Write clear, concise and condensed meeting minutes and still keep your sanity!


Hands up if you’re guilty of writing too much in a meeting?


We’re so busy focusing on the words and getting everything down we totally miss the message and everything gets lost in translation. This is a common error minute takers make.


Listening in a block

One way to help reduce what we’re writing in meetings is to actually take one step back and listen in a block.


That means to not write for a wee bit and actually listen to what’s being said.


When you think you have enough information or can grasp what’s being said, write down the message you believe the speaker was trying to impart. This should be summarised down to one-two sentences.


Listen for the message and summarise the discussion

Let’s pretend the following has been said at a meeting:


“There has been a marked increase in the number of cars in the car park.  The car park is now too small.  If the car park is full there is nowhere else to park as there are yellow lines outside the store.  We are losing customers because of this.”


Now let’s pretend the minute taker didn’t write anything down until the person had finished speaking and then wrote:


“The size of the car park needs addressing because we are losing customers.”


The formula to keeping this short and brief is:

State the issue:  The size of the car park needs addressing

Why is it an issue:  because we are losing customers.


Now I can already hear some of you screaming, “But if I wait too long before I write anything down I’ll have forgotten it all.” True! The key is to have the confidence in your ability (and not panic!), to pause and listen before writing.


Watch the news


A good way to practise doing this is by watching the news on TV (or on line).


Sit down with a pad and pen and for every news item that comes on, take some notes down on the key points. By the time the item has finished you should be able to come up with one sentence that captures what that news item was about.


Then move onto the next item. This gives you a real life scenario to practise with because you will be still writing while the newsreader is reading the next story, which is exactly what happens in a meeting.


An hour long news bulletin will normally have a summary of the day’s top stories. This is where you can check back to see whether you got the main point. Don’t cheat though – no peeking at the running news slide at the bottom of the screen!


Summarising discussion is hard, but if we can take a step back, listen in a block and listen for the message this will go some way to help us get down just the key points.


Do you have any tips on listening for the message?





4 thoughts on “Minute taking skills: Listening for the message

  1. Helen Asker says:

    What a genius. I never would have thought to practice with the news. You provide a lot of value in your posts. Keep ’em coming. Thank you.


    1. robynfb says:

      Glad you’re enjoying the blogs!


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