Business writing series: Minute Taking: A team effort


Take the initiative and build a relationship with the Chairperson says Robyn Bennett

One of the key points I aim to get across to participants on my minute taking course is the importance of producing clear, concise and condensed minutes.

The success of this depends on several factors including the minute taker’s experience, skill factor and initiative.

What is the purpose of minutes?

Simple. To provide a document that records the key points, decisions and actions.

But that’s easier said than done. How many times have you been in a meeting, there has been a discussion and the group wander off to the next agenda item without resolution of the previous item? Or the discussion has been so long and convoluted, you’re confused about what should be recorded? Quite often the minute taker is left floundering and is now playing catch-up as the group delves heartily into the next agenda item.

Building a relationship with the chairperson

I encourage minute takers to build a relationship with their chairperson. This can include having a pre-meeting with the chairperson to discussing the agenda, to helping the chairperson keep to the agenda and allocated timeframes.

At the meeting the biggest influence you have is encouraging the chairperson to summarise at the end of each agenda item. Don’t be afraid to seek clarification on what’s required to be minuted. A gentle reminder to the chairperson to summarise key points, decisions, actions and timeframes will help you ensure you’ve got down necessary information. And will make your job so much easier!

This is one of the significant learning points I encourage participants on my course to take away. It’s now up to them to educate their chairpersons.

The understanding of the chairperson’s role in a meeting is critical. Some chairs get it, others don’t. In fact, some of them believe it’s the minute taker’s job to summarise the minutes.

A manager’s perspective

Several years ago, I connected with Bob Boze. Bob has held a number of senior management positions. He read my Minute Taking Madness book, and a lightbulb went off.

Here is Bob’s light bulb revelation:

“I am probably the last person in the world who would be asked to take minutes at a meeting. However, as a Project Leader, Program Manager and finally Department Manager several times over, I have conducted more meetings than most people ever will. I’ve also attended numerous meetings at customers’ facilities all over the world where I walked away being responsible for most, if not all, of the action items.

In more cases than I care to admit, I later stood scratching my head as I read the minutes from a meeting asking: What is that? When did that come up? Is that an action item and if so, whose? Uh, where is…? Wasn’t there a second item to that? And on and on.

Being a manager, I did what most managers do. I blamed the poor person designated as scribe for the day, who typically was unfairly forced to take minutes. Did they get any training in minute taking? No. Did I help them accurately record minutes in how I conducted the meeting? No.

Minute taking is not an easy task and the person tagged to do so needs to be properly trained. Accurate minutes from a meeting are critical; especially to those who couldn’t attend, those assigned action items and whoever is responsible for making sure the meeting is accurately reflected and all items are closed. (Uh, that last one would be me!).”

The manager and the minute taker as a team

Bob and I both agree that minutes can only be as good as the person chairing the meeting.

Your minutes will improve immensely if you can encourage the chairperson to do a summary at the end of each agenda item.

With your minute taking skills, your initiative of building a relationship with the chairperson and working together as a team will ensure that there is a shared responsibility in ensuring the minutes are outcome focused.


This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount on an individual subscription when you subscribe through me. Email and tell them I sent you.


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