It came to me the other day, when an acquaintance was asking for assistance with her Committee’s minutes, on how to best help someone who is not familiar with minute-taking. You see, I have a sandwich theory of essay writing, which I will expound another time in another post, but it’s about keeping it simple. I’ll call this the trifle theory of minute taking (and scroll to the bottom for my terrible trifle joke).
Think of each item on your agenda as a trifle (that’s right, the dessert). You know how a trifle is several precise layers custard, jelly, and cake? The minutes of a meeting are a careful reflection of what happened at a meeting. And so your meeting minutes don’t escape you like a sloppy joe, keep those reflections, carefully layered, in the same manner each time, for each item, so that it is easy to refer back to them for decisions made and actions needing to be taken. Remember that minutes really are about decisions and action items.
The Trifle Theory
1. Custard: Main Speaker’s main thoughts (1-2 sentences),
2. Jelly: Decision (if any)
*You can also note that great catch-all here: “Discussion ensued relative to the topic.” Maybe throw a speaker or two a bone if they actually said something pertinent.*
3. Cake: Action (if any)
That’s it; it’s that simple.
Layer each agenda item in the minutes in this way; people will appreciate the consistency (yes, there’s that word again!) and will actually find your meeting minutes useful.
Ok, now for the joke:
A plane crashes in the middle of the desert, and three guys survive the crash and are wandering the desert, looking for food and water. They are hungry and thirsty, and the sun is blazing down on them.
After several hours of wandering, they see what looks like palm trees swaying in the distance. They rub their eyes, thinking that the sun has gotten to them and they are seeing a mirage, but sure enough, as they draw near, an oasis looms in front of them.
As they walk up to the oasis, they notice that there is a small market right at the entrance, and they are thrilled because finally they can get something to eat and to drink.
They wander over to the first stall, and see that all the guy is selling is custard.
They say, “nope, this isn’t what we need, let’s try the next stall!”
So they go up to the next stall, and see that all the guy there is selling is jelly.
So they give this stall a pass and go to the third.
At the third stall, they see the merchant is selling cake.
One fellow turns to the other two and says, “You know what, I think this is a trifle bazaar!”