What makes a good set of minutes?Ideally the minutes of a meeting should make a clear and concise statement of what happened. The reader should be able to tell what was said by whom and what decisions were made. However, it's not as easy as it sounds. After all, who hasn’t got lost when Brian from Accounts gets into a long-winded debate with Paula from Reception over the keys to the filing cabinet? As a minute-taker, however, you'll need to concentrate and stick to the point.
It’s obvious that even the most detailed of minutes will have been considerably pruned from a verbatim record. All the repetitions, digressions and misunderstandings which form a part of ordinary conversation will disappear in the writing-up process. In their place comes a document where discussions are to the point, and both arguments and decisions are clear. Indeed, the process of taking and then writing up minutes will certainly give you a clearer understanding of how your business works.
Why improve your skills?Trust me, if you decide to improve your minute taking skills, you will reap the benefits in ways that might surprise you. Firstly, you will help your company and your own professional development. In addition, people will know that you are good at every job you turn your hand to.
For instance, when you are taking minutes, you will be engaged in a meeting more intensively than many of the other people who are there. You will be listening intently to every speaker, working out what he or she is saying and deciding whether it needs to be taken down or not. Is Mr X making a new point or is he restating his earlier opinion in a new way?
Minutes are works of selection. As the minute taker you will be clarifying and simplifying that forest of words down into a well-managed and orderly plantation. You will find words to express ideas, concepts, arguments and statements that are better than the words that were actually used. In fact, you might actually help some people to finally decide what their opinions really are.
In addition, the very act of listening so intently and thinking so deeply about the words of others is bound to give you an especially clear understanding of your colleagues and of the opinions they have. Taking minutes or notes is an active way of participating in a meeting, even if you're not (verbally) part of the debate.
Although the thought of a voice recorder is more than tempting, it is also clear that taking minutes as you go along is still preferable to writing them up from a recording after the meeting has ended. Do you really want to come cold to the task of transcribing everything that was said at the meeting? You will have to edit it anyway. It is far better to have the skills needed to do the editing while you are actually writing down your notes. This is because you are actually in the meeting, where you can clarify any points necessary with the people who are making the decisions. Improving your minute taking skills thus saves you a considerable amount of time.
Going on a training course to improve your minute taking skills means that you will be more efficient at narrowing down the vast amount of information that was mentioned in a meeting. Human beings talk at about three words per second, which is one hundred and eighty a minute. In an hour-long meeting, assuming only one person talks at once, that is over ten thousand words, the length of a short story. Unless you want an aching hand, you really need to be able to summarise.
ConclusionMinute taking is certainly not a dying art, and never will be. How could a recorder truly replicate what was said and what was meant in a meeting? It requires tact, skill and understanding to do so with any degree of finesse.
So, it’s always worthwhile improving your minute taking skills. You will gain a better understanding of issues, will be able to summarise points in a clear and easy-to-understand form, and will help your business to move forward rapidly. To find out how Activia can help you improve your skills, click here.