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

If you take minutes it goes hand in hand that you probably have a bit to do with agenda preparation.

Some things to consider when you’re preparing an agenda:

1      All agenda items should be numbered.

2      Times written beside each agenda item either as the time ie 7.30 pm or an expected amount of time allowed eg ½ hour.

3      Names written beside those people who are responsible for speaking/presenting on a particular agenda item.

4      Status report of those items which have background material eg ‘to be tabled’, ‘attached’.


Tips to assist the minute taker and the chairperson in setting an agenda 

  1. Use the action column from the previous meeting’s minutes to work out what is outstanding. Avoid overloading matters arising.  Some subjects may need to be carried over to the main part of the agenda.
  2. If appropriate, gather new items of business from participants.
  3. Ask yourself the following questions when considering whether or not to include an item:
  • Is the item in line with the meeting’s objectives?
  • Is the item of relevant concern to all participants?
  • Is the issue one within the group’s authority?
  • Is the subject appropriate to the level of the group?
  • Do the participants have all the information it needs to discuss the topic? If the item is to be included on the agenda, then you should be able to answer “yes” to the first four questions.  If you answered “no” to the last question, refer it to a sub committee or staff member for further research.

4. Avoid overloading the agenda. Be realistic about what can be covered in the timeframe available.

5. If appropriate, contact people before the meeting to check they have completed their allocated tasks from the previous minutes.


Free template

A free template can be accessed here.

An agenda can often be the most valuable tool in ensuring a successful meeting. A good agenda will ensure all topics are covered in a timely manner.


Do you have any extra tips to assist in agenda preparation?



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 minutesmadness@xtra.co.nz 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?


In previous posts (What is the correct way to amend minutes and I’ve finished my draft minutes – What do I do with them now?) I’ve outlined the suggested process around what happens after you’ve finished completing the first draft of your minutes.

It’s human nature to take personally comments and amendments that may get made to our minutes. After all, sometimes it took blood, sweat and tears just to get to the draft minutes stage! Then they come back with the dreaded red pen through them or lots of tracked changes people want to make to your beautiful work.

So how do we deal with those changes without going into a spin.

Remove the emotion

It’s hard to take a constructive view of something when we’re having an emotional reaction to it. By removing the emotion we can take a much more logical view of our work.

smiley faces

Process the changes

Go through the changes made to your minutes objectively by looking at each one and asking these questions:

Is it a spelling, punctuation or grammar issue?

To help do it better next time
  • Peer review
  • Use the spell checker!
  • A refresher course on spelling, punctuation and grammar rules

Are there places where more information was added?

To help do it better next time

This could be where you’re not putting in enough detail. Ensure your minutes have enough detail in them to fully reflect the discussion that took place.

A good tip is to write the minutes from the point of view of someone who didn’t attend the meeting.

Are there places where information has been deleted?

This is the opposite to the one above and could be an issue of too much detail.

To help do it better next time

Ensure you’re clear about what type of minutes are required for your meeting. It could be that the meeting requires concise minutes and you’re providing too much information.

Do you agree with the suggested changes?

Have another look at the notes you took at the meeting. Changes may back up something that you took down but, for whatever reason, didn’t end up in your draft.

Or, is someone actually trying to change the minutes by adding in something that wasn’t discussed at the meeting or changes the context of the discussion.

Remedy: Discuss this with your manager to get their opinion.

Make a goal to improve your next minutes


Based on the feedback you’ve received, make a goal to improve your next minutes.


By removing the emotion from feedback allows you to step back and grow as a professional minute taker whether that be tidying up the spelling, punctuation and grammar, adding information or deleting irrelevant information.

How do you handle receiving feedback on your minutes?



My last post was on the process of getting draft minutes approved.

This post lists the correct way to amend a draft set of minutes when at a meeting.

Imagine this scenario

The minutes from the last month’s (say September) meeting have already been distributed previously to meeting participants and they’ve had the opportunity to amend them.

We’re now at this month’s (October) meeting and we’re up to the agenda item of approving the minutes of the last meeting.

Someone wants to amend something. Wait! Can they do that? Haven’t they already had the opportunity to do that? Yes they have, but they’re still entitled to have another shot at them.

So what happens now?

A participant may say:

“On page 3 of the minutes, can we change ‘party’ to ‘picnic’?”

The minutes of today’s meeting (October) will record the following:

That the minutes of the (date) September meeting be accepted as a true and correct record with the following amendment:

Page 3   Under “Christmas Function” – Change ‘party’ to ‘picnic’

Moved:  J Bloggs

Seconded: P Smith


The chairman can then make the above amendment on the hard copy and initial the change.

Is this the process you follow for recording amendments to minutes?

Whew! The hard part’s done. Meeting attended and minutes written to draft stage.

So what happens to them now?

Here’s a suggested process:

  1. Minutes emailed to Chairman for checking
    Email the minutes to the Chairman or senior staff person for a first check. This check is to ensure accuracy of the discussions that took place plus resulting decisions, actions and responsibilities and to ensure that nothing was left out of the minutes that should’ve been included.
  2. Minutes come back to the minute taker
    The minutes are then emailed back to you to from the chairman/senior staff person.
  3. Changes are made
    The minute taker makes the changes.
  4. Minutes emailed to meeting participants
    The minutes are then sent out to all meeting participants with a request for any amendments to be emailed back to you by a certain date.
  5. Minutes distributed
    The minutes are then distributed (still in draft form) with the next agenda.
  6. Minutes approved
    At the next meeting, participants still ave the option of being able to amend the minutes (the correct way to do this will be a future post topic).
    If there are no amendments, then they are approved by all at the meeting with the motion: That the minutes be approved as a true and correct record.

Is this the process you follow? Do you have any tips on how to get draft minutes back from your chairman in a timely way?



OK, hands up if you’ve ever felt irritated when a meeting is just about finished but it gets stuck on General Business and it drags on and on and on..

To me, this is the worst part of a meeting. It’s like punishment!

Yes, General Business can be painful for the following reasons:

  • it becomes a free-for-all; anyone and everyone, particularly those who haven’t had the opportunity to say much in a meeting, feel that this is the place to get their point across – any point!
  • it can take a long time sometimes almost as long as the actual meeting
  • a chance to either re-litigate things that have just been discussed or things from another meeting
  • a chance to discuss anything regardless if it relates to the meeting or not.

Here are some tips to help you and the chairman manage this part of the meeting.

Be gone with you!

A lot of organisations are now removing the General Business section from the agenda. That solves the problem nice and easy!

Pre-warning No. 1

If someone wants to raise a matter at the meeting then it must go on the agenda as a separate item before the agenda is distributed.

Pre-warning No. 2

You can still have a General Business section but at the meeting, just after Apologies, members can flag that they would like to bring up a matter for discussion. This agenda item is called “Items for General Business”. The reasons for this are:

  1. everyone gets to hear what that issue is so there’s some pre-warning
  2. the chairman can either approve or disaprove the item at that point
  3. everyone knows that once you get to the section of General Business that there will only be a certain number of people who have additional items of General Business.


The above three tips should help go some way to managing what can be an arduous part of the meeting.

Do you have any tips for managing General Business?




As you move further up the career ladder and your responsibilities as an administrator increases, this inevitably means that you’ll at some stage be leading or facilitating meetings.

This could take many forms – from project team meetings to your own staff meetings. And when it’s your own staff meeting, your credibility is at stake.

Listed below are some tips to ensure that the meetings you conduct are professional and focused.

Clear objective

Ensure everyone is clear about the purpose of the meeting before the meeting eg to decide venues for the Christmas function.

This is so people can arrive at the meeting knowing exactly what’s going to be discussed and to allow time for them to do any preparation work.


This goes hand-in-hand with having a clear objective.

An agenda will list the topics to be discussed and who will be talking to that agenda item.

Meeting participants should be asked to contribute to the agenda before the meeting and a finalised agenda should also be emailed to the participants before the meeting.

Keeping to time

I’ve heard often that people will judge how good a manager is by how well they run a meeting. This includes keeping the meeting within its allocated timeframe and ensuring that there is adequate time within the meeting to discuss items.

A tip that can help you keep a meeting on track is having a suggested timeframe for each item printed on the agenda.

Good control

A wise meeting facilitator will understand the balance between allowing for a good discussion amongst participants, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to have their say, all points of view have been covered and probably one of the biggest aspects of successful meeting management is managing personalities (watch out for a future post on this). This can be a tricky area to manage, but meeting facilitators need to know when it’s time to rein in people without hurting feelings.

Summarise discussion

Probably the most understated skill of a facilitator is the ability to summarise discussion.

This should happen at the end of each agenda item. The facilitator should summarise the following:

  • key points
  • decisions made
  • actions to be undertaken
  • who is to do what and,
  • by when.


If, as a facilitator, you:

  • ensure there is a clear objective for your meeting
  • have an agenda
  • keep to time
  • exercise control
  • summarise.

meeting participants will speak highly of you as someone who runs excellent meetings.


Do you have any additional tips that are essential to being a good meeting facilitator?



In a number of previous posts I’ve mentioned what a key role the chairman has in assisting the minute taker in a meeting.

There are a number of ways this can be achieved, but the most important part is ensuring the minute taker is clear about the key points, decisions and actions.

On my Art of Minute Taking course, I encourage minute takers to work with their chairman and educate them to provide a summary at the end of every agenda item.

The understanding by the chairman in the role he/she takes in a meeting is critical. Some chairmen get it, others don’t. In fact, some of them believe it’s the minute taker’s job to summarise the minutes.

Recently I connected with Bob Boze, who read Minute Taking Madness and was kind enough to write a review, which I read with glee! Why? Because here was someone who had been in the manager/chairman role and had attended many meetings.

Bob has kindly given permission to post his review on this blog. Thanks Bob!

Minute Taking Madness Review

Rating: 5 Stars

I am probably the last person in the world who would be asked to take minutes at a meeting. However, as a Project Leader, Program Manager and finally Department Manager, several times over, I have conducted more meetings than most people ever will. I’ve also attended numerous meetings at customers’ facilities all over the world where I walked away being responsible for most, if not all, of the action items.

In more cases than I care to admit, I later stood scratching my head as I read the minutes from a meeting asking: What is that? When did that come up? Is that an action item and if so, whose? Uh, where is….? Wasn’t there a second item to that? And on and on.

Being a manager, I did what most managers do. I blamed the poor person designated as scribe for the day, who typically was unfairly forced to take minutes. Did they get any training in minute taking? No. Did I help them accurately record minutes in how I conducted the meeting? No. Did I even know any of this? Not until I read Robyn’s book.

Reading Minute Taking Madness woke me up to several things. Minute taking is not an easy task and the person tagged to do so should be properly trained. Accurate minutes from a meeting are critical; especially to those who weren’t able to attend, those assigned action items and whoever is responsible for making sure the meeting is accurately reflected and all items are closed. (Uh, that last one would be me!)

One other thing Robyn made me realize? The most important person in the meeting room is the minute taker!

Minute Taking Madness should be mandatory reading (as well as taking her training course, if possible) for anyone designated to take minutes. It should also be required reading for anyone conducting meetings. That’s because, as she points out, how the meeting is chaired either helps or hinders the minute taker greatly!

Even if you’re just an attendee at most meetings, I urge you to take a moment to read this well-written, easy to understand and extremely helpful book. Who knows? It maybe you up there one day conducting the meeting and wanting the most accurate minutes possible.

While Robyn was too polite to say it, I will: The minutes from your meetings are a glaring reflection of your skills as a manager!

A must read for anyone taking minutes or conducting meetings.


Project Engineer/Program Manager, Communications and Navigation Systems, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Electronics Division

Department Manager, Turbine Engine Monitoring Systems, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Electronics Division

Senior Technical Advisor to Vice President of Advanced Systems Design, Titan Corporation

Department Manager, Airline Communications and Engine Monitoring Systems, Teledyne Corporation, Controls Division

Senior Technical Advisor to Vice President of Advanced Technology, B/E Aerospace, In-Flight Entertainment Systems Division

Department Manager, Customer Service, Airline Seats, Airline Interiors Inc.


Follow this link here to purchase Minute Taking Madness.

A year has passed since I first started blogging about minute taking. Apart from a few weeks over the Christmas period and the last few weeks when I was away on holiday I’ve blogged every week. That’s almost 52 blogs – on minute taking! I didn’t ever think I would find so much to say about minute taking, but I guess that isn’t hard when you’re passionate about the subject.

Feedback has been great and I’m proud that I have 71 blog followers which hopefully means I’m writing something that at least is some way helpful in providing some tips so we can become better minute takers.

The top four blogs

In reflecting back these are the top four blogs that generated the most comments:

Skills required to be a good minute taker

Should a minute taker follow up actions from a meeting?

Is shorthand still a relevant skill for a minute taker?

I’m a minute taker – so can I speak at a meeting?

Going forward, I’m dreading the day when I might run out of minute taking things to blog about.

If there’s something about minute taking you’d like me to blog about please feel free to put up a comment!