Being able to confidently take accurate minutes at meetings is a vital skill for anyone in the secretarial profession.
Minute taking is usually part of a secretary’s
daily workload and
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meetings can vary from
informal team get-togethers to major conferences involving senior members of
an organisation, so having the confidence
to produce a comprehensive account of what has taken place is essential.
Kerrie Fuller, membership manager at the Professional Institute of Administrators,
said that although the days of taking dictation are gone for secretarial professionals, minute taking remains an extremely important skill.
“It is definitely on the increase and it’s definitely a skill that a lot of employers are saying candidates don’t necessarily come to a job with,” she explained.
“It takes a lot of practice to be able to take really good minutes.”
It is a skill which has to be learnt, Ms Fuller insisted, so enrolling on a minute taking course may be advisable if you have never tried to record the details of a meeting.
Experience of recording the details of a meeting is also necessary for secretarial professionals to become really adept at the skill, while knowledge of a sector also helps.
Ms Fuller explained that people in meetings often use acronyms and jargon, so secretarial staff need to learn the terminology to be able to take good notes.
Concision And Brevity.
There is a skill to taking good minutes beyond translating what people have said, according to the expert.
“Most people think minutes are about actually writing down every single thing that was said and who said it – pretty much transcribing the whole conversation – people tend to forget that the idea of minute taking is trying to record major decisions that have been made and actions as to who is going to do what,” Ms Fuller explained.
Minutes are used to call people to account, so it is vital that they are accurate, according to the expert.
“The important thing about minutes is to be as brief and concise as possible,” she added.
“You really have to listen and pick out the key points.”
Good minutes should include details of the major conversations and discussion points, what decisions were made and who was assigned to particular tasks.
“The best minutes may only be a page or two pages long, but they’ve got everything in there that keeps things moving forward,” Ms Fuller explained.
Another aspect of minute taking that secretarial staff should remember is the allocation of time to type up the notes following the meeting.
Ms Fuller recommended that notes are transcribed immediately after the conference is over for two reasons.
Firstly, it means that the job is done and can be crossed off the list of things to do that day.
Secondly, the conversations and discussions will still be fresh in your mind when you come to write your notes up, so even if they are extremely brief in some places, you are likely to remember what they refer to.
She added that secretarial professionals should also email the minutes out to anyone present at the meeting straight away so that everyone is away of what actions have been assigned to them.
When it comes to taking minutes, most people have their own individual techniques, some simply writing bullet points, some using initialling, others recording the meeting on a Dictaphone and then typing up notes from that.
“I can’t help but think that if employers saw shorthand on someone’s CV, they would think ‘wow, they actually went the extra mile, they went above and beyond what we were asking for – they can do it to a certain speed and a certain accuracy’ – and obviously speed and accuracy are two things that employers are looking for,” she explained.
Ms Fuller added that people who have been on a minute taking course tend to be more marketable when it comes to applying for a job.
“It’s a non-essential but it does make you stand out,” she concluded.