about how to tackle a section of the report, ask the facilitator for guidance rather than writing something which might have to be rewritten.
Report Writing Examples
- Environment Canada Stakeholder Consultation Meeting on Proposed Regulations to Limit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), September 27, 2006, Toronto, Canada, PDF
- Summary Report on Public Workshops Assisting Environment Canada and Health Canada in Preparing for the Parliamentary Review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999), 2005, PDF
Advice for Note Takers
The following points are intended to help you in your role as note taker during the breakout discussions. It is not meant to be either prescriptive nor exhaustive – your common sense will be your best tool!
- Keep in mind that you are attempting to make a compressed and accurate record of information, other people's opinions, ideas and suggestions. Your notes are not meant to be a transcript of the discussion.
- It is not necessary to attribute comments to individuals.
- Re-read your notes at the end of the session and make any clarifications, spell out short forms, provide emphasis on key points or priorities, and otherwise help the notes to make sense for the report writer.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a participant for clarification or to repeat what he or she said. Participants will appreciate that you are trying to accurately capture the discussion.
- In the event that the note takers are representatives of the convening organization, it is helpful to provide clarification where necessary but only on technical matters or to correct misinformation.
- When your breakout group presents its plenary report, review your notes to ensure the key messages have been captured.
At the end of the day, it is helpful to have a facilitated de-brief session in the case where there are multiple note takers. It should take about 30 minutes.
Additionally, it would be helpful to provide some guidance as to the amount of notes expected i.e. 3 to 5 pages per hour – where you have numerous note takers it is helpful to have everyone on the same page as it were.
- look at Objectives
- break the report into sections (i.e., Day 1, Day 2) and organize notes into Draft and Final respectively
- Write each section separately - i.e., speakers 1 at a time)
- Copy in raw notes
- Put together sentences (no polishing at this stage)
- Tighten paras, reduce duplication and polish sentences
- don't take notes where there are slides (that are comprehensible (i.e., not overly scientific)
- record conversation dynamics and Q&As, discussions