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How to take minutes without getting stressed…

Dear H2

I've just taken on a new job within the same organisation, and when I was interviewed, I said that I had plenty of experience taking and writing up minutes. Unfortunately this was a bit of an exaggeration, as I've only done it a couple of times for really small meetings.

I'm going to have to take the minutes at a large and important board meeting in a few weeks, and I'm starting to feel really stressed about it. Can you offer any tips for helping me to stay calm, and to look like I know what I'm doing?!

Yours in anticipation - N

Dear N

Although it's tempting to embelish your experience at interview, you're now experiencing the downside...! However, don't fret, as minute taking is one of those things that can feel more daunting than it actually is on the day.

Our first suggestion is to have a brief meeting with the chair, and to discuss the agenda and the likely content of the discussions. Being forewarned of the possible discussions will mean that you're better prepared. Also try to get a list of names of the people coming, and use this when the meeting starts as a template for noting who's present/absent. You may also find it easier taking notes on separate pieces of paper for each agenda item.

If you went to college, you will have had plenty of practice at note-taking. The skill is learning not to write everything down that everybody says. This in itself can be stressful, as unless you are competent at shorthand or speedwriting, you are likely to fall behind. Instead, you need to listen out for the most pertinent points, and just note them down in a way that you can recall the details when you come to write them up.

Finally, it would be a good idea to get the views of the chair and/or the participants as to the level of detail needed in the final written document. It will be really frustrating to find after producing several detailed pages of minutes, that they simply want a note of the key action points!

Lots of luck...

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