Meeting reports are an aspect of ‘medical’ and other technical writing that has had little discussion. The following might be of interest to medical writers asked to provide rapid, reliable, objective reports of various types of meeting.
The United Nations, its agencies (including the World Health Organization, WHO) and other international bodies, have over the past 70 years developed a sophisticated system for recording the proceedings of working groups, meetings, assemblies, and conferences. Until recently, the records were written by people who were in the meeting room; now, with the financial restrictions affecting all organisations, they are being written more and more often at home from sound files. The details of the procedure are as follows.
First, two kinds of record are produced. One is what are known as ‘summary records’, which are written by ‘précis-writers’ (described below). These summarize the intervention of each speaker in a few lines, unless a series of speakers simply agreed with another one, in which case, the text would read, ‘The delegate of Germany, supported by those of Algeria, Bhutan and Cambodia, said….’ For a 3-h meeting, a summary record might be 20 pages or more. The other kind of record is a report, in which the gist of the debate on each topic discussed is summarised, usually without mentioning the names of either delegates or countries, unless this is specifically requested. A report of a 3-h meeting would be no more than 7–10 pages.