Love it or loathe it, minute-taking a job that most assistants will have to do.  I’m perhaps in the minority, but I’ve always enjoyed minute-taking.  I liken it to being in the engine room of the business – you get to witness key decisions being taken and know everything that is going on.

Minute-taking is a real skill. It requires a ‘way with words’ and the ability to decipher the decisions from the drivel.  It’s no easy task.

Here are my top tips for taking minutes:

  • Produce a template
    • Most companies will have templates already set up for minute taking. These should include the date, time, location and attendees. Each section should be numbered and include a column to note any actions.
  • Is the meeting internal or formal?
    • Action points, in the form of a bulleted list, are generally used for internal meetings so attendees can quickly establish what was discussed and what they need to do. For example, “MG to circulate the proposal to the team”.
    • Formal minutes are lengthier with full sentences. Some companies prefer to use full names as opposed to initials. For example, “it was agreed that Ms Gibson would circulate the proposal to the team”.
  • Structure each section
    • Right at the start of each section of the minutes, the reader should know exactly what is to be achieved. Begin each section with a sentence outlining its purpose. For example, “The Board reviewed the draft budget, with particular reference to recommendations X, Y and Z”.
    • If the section has an accompanying paper that has been well written, you should find the purpose of the section and any recommendations in there, which you can then add to the minutes.
    • If the section was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation, you may wish to add “see presentation attached” and attach a copy to the minutes. Readers can then refer to the presentation for the detail.
    • Write the discussion – but keep it brief. Identifying the key discussion points takes real skill.  Nobody wants to read pages and pages of discussion. Review what you’ve written – if you took a couple of points out, would anyone miss them? If not, they aren’t key discussion points.
    • Summarise the section with what was agreed. If anything was approved, the decision should be recorded in the minutes.  If there were any further outcomes, these should also be recorded in the minutes.
  • Check the style
    • Formal minutes are a report of what happened during a particular period of time. Therefore, they are always written in the past tense. For example:
      • “is” should be “was”;
      • “will” should be “would” or “would be”.
    • Get creative with your words. I never use the word “said” – just my personal style, but there are so many better ways to word your sentence. Try “reported”, “stated”, “advised”, “confirmed”.  Synonyms come in useful here!
    • Try to limit the amount of “he” and “she”. It makes the minutes sound too subjective. For example, “Mr Smith advised that he was not in favour. He would prefer his alternative solution”, becomes, “Mr Smith was not in favour of the proposal and put forward an alternative solution”. Again, this is personal style, but it does sound more professional.
  • Ask for help
    • I frequently listen to someone presenting… and haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. I usually find clues in their presentations or by reading the papers they have produced for the meeting. However, if you’re still stuck, ask that person to explain it to you. They can often give you a couple of sentences to put into the minutes.
  • Read it and read it again
    • I read my minutes thoroughly at least twice before I’m happy for anyone else to read them. Go through every sentence to make sure it makes sense and that the spelling/grammar is correct.
    • If something you have written sounds vague, either restructure it to add some detail or delete it. Refer to the accompanying papers to help you with the detail.
    • Is it your best work and are you proud of what you have produced? What you’ve written is a reflection of your standards – set them high! Hand them over when you’re happy with them.
    • If you’re satisfied with your work, forward it to the executives that attended the meeting to check the detail. It can then go to the meeting chairman for sign-off.

Exec Angels are currently offering a short online course in Minute Taking through New Skills Academy for only £17.82 (RRP £99.00).  Check it out on our website via

Good luck!!