Rob Robson and Philip Davis, authors of bestselling book Effective Minute Taking took over ICSA’s twitter account to answer your questions. They also provided their top tips for those seeking an advantage when minute taking. Thank you to everyone who took part. Here is how it went:
How have you seen minute taking evolve over time?
Minutes are more open to public scrutiny; there’s a growing need to capture challenge and show transparency.
What should I do if an argument breaks out?
Stay calm; suspend detailed note taking and wait for the chair to restore control. Resume when order is restored.
What’s your number one tip for first time minute takers?
Be proactive and never write too much, just the key points relating to background, decisions and actions.
Should I write the minutes according to the agenda or how the actual meeting took place?
The minutes should reflect the way the meeting actually happened; this preserves the real ‘shape’ of the meeting.
Should I type or handwrite my notes?
Handwritten notes give greater flexibility. Typing allows you to make use of a pre-existing template, you choose.
Should I minute arguments in meetings?
Note the key discussion point but not the blow-by-blow account: it won’t feature in the final minutes.
Should I use people’s names when recording the minutes?
Some meetings may require this but avoid continual attribution of comments to individuals. Provide a summary.
Should I use an active or passive voice when taking minutes?
Passive is traditional but some prefer a more active style. Key point: whichever style you choose, be consistent!
What are the 3 most important factors of note taking?
How can I contribute to the meeting and also take notes at the same time?
Periodically delegate the note taking. Ask the chair to summarise key decisions and actions for each agenda item.
Is it bad to include opinion when taking minutes?
Your opinions – yes! Expressions of concern can be noted but retain objectivity. If in doubt, consult the chair.
Is bullet pointing in your minutes a yes or no?
It’s a maybe. Bullet point lists – where appropriate – can aid clarity and break up bulk text but don’t overuse.
What should I do if I am asked to change the minutes after they have been signed?
Don’t! Changes require a resolution amending or rescinding the previous decision to be taken at the next meeting.
What do I do if the chair deals with the agenda item in a different order to the one expected?
Follow the flow of discussion in your notes, write the minutes to reflect the way the meeting actually happened.
What do I do if the content of my minutes is changed?
The chair makes the final decision about what is included. If in doubt, consult the chair.