The key to any conference is organisation. This means that the invitations have to be sent out on time, the responses and management coordinated, the location arranged and equipped, the travel plans communicated and the agenda agreed. These and other aspects require a team of staff working consistently.
However, one aspect that is often overlooked is the summarising and reporting that takes place once the conference has finished. Companies frequently assume that this is an easy job, secondary to the conference itself. They therefore make few arrangements, delegating one or several staff to handle every part of the reporting process.
What happens after the conference, though, is almost as important as the conference itself. Any conference requires a record of its proceedings, so that those present can refer back to the suggestions and decisions made at the meeting.
Most companies – and even large, multinational or pan-European organisations – use an ad-hoc system, with up to five participants at the meeting taking notes and, afterwards, working from their scribbled notes to try to reconstruct the events. It seems amazing that organisations can hold meetings where multi-million-pound decisions are made yet organise the note-taking in such an amateur fashion.
Increasingly, companies and organisations are reaching the same conclusion. Many are finding that their note-taking provisions are simply inadequate when it comes to producing professional, comprehensive minutes.
They are consequently turning to companies who provide minute-taking services. Sometimes they will ask for a complete transcript, made from an audio recording of the meeting; at other times they will engage a writer to produce a comprehensive summary of the meetings.
This is the secret to running a successful conference – make sure that you engage a professional to handle the minute-taking or summary writing. Otherwise, you could have the most challenging, engaging and varied conversations at the meeting itself, yet find that very little or none of this content is captured by the amateur note-takers, who were distracted by the proceedings themselves.
Professional writers are not distracted. They can focus exclusively on note-taking, and, once the conference has finished, they can devote all of their time to producing a transcript exactly tailored to the requirements of the company.
After all, a successful conference is one at which decisions and new, important proposals are made. These decisions and proposals need to be implemented; for this to happen, they need to be recorded. The great mathematician Pierre de Fermat once wrote, at the end of a mathematical theorem: ‘I have discovered a truly wonderful proof for this but the margin is too small to contain it’. This theorem came to be known as ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’, and for over 350 years the proof was seen as the greatest prize in maths. Fermat may have been blustering – but it just goes to show what can happen if you fail to keep a record of what has been said or thought!
Once you have decided to engage a professional writer or minute taker, the arrangements are simple. Many companies, especially if they are operating in more than one language, use interpreters, and interpreting requires microphones, which means that an audio recording is generally available. If no audio recording is being made, no problem – just make sure that the writer has a seat at the table, and space for a laptop. After that, you can sit back and focus on your conference.
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