There are many methods a minute taker can use to take minutes e.g. Recording devices, laptop, iPad, and just plain writing.

Those people who write the minutes probably use their own version of shorthand (tips on how to do this are covered in this post), text language or EasyScript. But what about ‘real’ shorthand – Pitmans 2000 or Teeline?

Shorthand a necessity then… 

Many, many years ago, without a doubt, secretaries went to secretarial school to learn how to type and take dictation. Shorthand was a compulsory subject and a necessity. Shorthand would’ve been used to be able to write quickly when the boss dictated a letter, to take down telephone messages or to take minutes at a meeting. It was a very handy skill to have!

… But now a dying art

But over the last decade with the advent of technology shorthand has become a dying art. Certainly in my country (New Zealand) there are very few places you can now go to physically to learn shorthand.

Are you double handling information?

When I first started as a freelance minute taker, clients would ask me whether I took my minutes using shorthand. They would’ve thought that this would be a must have skill to be able to take minutes. I would disagree. I did learn shorthand for two years and used it to take minutes, but because I could type faster than I could write and I had a laptop I stopped using shorthand. Typing the minutes onto the laptop saves an incredible amount of time – if you’re writing your minutes in any form you’re double handling the information!

A shorthand typist can be at a disadvantage

The disadvantage of being a good shorthand typist in a meeting is that you can fall into the trap of taking too much down because you’ve been trained to take verbatim minutes. A shorthand typist has to change their mindset – they must summarise the minutes and not take everything down.

As long as you feel confident and comfortable, I think whatever tools you use to take minutes is a personal choice. And that includes shorthand. It’s a good skill to have, but the traps listed above need to be avoided.

This guest post was written by Robyn Bennett, Director, Team Link Training Ltd, New Zealand. Robyn will be speaking at the Virtual Summit for PAs in October. 

Is shorthand still a relevant skill for a minute taker?

Over the past 14 years, Robyn has led in excess of 500 plus minute taking courses for over 1,000 participants. Her clients have included New Zealand Defence Force, Ministry for Primary Industries, Dairy NZ, Zespri, polytechs, universities, district health boards and councils.

Robyn has developed systems and processes around the best way to write minutes and is passionate about sharing these with others who strive to be excellent minute takers. She is the author of “Minute Taking Madness”.

Robyn runs the popular The Art of Minute Taking course at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, where it was the top Professional and Executive Development course for 2015 and 2016.

She is a member of the Association of Administrative Professionals NZ Inc and is a past National President.

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