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Just take a minute

istock5_73We’re all multi-taskers – or we like to think we are – but when it comes to taking minutes, can we really do more than one thing at once? How effectively can you write at the same time as you listen? If you have to take notes, do you find you’re writing everything down and not really following the thread of the discussion? Or do you join in the discussion and forget to take notes?

Minute writing isn’t easy; there is real skill involved and the minute writer must be able to truly multitask, juggling three balls at the same time: listening, writing and talking.

But why are minutes important? The answer is simple.  There needs to be an accurate, concise record of a meeting which has taken place so that those who attended can refer back quickly and easily to what was said and decided. Similarly, anyone who was unable to attend a meeting should be able to read through the minutes and get an accurate, clear account of what went on.

Here are a few ways which may make it easier:

Always write in the third person naming the proposers and seconders  even if you are one of them.  For example: “Jean’s proposal was put to the vote; it was passed unanimously bar one abstention from Bob.”

Don’t take verbatim notes. You’ll probably get confused when you try to read them back, unless you have extremely good shorthand.  Even if you do, you’ll end up spending far too long at the task. Learn to follow a discussion and write a precis in the minutes.

Try using a mind map.  If you are taking notes where the participants tend to move back and forward through the agenda it makes it much easier to add in information in the right place

Note only an outline of any discussion and a conclusion; don’t write everybody’s comments. As long as the outcome is noted, then a summary will suffice.

Make a careful note of any action points, then allocate them to the correct person when writing up the minutes. Record and minute all decisions taken.

Make sure your minutes follow the order of the meeting – dont change topics.

Write your notes up as soon as you can after the meeting. That way, they are fresh in your mind.  A great way is to book the meeting room for a further half hour and write them up then and there before returning to your desk.

More people now take laptops into the meeting.  As most people type faster than they write it may be a much more effective way to take minutes and which will only need tidying up at the end of the meeting.

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