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Business writing series: Minute Taking: A team effort

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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 subscriptions@executivesecretary.com and tell them I sent you.

 

Business editing

When we originally founded Writing Allsorts, our initial goal was to help authors and writers. However, two things convinced us that, perhaps more than authors, small and large businesses alike needed a lot of help with their written and digital communications.

As we traveled throughout the US, New Zealand, England, Ireland and Australia, we couldn’t help but note mistakes on signage, menus, flyers, sandwich boards, and yes, even parking lot and road signs.

But, it wasn’t only spelling errors that we noticed. Often incorrect words were used, improper punctuation, spacing or layout changed the meaning or colloquialisms were used to advertise things to people who had no idea what they meant.

A lot of this we have addressed in our business book, How Not to Fail in Business Without Really Trying. And, in all honesty, many of these mistakes often create a lot of laughs.

However, when you’re in business it can have a major impact on how your customers view and even rate your business or cause them to just walk on by chuckling.

 

Commonly misspelled or misused words

there, their, they’re while, a while, awhile a lot, allot
accept, except affect, effect cache, catch, cash
principal, principle loose, lose Two, too, to
buy, by, bye, dessert, desert borrow, lend, loaned
allusion, illusion that, which it’s, its
fined, find your, you’re conscientious, conscious

 

Common phonetically misspelled words

Note: Use of phonetic words can vary widely, and might even be considered proper, depending on the country and/or region your business may be in.)

unortherised thru doin
excepion goin gonna
lemme (let me) tho cuz (because)

 

Signs

Here, layout and spacing, as well as spelling can easily create some very unique and often funny signs. We’ll start with a sign that was on the board to the entrance of the room for one of Robyn’s training sessions, The Art of Minute Taking.

 

Cruise ships

Use next exit

We bye used cars Customer parking only Others will be toad
Executive Bored Room Hunters please use caution when hunting pedestrians

use walking trails

 

Slow children crossing

 

Handicapped ramp

 

 

Menu mistakes

Ah yes, our favorite. (Please note that we will not even go into translation issues, which truly can be an editor’s nightmare and have them laughing till their side aches.)

green pee soup Ask about our 0% discount Homemade pene paste

(should have been penne pasta)

pickled leggs (eggs) Fried bum

(we’re not sure what that should have been)

 

All meals served with white or whole meat bread

 

Defried chicken

(Colonel Sanders just had a heart attack!)

 

 

Okay, so we’ve had enough fun but, we haven’t even touched on color contrast, font that’s hard to read, spacing, size, and on and on. All of which can send the wrong message or no message.

NB:   All of the examples given here are real. Some we actually saw and some we took from the Internet, which is full of business communications boo boos.

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Seen or had some funny edit issue? Let us know. We always enjoy a good laugh or a puzzle to try and figure out.

 

 

Blogs versus speaking versus workshops

As part of our services, we try to help potential clients in four ways:

  • blogs
  • speaking engagements
  • workshops and
  • direct contracts for specific services.

The first three of these are intended to help you make an educated decision as to which of our services will work best for you. In that light, we thought we’d define who each is aimed at and why you might want to choose one over the other.

Blogs

Blogs, by definition, are written in a conversational way and intended to be informative for a large Internet audience. It’s our hope that through our blogs we can pass on our knowledge and expertise on a particular subject so that you can decide where we might be of help.

However, blogs by there very nature a usually short and cover a topic only in a general sense. For example, even though our editing series of blogs covers the different types of editing in a bit more detail than our website, we are still limited as to how many details and examples we can cover.

Perhaps a better way of looking at blogs is that they are meant for the masses and it’s hard to target the audience or specific questions.

Speaking

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Robyn and Bob speaking on writing at the Bonita Library  – January 2018

Speaking on the other hand has us often addressing the same subjects as a blog but is much more personal from two standpoints. First, our audience is much smaller and second, we always allow time for your questions.

When we do a speaking engagement, it will often cover the same subject as our blog but we can go into much more detail. Better yet, we can give more examples, take questions from our audience and direct our knowledge to your specific needs; limited of course by the time we’re given.

But even there, we’re usually the ones that set the time we think we’ll need, based on our experience. Thus, for more complicated subjects we will allocate more time for not only the talk, but questions afterward.

Workshops

 

Robyn presenting at Sydney 2018
Robyn presenting at Personal Assistant Conference on minute taking – Sydney 2018

These are typically built on our speaking presentations and often cover exactly the same material. Here though, we request more time and throw in a lot more examples. We also allow much more time for questions and, in many cases, will go into your specific examples at the end.

These interactive workshops give participants the opportunity to share their ideas and experiences with each other. This helps broaden the knowledge base of everyone taking the workshop and us. Neither of us can remember a workshop where we didn’t run into something totally new.

We also like participants to leave our workshops with an action plan so that they can progress through key points after the workshop.

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So, which is right for you?

We recommend our workshops first because we believe, no matter what your level, you’ll get the most out of them.

Attending one of our speaking sessions follows as a close second.

And of course, reading our blog and asking questions if you can’t make it to one of the exotic places where we’re speaking or doing a workshop.

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Questions gladly accepted so, ask away!