Writing Effectively at The World Health Organization

Types of minutes

Meeting activities and decisions are recorded in many different ways throughout WHO. Document formats can vary according to group and region; minutes of staff meetings, interdepartmental meetings, inter-agency meetings and workshops may all have different document styles. Some regional offices have standard templates for recording important meetings, and formal meetings have historical documentation models that must be followed. When you are asked to record minutes at a meeting, an important part of the prewriting process is finding out what format is expected.

For the discussion in this module, we will categorize minutes as either agenda-based minutes or informal meeting minutes.

Agenda-based minutes or reports

These are a traditional type of record: minutes taken at scheduled meetings for which there is an agenda. An agenda is either distributed before the meeting or announced by the chairperson at the beginning, and the minutes follow the framework set by the agenda. At WHO, agenda-based minutes are now primarily records of formal governance meetings. These are highly specialized, complex and formal documents, and minutes are usually taken by professional minute-takers or précis writers.

Informal meeting minutes or summaries

Most departmental and team meetings at WHO do not require detailed minutes. Informal meeting minutes summarize decisions taken and follow-up actions and responsibilities. Typically, these minutes are circulated to all those who attended the meeting, and sometimes to others who have an interest in the meeting's decisions but were not able to attend. These records are sometimes produced using a simple template.

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