How to take minutes that are actually helpful

What is minute taking?

minute taking in meeting

Minutes are a record of the key points of a meeting: who attended, what was discussed, and what actions will be carried out. Good meetings and minute taking go hand in hand; it’s much easier to take notes during a well-structured meeting, and having minutes from previous meetings will make each one much more efficient going forward.

By having great minutes on file, your office will feel more organised than ever, and any important information will be on hand for whoever needs it.

How to take minutes at a meeting

The contents of your minutes will depend largely on what happens during the meeting, but there are some key points that you should make a note of:

  • Date and time of the meeting
  • Who is in attendance (including guests and speakers)
  • Who was unable to attend
  • Date and time of the next meeting

Prepare ahead of time

Don’t show up unprepared; do some research into the meeting’s topic if you’re unsure about it. You don’t need to be an expert, but it definitely helps to know the basic terminology and key concepts.

Asking for the meeting agenda ahead of time will give you an understanding of what will be discussed, and will help you to structure your minutes.

Before the meeting, make sure that you have any equipment that you need to take notes. Bring spare pens or a laptop charger to avoid disrupting the meeting.

Sit in a good position

You’ll need to be able to hear everyone in the meeting, so make sure that you have a good vantage point of the room from your seat. If any presentations are given, you should be able to easily see the board without having to keep turning around to write things down.

It’s also important that you have enough space to write comfortably - there should be enough room at your meeting table for everyone to sit without bumping elbows.

Be a great listener

It might sound straightforward, but don’t forget to listen carefully. It’s better to have a thorough understanding of what’s going on at the meeting than to quickly jot down whatever you can. As minutes serve as a record of the meeting, any oversights can cause huge miscommunications within the office.

Don’t write down everything

Minutes don’t need to be a word-by-word transcription of the meeting. Prioritise the most important information, and use abbreviations and bullet points to get these down on paper. Don’t worry about how your initial notes look; you can always create a neater copy later.

If people are frequently speaking over each other, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus. Even though you shouldn’t be writing down everything that’s said, it can be worthwhile to politely ask people to speak one at a time. If you’re still struggling, ask permission to record the meetings so that you can listen back and add in any extra details.

Use a template

Organisation is key when it comes to minute taking. Having a well-defined template going into a meeting allows you to focus on the specifics of the meeting, rather than what’s happening on your page. Most word processors will have a pre-made template for minute taking. If you prefer to handwrite your notes, find a layout that works and use it for every meeting.

However you format your minutes, make sure to have clear headers between each subject matter. Most people use numbers to create clear subsections and keep the minutes in chronological order.

Get involved

You’ve been assigned the task of taking minutes, but are you still expected to participate in meetings? Every business operates differently, and if your meetings are usually more laidback and informal, you may still be expected to throw in some ideas now and then. It’s always helpful to speak to someone before a meeting and make sure you’re confident with all of your responsibilities.

Type up your minutes straight after the meeting

No one has a perfect memory - in fact, that’s exactly why minute taking is so important! However, jotting down notes during the meeting isn’t likely to leave you with a perfect set of minutes, so it’s important to rewrite or type them up neatly after the meeting.

Although it’s important that your minutes are legible and well organised, don’t leave it for too long after the meeting to create a neat copy. Try to rewrite your minutes as soon as possible after the meeting so that all of the information is still fresh in your mind. Some of your notes may not make sense to you if you come back to them a week later.

Your whole workplace will feel the benefits of amazing minute taking. For maximum organisation in your office, get in touch with our team for all the workplace equipment you’ll need.