Sooner or later it hits everyone once in a while – even if not gladly: writing the minutes to a meeting or a session. If not clarified beforehand, at the latest at the beginning of each meeting one of the attendees will be selected to take notes. The means of choice here are many, some still prefer pad and pen, others use text programs on notebooks or tablets, and still others record a meeting without further ado.
What is the purpose of minutes?
The minutes of a meeting or a session record their content. It is not a matter of meticulously writing down every minute, every wording. It is a matter of identifying the most important points and recording them briefly, concisely and precisely.
- What was discussed and decided?
- What to do next?
- Who has to do which task until when?
Many still feel it is an unnecessary effort and don’t see the point behind it. Especially, since often the impression arises, they are not read and disappear in dusty folders or the shallows of the e-mail inboxes. However, properly implemented, minutes are absolutely useful and support clear and efficient communication in the project:
Minutes summarize what was discussed.
In meetings that last for hours, hardly anyone remembers everything that was discussed. In the minutes, however, you can read everything again afterwards.
Minutes inform absent participants.
Not everyone who is affected by the decisions and discussions in a meeting is always present themselves. Attempting to pass on all information verbally carries the risk of misunderstandings due to "silent mail". With the help of the minutes it is not only easier, but also much faster and more comprehensive possible.
Minutes create clarity.
If there are any disagreements afterwards about who is responsible for what or why a decision was made, this can be easily clarified – just take a look at the minutes.
Minutes record the following actions and dates.
Who has to do which task and by when can be determined from the minutes, making it easy to track discussed actions and deadlines.
What types of minutes are there?
Basically there are many types of minutes. The differences lie mainly in what things are recorded in the minutes and to what extent. The most common types of minutes are the results or the minutes of the meeting. Short protocol, the progress protocol and the verbatim protocol, as well as in rare cases the memory protocol.
The Result protocol Contains only brief details about the content of the meeting and focuses on the actual results. What decisions or resolutions were made? What tasks were distributed and assigned to whom?
In the case of Progress log The most important excerpts are reproduced, but not verbatim, rather in the sense of the text. It includes the different discussions, the related arguments and counter-arguments. It shows the course of the discussion and the decision-making process.
The verbatim protocol is the most detailed and extensive protocol of all. In addition to the speakers’ remarks, all other processes during the meeting are also recorded. Here it is advisable to record the meeting in order not to omit any details.
The Memory minutes is usually written as a kind of emergency solution. It is made "from memory" after the fact, for example, because no agreement was made on how the minutes should be kept.
The most common type of minutes used for project meetings are the result or progress minutes. In addition to the differences described above, both have in common that they are intended to filter out the important from the unimportant information.
What should the minutes contain?
In addition to the previously described content of the meeting, other basic information about the meeting is also necessary in the minutes.
- Start your minutes with the date, location, names of participants, name of the minute taker (i.e. your name) and the topic of the meeting (title/objective)
- This is followed by the individual points that are addressed and discussed – with associated comments, i.e. distribution of tasks, decisions, but also counter-arguments and questions that have not yet been clarified. If you have an agenda for the meeting, it is helpful to orientate yourself by these points.
- Record what happens next, such as when the next meeting will be held to discuss progress or what results should be achieved by a certain date.
Write your minutes in the present tense, it gives the reader the impression of being there.
Use our Word template to clearly structure everything. You can download them here for free.
Writing minutes in Merlin Project – so you have everything available in one place
Do you already use Merlin Project to organize your projects?? Why don’t you add the minutes of the project meetings directly into your project plan as a file attachment?? Or they may write down what was discussed for each item in the project plan in the appendix for informational purposes. Tasks to be done insert as a checklist.
Or think out of the box: you could create project meetings as a separate task or even a milestone, assigning participants as resources, and then use the attachments in Merlin Project to record what was discussed.
Alternatively, you can also use a mind map to create a protocol.
You can download our sample project here. You can easily adapt the style to your needs, as you are used to from Merlin Project.
Tips for taking perfect notes in a meeting
The task of taking minutes is unpopular with most people because it means extra work and requires more concentration. It is no longer possible to just let yourself be distracted and participate as little as possible in the discussion. Instead, you need to pay close attention to the conversation, record the most important insights and note down decisions.
Here are some tips that can help you write the perfect transcript and thus useful minutes:
Whoever is taking the minutes should always know what is being discussed at the time. However, since you are also busy writing, you can sometimes miss something. This is not a big deal, as long as you ask questions and get all the important information. This also applies if you are unsure if you have understood a topic correctly. It’s always better to ask questions right away so you don’t accidentally include something wrong in the minutes that will cause confusion afterwards.
Use bullet points and abbreviations
To keep up with the pace of the conversation, it’s a good idea to use bullet points and abbreviations to take as little time as possible while writing. When using abbreviations, however, it is essential that you still know what you meant by them later on. Speed should therefore never be at the expense of comprehensibility.
Leave enough space on the page
Hardly anything is as annoying when writing minutes as the sentence "Once again to the topic of just…" You look at your notes and see that you’ve already started on the next topic and now have to squeeze the new information in there. Plan ahead for such a case and always leave some space where you can add further points.
Do not overdo it
The point is to record the really important decisions or task assignments. This is exactly what you should focus on. It is not necessary to write down every word, if possible, for complete minutes. Always ask yourself: what was the goal of the meeting and is the outcome evident in your minutes? After all, it should be a summary and not a word-for-word reproduction.
Stay objective and factual
As the minute-taker, you may also have the unpleasant task of recording decisions with which you may disagree. Nevertheless, objectivity is the order of the day. Emotions – whether yours or those of others involved – also have no place in the minutes. It is only about what was said. Not whether someone was angry, sad or pleased during the process.
Get brief feedback directly
At the end of the meeting, it can be useful to briefly read out your minutes again to check that everything is correct. If you do make a mistake, you can correct it right away. It also helps you remind everyone involved of what was discussed.
Do not postpone the follow-up
After the meeting, the notes have to be put into complete sentences again. This means extra work, but you should still get it done right afterwards. Even at a later stage, it still means extra effort, but by then you may have already forgotten some points you wanted to write down.
More help and information on making logs can also be found here: