remember when you got your first real job? What was your first thought
when you heard the good news?
you’re like most people I know, it was, "I hope they’ll let me take the
minutes at my first meeting."
It’s the dream of most new
After all, what could be more satisfying
than to know that you are part of history in the making, to think that the
little marks you make on paper or the little keystrokes you use to
inscribe your thoughts in electronic space might be read by generations to
Being appointed recorder of a meeting
goes beyond the short-lived gratification of regular paychecks, paid
vacation, health benefits, and other trifling rewards. It is a profound
joy, perhaps best compared to planting a tree and knowing that the
benefits of your labor will likely extend well beyond your lifetime.
Here, then, for those of you fortunate
enough to get the assignment, are some tips on taking minutes:
Write up your notes as soon possible
after the meeting. The sooner you begin working with your notes, the
more accurate will be your recollection of what transpired at the meeting.
So don’t put it off. There are few writing assignments more gratifying
than wading through page after page of hastily scrawled notes. Why wait
for the fun to begin?
Be brief and to the point. Avoid
the temptation to flaunt your literary talents or to show off for
posterity. You’re not Charles Dickens getting paid by the word. Although
your readers will no doubt enjoy reading your minutes as much as you enjoy
writing them, demonstrate your talent by the quality rather than
the quantity of your words.
Be specific and accurate. To
serve as a permanent record of collective action, minutes must be complete
and accurate. Check your facts. You might ask someone else who attended
the meeting to read your copy before you distribute it. (But be careful
not to let on about how much fun you’re having — your colleague may try to
steal your job from you at the next meeting.)
Be objective and impartial.
Minutes are not the place for impressions or subjectivity. Avoid
references to "Ms. Albertson’s capable leadership" in favor of "the Chair
commended Ms. Albertson for her capable leadership." You may disregard
this rule, however, when referring to your own skill as recorder.
Include essential information. A
standard format contains these components: a heading clearly identifying
the group, the date, the names of those present (with the recorder
indicated), the time the meeting was called to order, old business, new
business, the time the meeting was adjourned, the time and date of the
next meeting, and (depending on the level of formality) the words
"Respectfully submitted" and the recorder’s signature.
Use headings to organize and
emphasize each topic. Consistency in headings makes your minutes
easier to read. As recommended in
The Business Writer’s Handbook,
you might "use the heading TOPIC, followed by the subheadings
Discussion and Action Taken, for each major point discussed."
In any organization senior managers and
partners understand the deep satisfaction that accompanies the act of
taking minutes. For this reason, they often are willing to bestow this
pleasure on the most recent arrival to the group as a kind of special
welcome — even though the newcomer is obviously the person least
knowledgeable about the history of the organization and the background of
I can only attribute this tendency to
selflessness, generosity, and altruism. It warms my heart to think about