A Sneaky Secret to Taking Minutes

Why minute taking is hard

A Local Council once asked me for ideas to help their secretaries Council meetings perform better when taking minutes. They were greatly experienced, and the agencies involved met regularly. But concentrating on taking minutes for a four-hour meeting is difficult. The mind will struggle to stay focused. It starts to wander.

In so many cases, minute takers struggle to read their notes, simply because they have attempted to record every word quickly. Often though, there is no need to take down what is said ‘verbatim’, with the exception possibly of legal cases. It can be a time-consuming affair. There is a tendency to also believe the role is passive. It is not.

Tips for taking minutes in a meeting
Taking minutes of a meeting can be hard

Why the minute-taker should take charge

Most minute takers follow a handy Government Guide. They organise and send out the invitations to those attending. Often afraid of taking the lead from the Chair, they are the second most important person in the room because they can manage agenda and timings.

The minute taker should inform all attendees that the act of raising a hand would indicate to whoever is speaking to slow down. This signal improves the ability to directly manage the meeting.

How to keep order of what was said

Often when a motion is tabled there is much debate. It is almost impossible to record multiple speakers at once. Let’s say you are minute-taking for a meeting of eight representatives. The meeting comprised of the Judge, the CPA, the parents, as shown below. It’s hard to record legibly what everyone says – and keep chronological order – if everyone jumps in at once.

A time saving idea is to get an A4 block pad printed where each page is divided up into eight colour segments. The segments each represent a different person at the meeting, e.g., the top left-hand square might represent the Judge; the green, the council; yellow, the child; pink, the CPA and so on.

A grid to help with taking minutes

Use this grid to make note-taking easierSolution: The eye works quicker with colour

  • Go directly to the colour box that represents the person speaking and start writing what they say.
  • Work through the entire pad in this way, writing in the appropriate colour box whenever a person speaks. When finished you may find some pages of the pad only have one box filled in.
  • Worry about adding full names and initials when you come to write up your notes.

Instead of ploughing through pages of scrawl to see where the judge has spoken, we can simply look at his colour box to find out what he said.

To make sense of who said what sequentially, start with No.1) for the first speaker, then 2) in the box of whoever goes next and so on. By joining up the numbers you get to record in what order statements are made. Simple!

Get more tips to help taking minutes in meetings in our infographic: