It can be scary stuff when you enter the world of minute taking for the first time.
Many minute takers, myself included, have never had training on taking minutes minutes. We’re dumped into a meeting as though it’s something we know how to do blindfolded. So not true. But we take on the challenge and learn by burn.
If you are a new minute taker, there are some things that can help you be more confident in this role.
Shadow take a meeting
This is a concept I’ve tried with a number of minute takers who’ve mentored. This involves taking minutes at a meeting where there already is a main minute taker.
The idea is that you take the minutes alongside the main minute taker. When you have both finished typing up a first draft, compare your minutes with each other. This way you can see how well you did without the pressure of your minutes being the ‘real’ minutes.
Practise summarising with the news bulletin (TV or radio)
This is a great way of practising summarising small blocks of information at a time.
When the news is on, have a go at writing some key points for each news item. As each item wraps up, see if you can come up with one sentence that captures that item’s content.
Become knowledgeable on your meeting’s subject and organisation
The more you know about the subject you’re minuting the easier it is to take the minutes.
Be a sponge! Lap up everything you can about your organisation – its history, its products and services, its challenges, its reputation, its standing in local, national or world rankings, its thoughts and views. Hone in on the group that you’re specifically taking minutes for. Are there any technical aspects that you don’t understand? Research, read and ask. This will make minute taking a lot easier.
Fake it, till you make it
When I first started taking minutes I had no idea what I was doing. I had an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’d fail, stuff it up and people would see right through me. But I wanted to make sure that if I didn’t feel very confident. So I smiled as much as I could in the meeting, listened hard, wrote like crazy when everyone agreed to something, and acted like I knew what I was doing. So fake it till you make it.
The importance of attitude
I did some minute taking training for a group of women at varying levels of experience. One of the women, Sarah (not her real name) had never taken minutes before and was about to be assigned minute taker to a few committees. For some unknown reason Sarah had got herself all tangled up in knots and she was incredibly nervous. Even the support and training that was being offered to her didn’t seem to allay her fear. But her attitude didn’t help. Every time during the training I set the group to do an exercise she would moan, sigh and slump her shoulders. I couldn’t help but think that if she changed her attitude a little, be more positive, minute taking would not seem quite like the mammoth task she was making it out to be.
There are lots of resources that you can read on minute taking eg this website, my Minute Taking Madness book, and training courses you can attend that can help you build up your skills. A Google search in your area should bring up a list of available minute taking courses. Those who live in New Zealand, please see www.teamlink.co.nz
I am also available outside of New Zealand, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d loved to hear from you.
Taking minutes for the first time can be a very daunting task, but there are some things that you can do to be more prepared for the meeting: shadow take a meeting, practise summarising with the news bulletin, become knowledgeable on your meetings, subject and organisation, get some training, and fake it till you make it!
When you first started taking minutes, what did you do to make the job easier?