Love it or hate it minute taking is part and parcel of the day to day role of the PA/EA for the most part. Personally, I have always found them slightly painful, but through experience and training I have made my peace with them and gotten my technique down to a fine art! Having worked in a few different roles where I liaised with a large variety of stakeholders I have learned to be adaptable and how to apply the same principles to different situations. Suppose you are part of a wider admin pool or just provide cross cover to other C level executives and you are asked to minute a meeting you have never been involved in. Or you are asking to minute the meetings for a newly set up committee. Saying “no thanks” is not an option, what do you do? You need to ask at least the following 5 questions:
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?
Nobody readily puts up the hand to take minutes and those of us who do sometimes fear the job because of the expectation that is put on us to produce discussions accurately. Not everyone can be a good minute taker – it’s a definite skill and quite often an art, hence the name of my course, The Art of Minute Taking. There are definite skills required to be a good minute taker and I’ve listed some of them below:
Obviously! More than anybody else in the meeting a minute taker needs to be listening 100 percent of the time (no falling asleep here!). Check out my post here for tips on how to listen for the message.
Minute takers must have the confidence to be able to speak up in a meeting (where appropriate) and clarify points. This post will help you work with the chairman to make this task easier.
Ensure you turn up to the meeting having read the agenda, any background papers, the minutes of the previous meeting and with all the tools you need to take the minutes whether that be pen, highlighter, paper, recording device, laptop or iPad. Always take an extra pen.
Knowledge of the subject
It certainly makes the job easier if you have some knowledge of the topic. Learn as much as you can about the topic. This information can come from the meeting background papers, talking to people, Googling and keeping up-to-date by reading articles from within your organisation.
Good command of the written language
Without a doubt not only is it a skill to take minutes at the meeting, but the real work comes in being able to wordsmith a draft set of notes into an exceptionally good piece of writing. This means being able to produce a document that is spelt correctly and uses correct grammar and punctuation.
A sound critical thinker
This is the ability to be able to sift through the information and work out what it is that really needs to be written down.
Strive to develop these skills so you can be the best minute taker you can. These skills are transferable into other parts of an administrator’s role.
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.
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.
As we all know, writing minutes is a fundamental part of an assistant role and a skill we have to get right. As far as our tasks go, it is an important one but at the same time it can be pretty arduous and pretty dull especially if the meeting is lengthy or you left finalising the minutes until literally the last minute.
As we all know writing minutes is a basic skill for assistants and we have probably written more over the years than Stephen King has writing novels. I had a job a few years back that provided support for twelve Committees who had four meetings a year, which meant I was writing a set of minutes practically every week.