So, for all of you that write minutes for meetings, don’t enjoy it and take forever to complete the work, here are eleven tips on good minute taking that will help you to get them finished, circulated and out of your to-do tray as quickly as possible while still producing a quality piece of work.
Obviously! More than anybody else in the meeting, a minute taker needs to be listening 100 per cent of the time (no falling asleep here!). Check out this post for tips on how to listen for the message.
Minute takers must have the confidence to speak up in a meeting (where appropriate) and clarify points.
We have a great minute taking template that you could download and use for free.
Finalise the notes up as quickly as possible
Although the temptation is to leave this to the last minute, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Try and get the notes into a publishable format as soon as possible, ideally by the following day.
Even if you had become an expert at drafting minutes, you might still find that you forget certain parts of the meeting, and you can’t quite decipher what you meant when you made the notes.
Also, if you get the minutes circulated quickly, you will give those with actions an early reminder to complete their work, which saves you time chasing them when the next meeting rolls around.
Ensure you turn up to the meeting having read the agenda, any background papers, the minutes of the previous meeting. Bring with you all the tools you need to take the minutes, whether a pen, highlighter, paper, recording device, laptop or iPad. Always carry an extra pen.
Avoid ‘he said, she said.’
There are only three main areas of the conversation that you have to capture in your minutes so try to avoid all of the chat and ‘he said, she said dialogue.
Unless it is relevant to the critical agenda points, leave this dialogue out of the minutes.
As the minute taker, try to remain unbiased when typing up your notes.
If an argument has taken place during the meeting or someone stormed out of the room, I wouldn’t necessarily put this detail in the minutes at all. But, if your Chairperson indicates that you should include this level of detail, then remain neutral in your tone and choice of vocabulary.
Make the minutes readable
I sometimes find with minutes that I will repeat the same words repeatedly to describe the decisions made and actions agreed upon, particularly when I’m not really in the mood to write them!
We have put together a fantastic cheat sheet that details 100 descriptive words to help you with your minute taking. You can download the cheat sheet here.
Read the supporting papers
This comes with time but getting a real sense of what people discuss in the meeting makes writing the minutes after the session a lot easier.
Try to read the papers beforehand and get to grips with the details.
If you don’t understand, spend 5 minutes with the Chairperson before the meeting to ask any questions you might have.
During the meeting, listen more than you write and summarise the details at the end of the discussion.
The more you listen, the more comfortable you will find subsequent meetings.
Use the correct grammar
The past tense in the 3rd person.
This is the grammar to use when writing minutes; for example, Nicky Christmas agreed to distribute the minutes as soon as possible.
I would also recommend using initials rather than full names to save some time, but this is a style choice and may not suit all companies.
Do not add unnecessary detail
If a report or paper has been circulated during the meeting, there is no need to write any detail in the minutes.
State that ‘the paper was noted by the Committee’ and then write down any action points from the discussion.
Proofread your work
Proofread your work once finished.
I tend to get everything on the page as quickly as possible and then go back a day later to tweak the wording and sentence structure.
The minutes will probably be proofread by at least two other people before they are finally circulated, so be prepared that some of your work will be changed.
How to make minute-taking an absolute breeze
Minute-taking is a much sought after skill in organisations.
If you were wondering whether you are on track, what the latest trends are and keen to pick up some proven techniques, this session from Robyn Bennett at Minute Taking Madness is a must!
These tips, techniques and tools will help you to:
- Identify the number one skill required to be an effective minute-taker
- Discover the secret to minute-taking
- Learn the three proven techniques to make minute taking easier
This session will also give you access to extra resources to help you be a more successful minute taker and plenty of tips on good minute taking