Stand me (minutes) to the end of time

With apologies to Leonard Cohen.Old Face

Meeting minutes/notes are one of those painful realities of office and organizational life, and a reading set of poorly written minutes is more painful than having your foot run over by a clown with a high pitched laugh in a zamboni. Basically, your minutes should be a snapshot of a brief moment in your organization’s life at which some decisions were made or actions set out to be undertaken; the minutes are a historical record for posterity.


List who was in attendance.
Follow the outline of the agenda (yes, it is helpful to have an agenda) to help define the sections of your minutes.
If it is pertinent, note the main speaker(s) of a section.
Capture each main speaker’s thoughts in one or two sentences.
Note the decision and/or action that came about as a result.
If somebody is speaking in circles, which usually happens more often than not, as it is human nature to try to communicate the same idea through a variety of different combinations of words and examples, it is okay to sit back and not type/write for as long as necessary.

And so on to the next section….

For example:

L. Cohen spoke about the importance of songwriting as a bastion for poetry in the twenty-first century.

E. Harris asked whether songwriting could be considered poetry. L. Cohen advised that poetry and songwriting were the same thing.

Discussion ensued relative to songwriting.

Action: L. Cohen and E. Harris will collaborate on a new song.


Note that I broke up the sentences with a lot of white space (i.e., left a line in between sections of what would likely have been significant chunks of conversation) to help make the minutes easier to read.

Which leads me to the Don’ts:

Don’t write long paragraphs (this was the impetus of my blog today as I came across minutes that were overly wordy, and unnecessarily lengthy).
Don’t write every single little point; you just want the gist of things at best.
Don’t write down emotional statements (be objective!).
Don’t feel obligated to give everyone a soapbox in the minutes; if they aren’t saying something pertinent, they’re not making the who’s who.
Don’t write a narrative, let alone verbatim. The only time Hansard (verbatim) minutes are used is in parliament, and your meeting is not that (even if the meeting chair thinks it is).


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