A meeting, small or large, requires a person to carry out the secretarial obligations in an effective manner. In most organizations and meetings, the secretary’s role is a very influential one. Most of the time it is a legal requirement to have a secretary for the meeting, at other times it is a formal requirement.
Role of Secretary in a Successful Meeting
An effective secretary can assist the chair in planning, conducting and concluding a meeting. The secretary can take much of the load off the chair, so that the chair can spend his time more effectively and efficiently.
The role of the secretary starts before the meeting, continues during and beyond the meeting. Thus the preparatory, administrative, clerical and follow up work falls under the jurisdiction of the secretary.
Role of Secretary Before the Meeting
Secretary should be very clear about the purpose of the meeting and what all are to be discussed in the meeting. The secretary's role starts a few days before the meeting, depending upon the bylaws of the organiziation. It may be required to give notice of the meeting before a minimum period of time; for e.g, a general body may require one month notice, a director board 1-2 weeks, a committee meeting 2 days to 1 week and an emergency meeting 24 hours to 48 hours and so on...
- Discussion with the chair regarding the purpose of the meeting is the first responsibility of the secretary. How to make the meeting more effective?
- Preparation of agenda in consultation with the chair.
- Make a list of members to be invited for the meeting.
- Send meeting invitation to all members concerned. The constitution and bylaws of the organization may stipulate a certain time period before which the meeting intimation should be sent. For example, a general body meeting may have to be informed one month before, a director board meeting, one or two weeks and an election meeting one month prior to the meeting.
- Send minutes of the previous meeting and agenda to all concerned.
- A reminder about the meeting to all members, either through e-mail or SMS. SMS is the most effective medium for this purpose.
- Help chair in making the meeting arrangements; contacting the guests, if any; contacting the committee chairs and others who have to present reports during the meeting.
- Prepare the report handouts, copies of the minutes of previous meeting, agenda printouts etc. for distribution during the meeting.
- Get the stationery required for the chair and members and set it in front of each seat.
- Keep the attendance register, minutes book etc. ready before the meeting.
The secretary need to be vigilant throughout the meetingp; as he/she is responsible for accurately recording the proceedings of the meeting and also presenting the minutes of previous meeting.
- Recording the minutes is the most important responsibility of the secretary during the meeting. This may be done in many ways: taking shorthand notes, recording the proceedings with a voice recorder or entrusting a short hand clerical staff to record the minutes. While using voice recorder, it is always safe to take down notes also; the recorder should be used as a review reference source. These recording should be copied to discs, labeled and filed soon after the meeting is over.
- He/she should present the minutes of the previous meeting and also present the follow up action taken on each item.
- Secretary shall take the roll call or circulate the attendance register to be signed by the members.
- In addition to the constitution and bye laws of the organization, the secretary should also have a copy of the Robert’s Rule of Order and assist the chair in keeping the order and decorum of the meeting.
- Secretary should supervise the provision of refreshments, stationeries etc during the meeting.
- Secretary may delegate some of the duties to joint secretaries, but should always double check that everything moving according to plan.
Role of Secretary after the Meeting
- After the meeting is over, the secretary should help the treasurer to pay off the bills, help the chair to send thank you notes and collect the stationeries and other movable assets of the organization from the meeting places. In most organizations, the secretary is the custodian of movable assets.
- The minutes should be prepared within a couple of days after the meeting. It should be done when the memory is still fresh. Send a copy to the chair for suggestions. Once approved by the chair, prepare a plan of action and follow up notes depending upon the decisions reached at the meeting.
- Contact persons responsible for carrying out the plans and projects discussed in the meeting; send notes whenever necessary.
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