How to Take Minutes Like a Pro
Note-taking is a skill that everyone approaches differently, which can cause issues within company meetings. Every meeting participant taking notes in the same meeting can produce a wide range of notes, all with varying levels of detail — and that means varying levels of usefulness.
The detail junkies will give you comprehensive notes, sure, but sometimes there’s such a thing as too much detail… perhaps a detailed summary on how everyone’s weekend went isn’t really relevant to the business’ current quarterly objectives. On the other side of this, you have the doodlers — the ones who ended up doodling around the few notes they did take. They were listening, but they just gave up trying to keep up with the fast pace of the meeting. If you wanted some abstract art, however, they’re your go-to.
And then you have the messy writers. The ones who scribble down their notes as if their life depends on it. They could keep up with the changing topics of the meeting, meaning they took some pretty helpful notes, but their notes won’t be very useful unless you have the patience to decipher them!
Getting the perfect notes and meeting minutes isn’t easy when there’s no standardised method. After all, taking minutes like a pro takes some practice. But this guide can help. Here, we’ll go into some of the ways you can take minutes effectively, with the right level of detail so you don’t have to do any cutting down or deciphering.
Meeting minutes in your business
Keeping track of everything that happens each meeting is a long-winded process, and it’s easy to question whether it’s worth your while. You’ll be pleased to know that the simple answer is yes, and here’s why.
Even with individual team members taking private meeting notes, you’ll never be able to capture the meat of your meetings otherwise. By comparison, meeting minutes provide a comprehensive record, bringing benefits that include:
- Detailed notes for anyone who didn’t attend
- Reliable references for all ideas
- Proof of conversations/deliberations
- A verifiable way to chart your business trajectory
- A comprehensive tracking of your progress
Taking meeting minutes like a pro
Now you know why you should be taking minutes, it’s time to consider how you can do so like a pro. By perfecting this practice, minutes never need to inconvenience you again. So how you can stay on top of the minute game without stressing yourself out?
Think about your format
We’ve all seen Victorian-style films with a dedicated meeting scribe scribbling away with their quill, haven’t we? Now, though, longhand isn’t always the best meeting go-to. As such, any expert minute takers need to consider format from the off.
In many cases, longhand isn’t viable or even necessary anymore. Attempting to capture the action this way leaves you at risk of not participating and even missing vital information. But you’ll be pleased to hear that there are many better minutes alternatives.
Recording a meeting is the most viable contender for modern attention. Whether you invest in a dedicated recording machine or use your phone for the purpose, this could see you fully integrated into meetings while still retaining reliable records. You’ll need to consider transcription to transfer said recording into writing later, but we’ll discuss that later in this article.
It’s also possible to hire a live notetaker who can tackle this for you. That way, you can host meetings without distraction while still enjoying detailed notes every time. Given that such a person does this for a living, you can even bet that those minutes will be top quality without fail, especially if you use a trusted and well-reviewed service.
Prioritise your documents
You should also think about the documents you prioritise during your notetaking. Minutes should, of course, be comprehensive, but it isn’t possible or even useful to log everything that happens. While it is possible to eliminate unnecessary information during the transcription process (again, more on that later), it’s worth sparing some thoughts here when you’re taking minutes too.
The best thing to do is to consider what you need, rather than what you don’t. Some essential information in any meeting includes:
- Date/time of the meeting
- List of attendees and job titles
- Board of directors
- Actions proposed
- Actions taken
- Any voting outcomes
- New business
Focusing your minutes around these factors can make it easier for you to perfect the process, and make for a more informative, useful read later on.
Using a meeting minutes template can be useful both when taking minutes and transcribing them. By providing sample minutes and general outlines, templates like these can speed up even a longhand notetaking process. They can also help you to make sure you’re capturing all the necessary information.
It’s now possible to find countless basic templates online, many of which will likely suit your business after just minor tweaking. If you can’t find an option that suits, you can even use them as basic guidelines to develop a template that fits in your particular business setting.
While templates are invaluable if you’re taking minutes yourself, they can also be a massive help in the case of outside live notetakers. By providing an outline of everything you need from your minutes, you can make sure that the service you use understands precisely what you’re hoping to achieve. This can ensure you get the best minutes possible!
Converting your recordings into minutes
To ensure inclusive minutes that you can use, it’s also vital that you consider conversion. This is especially the case if you record meetings, but it also matters where longhand is concerned. In many ways, your transcription process is at the heart of minute success.
Considering the need for conversion during your minute taking process itself is the first step towards getting this right. You need to make neat notes or recordings that are as easy as possible to convert into a cohesive document. Then, you need to think about your transcription itself.
Given how much work you’ve put into minutes so far, you may find that turning to an outside transcription service for this part of the process is your best option. This can significantly lighten the minute load, as well as ensuring you achieve a professional finish on your efforts thus far.
Services like these offer various types of transcription to meet your needs. In most cases, a transcript provider will offer a choice between ‘full-verbatim’ and ‘verbatim’ transcripts, the latter of which is also referred to as intelligent verbatim, clean verbatim, and more. As you can guess from the name, a full-verbatim service typically captures everything, including the ‘um’s and ‘ahh’s and hesitations you likely decided weren’t necessary during your documentation process. By comparison, a verbatim transcript achieves accurate recordings without unnecessary additions, even when you’ve recorded an entire meeting, which may be the better option.
However, some services will provide a ‘detailed notes’ option which will trim the fat from your recording, leaving only the essentials. Similar to a verbatim transcript, only the relevant information you want will be left in and off-topic chit chat removed. This may be your best option for getting detailed meeting minutes that still contain the value you need.
Alternatively, some transcription services will provide a dedicated meeting minutes option that will ensure you get high-quality and accurate minutes for your business. These services will send a live notetaker to your meeting and they will note down everything needed to create the meeting minutes document you need. This removes any of the hassle of recording the meeting and sending it off for transcription. Instead, everyone can contribute to the meeting without distraction and the meeting minutes will be provided within a few days.
Perfecting minutes at last
Make no mistake about it — taking minutes is tough. Even when you know how to capture meeting minutes like a pro, you’re at risk of long-winded processes that set back your business operations.
That’s why it’s vital you pair these tips with external transcription services that can provide you with the best minutes possible, every single time. No matter the service you choose, ensure you do your research on the quality of the service and the types of transcription they can offer, so you can get the best meeting minutes possible.