3 Things Every Minute Taker Should Ignore


Minute taking does not have to be difficult.

Remember the game, Telephone, that we played as kids? One person would whisper a message to the person beside them, and they would whisper it along to the person beside them. When the message reached the end of the line and the last person shared aloud what the message was, it was never the same as the original. Everyone would laugh at the garbled end result.

That was fun.                          

The same thing has happened with your minute taking, only it isn’t fun. And for your company, it can be downright problematic.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The purpose of minutes is to provide a corporate history. To capture the discussions, the decisions and the rationales made during a meeting.

Minutes are not meant to be a transcript of what happened at the meeting, and that is exactly where it has gone off the rails for many of us. Minutes does not equal transcript.

Most of us have been following the example of the person who did the job before us, and she was doing the job the person previous to her had done. That’s not fun. It’s probably wrong, too; and it will likely result in a garbled Telephone mess. But no one will be laughing when the minutes are unintelligible.

The rules for taking minutes have changed over the years, and if you are following a confused version of what someone did years ago, no wonder you find it difficult to take minutes.

Keep in mind that your document needs to be a summary. That means you don’t have to capture everything that is said, or even every topic that is discussed.

Ask yourself, “What will the company need from this document in the future?”

What not to include

1. You can immediately get rid of all the social updates that occur during meetings (births, marriages, etc.). While it’s perfectly acceptable for that type of information to be shared in a meeting, the company will not need this information from your document.

2. You can get rid of a lot of the discussions, too. We do need the rationale for decisions that are made, but not necessarily all the discussion that came with it. Summarize it.

3. You can get rid of the long-winded oratory. The company also doesn’t care what Bob said, or Mary said. This is without a doubt the most common mistake minute takers make. The company is not concerned with Bob’s brilliant oratory. Bob’s ego may be fascinated by what Bob said, but the company is not interested.

Keep it simple. Keep it brief. Summarize it.

Minute taking doesn’t have to be hard. Ask yourself what will be needed in the future from this document, and put that in.

Make minute taking easy!

(This post originally appeared as an article in the July 2012 issue of OfficePro magazine. Rhonda Scharf is a speaker and trainer motivating administrative professionals. She teaches skill-based training in minute taking, communication and dealing with difficult people.)