The secretary as a minute taker – how professional minutes are created

Writing minutes in meetings is one of the tasks of secretaries. But is it as simple as it sounds? What to watch out for when taking minutes? What is the verbatim record, minutes of decisions, minutes of proceedings, minutes of results, and minutes of remembrance?? All the questions that arise on the subject of minutes and examples of them, the team of Workingoffice has summarized in this article.

The job of a secretary is varied and diverse. Globalization and digitalization have continuously changed the areas of responsibility of the assistant in the office. In office management, she organizes the secretariat professionally, creates successful presentations and can demonstrate extensive knowledge in general office communication and in the preparation of minutes.

After years of professional experience, in many cases she has a high level of competence in the Office. For this reason she is appreciated by superiors and management for her proactive work. Despite her wide-ranging responsibilities and future-oriented tasks, a secretary has above all core competencies in the classic administrative areas of responsibility.

What are the tasks of the secretary?

These are for example about creating and correcting correspondence in the company. Her administrative activities also include office filing or organizing time management. An essential field of her work is furthermore the professional creation of protocols.

The word protocol originally comes from ancient Greek. It referred to a sheet glued to papyrus scrolls that included bibliographic content. Later on the word was used for a chronological sequence. The term protocol still has this meaning today.

Is taking minutes difficult?

At first, taking minutes and keeping minutes may not sound very lucrative. Minutes are important for transparency reasons and to confirm decisions for companies of all sizes. For this reason, superiors and management expect secretaries to be noticeably careful and accurate when taking minutes.

Which questions should be dealt with in the preparation of minutes??

A secretary or an assistant should be concerned mainly with the following questions due to the high demands on transcripts in the company:

  • What should an assistant keep in mind when taking minutes?
  • What types of minutes can be distinguished and what form of minutes is purposeful?
  • How to create the final minutes in the aftermath of a meeting or a meeting?
  • What added value is created in the office when a high level of attention is paid to the protocol??

Preparation and follow-up of meetings: What should the secretary pay attention to?

The organization of meetings or discussions belongs to the daily business of a secretary. With the information about the necessity of a meeting by the supervisor, the preparation begins for the assistant. In most cases, the typical cascade from meeting preparation to follow-up looks like this:

Preparing for meetings

  • Creating a fact-based written invitation.
  • Booking an internal or external meeting room.
  • Arrangement of the necessary technology (beamer, loudspeakers, blackout, sound equipment).
  • Organization and ordering of catering (sandwiches, conference drinks).
  • Preparation of the places with pens, notepads, name tags.
  • Checking the acceptances after sending the written invitation. Organize for participants.
  • Making a list of participants for the supervisor and for signature.
  • Reminder email or "save the date" message to participants.
  • Preparing agenda items and creating a written agenda for the meeting.
  • Print out the protocol template. Provide sufficient writing utensils to ensure that the minutes are goal-oriented.
  • With the protocol type word protocol: Check the dictation machine and make sure that the power supply of the device is sufficient.

Conducting the meeting – taking minutes of details and resolutions

  • Agree on the type of minutes with the supervisor.
  • Taking minutes.
  • Recording blackboard pictures, flipcharts or presentations by means of a camera. (Presentations should be made available for archiving by the seminar leader if required)

Follow-up of the meeting

  • Check transcript of the minutes and prepare final minutes.
  • Highlight resolutions and goals, aligned with the transcript type.
  • Correction of the minutes by the supervisor.
  • Sending the minutes in consultation to all or selected participants.
  • Selecting attachments or abstracts from presentations.
  • Account assignment and payment of possible invoices for catering or room rentals.
  • Archiving of the original minutes digitally or in a meeting file.

Based on the process and tasks involved in taking minutes, one can see the high level of responsibility of the assistant. Not in every case she will organize the meeting on her own responsibility besides taking the minutes. If she is responsible for parts of the organization, there must be a comprehensible agreement with the employees in the secretariat who are responsible for the planning details.

Significant questions to ask before taking minutes

As a minute-taker, it is important in any case to focus on the original questions concerning the taking of minutes:

  • What requirements does the supervisor have for the minutes?
  • What form of minutes should be taken?
  • Who corrects the minutes before sending them out??
  • Which participants should receive a copy of the minutes and other attachments?

Preparing to take minutes – details that matter

An assistant who takes the minutes should make sure she has written materials that work. A spare pen, enough paper or a continuous power supply for the notebook are essential for success. If problems arise due to a defective ballpoint pen or a laptop with a flat battery, this distracts the participants. At the same time, you disrupt the flow of the meeting. Also, erroneous results in the protocol are possible due to distractions.

A secretary who prepares herself sufficiently for taking minutes acts purposefully. This also includes switching off cell phones and minimizing sources of interference as much as possible. If the assistant acts in this way, the conditions are positive that he or she can produce a content-rich and fact-oriented record of the meeting.

What types of minutes are distinguished in the secretariat?

Minutes are created primarily for reasons of transparency. Based on the transcript of a meeting, participants can understand long after a meeting what content and agenda items were discussed.

By taking minutes of the results or the decisions made, all participants of the meeting have the same basis. In addition to the question of how protocols should be structured in terms of content, it is just as important to decide on a suitable protocol form. The various types of minutes differ in terms of their scope and content.

For this reason you should make a clear decision about the protocol form in consultation with the superior before a meeting.

  • Word log
  • Resolution protocol
  • Progress log
  • Results log
  • Memory protocol

The verbatim protocol – comprehensive and detail-oriented

To write a word protocol or full protocol represents the most extensive protocol form. The term verbatim record implies that the exact wording of all speeches is to be recorded in this type of record. For the secretary this means to concentrate with full concentration on the entire communication in the meeting.

Important points to include

Verbatim minutes include taking notes of the following:

  • The explicit wording of the speeches.
  • The complete formulation of the discussion.
  • Meeting disruptions or nonverbal reactions from participants.

Tips to complete the word protocol

Since it is almost impossible to cover all these points at the same time and to keep track of the complete verbal and non-verbal communication, technical aids can support the keeping of the minutes in a sustainable way. A common tool is a voice recorder. It is able to save the verbal statements of the participants and subsequently transfer them to the written protocol.

Dictaphones or recording recorders are also part of modern smartphones. Cell phones are for this reason alternatively to be used in the meeting for taking minutes. The basic prerequisite is that the telephone is switched to silent to avoid disturbances. If the assistant uses a voice recorder, she gains time to focus on the nonverbal responses and record them in detail.

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The verbatim protocol is the most comprehensive protocol of all. Read how and where to use it © Dean Drobot – Shutterstock

The most comprehensive type of protocol

The verbatim protocol is the most time-consuming form of protocol due to its volume. At the same time, this type of protocol guarantees that no detail of a meeting is lost. It is crucial for secretaries to follow citation rules when taking this form of minutes.

For taking the minutes, this means consistently assigning speeches or interjections to individual speakers. In this way, all the details of the meeting are recorded professionally and can be traced at any time afterwards.

Areas of application for a verbatim record

Because of the extensive time required to prepare them, verbatim minutes are not suitable for every meeting or discussion. Especially in meetings with many agenda items and sprawling discussions, verbatim minutes can seem cluttered. Companies use the verbatim protocol primarily for meetings in which explosive or serious decisions are to be made.

Example occurrence of a word protocol

An example would be a decision on restructuring a company, with lawyers, the works council and the management present.

The verbatim log would be the tool of choice in this case to eliminate later irritation and litigation regarding decisions. For the same reason, a verbal protocol is also used in court hearings.

The structure of a verbatim record:

  1. The Minutes header Should include the location, date, names of those present, name of the minute taker, and the beginning and end of the meeting.
  2. Agenda items – in chronological order.
  3. A detailed, verbatim account of the meeting proceedings. Additionally recording non-verbal communication, gestures, disruptions or interruptions. The aim should be to give a detailed and factually correct account of the proceedings of the session.
  4. Signature the minute taker and the supervisor.

The resolution protocol – reduced and result-oriented

A resolution protocol describes a minimalistic and simple protocol form. Instead of describing details of the communication or the process leading up to the decision, a decision protocol contains only the following content:

  1. The Minutes header should include the place, date, names of those present, name of the minute taker, and the beginning and end of the meeting.
  2. Agenda items – arranged in chronological order.
  3. Recording the wording of resolutions passed and their voting results
  4. Signature of the minute taker and the supervisor.

The progress protocol – process-oriented and well thought-out

If only the course of the meeting is to be recorded instead of complete dialogs, a progress log is usually created. The secretary will record the essential information in a process-oriented and factual manner. Participants’ contributions are summarized in bullet points and chronologically. This form of taking minutes allows the exact course of the discussion to be traced long after a meeting has taken place.

In addition to the results and resolutions, the progress log focuses on the path to goal setting. The secretary should use the grammatical tense present and indirect speech for this goal-oriented form of protocol.

For companies, a progress protocol is especially interesting when the finding of results is essential. The course of the discussion and the submissions of participants is decided in many cases. This is especially the case if, in the further course, the evidence for a statement is an important criterion.

The structure of a progress log:

  1. The Minutes header Should include the place, date, names of those present, name of the minute taker, and the beginning and end of the meeting.
  2. Agenda items – arranged in chronological order.
  3. The course of the decision-making process and of the resolution as a factual description in the present tense.
  4. Signature the minute taker and the supervisor.

Writing the results protocol – clear focus on decisions and results

A results protocol should be chosen if the decisions and results of a meeting are to be recorded. The wording of statements and speeches is not recorded in the results log. It is written in bullet point form and focuses on the goal of recording decisions in a professional and factual manner.

The path to the decision or details of the communication are not included in this form of protocol. A results protocol is used above all for meetings in which extensive decisions are to be announced in the minutes.

The structure of a results protocol:

  1. The Minutes header should contain the place, date, names of those present, name of the minute-taker and the beginning and end of the meeting.
  2. Agenda items – arranged in chronological order.
  3. Logging the results in factual, objective and bullet point form.
  4. Signature of the minute taker and the supervisor.

Writing the minutes in memory – error-prone and subjective

It may happen in rare cases that at the beginning of a meeting no employee has been appointed to take the minutes. If this becomes apparent during the course of the meeting, a memory protocol may be a useful alternative to the above protocol forms that is also prone to error.

In the case of the memory protocol, the minute-taker remembers relevant points and records them based on his memories. For this reason, no chronological processes or details can be found in the memory protocol. A memory protocol has a subjective effect on participants, as it is created from the perspective of the minute-taker. For this reason, the minutes cannot reflect in their entirety what objectively took place in the meeting.

The probative value of a memorial record is low. It is contestable, because it is created from memory only after the meeting. Furthermore, there is a risk of presenting individual points incorrectly or exaggeratedly. For this reason, determined and professional companies with high demands should exclude this form of minutes.

The structure of a memorial protocol:

  1. The Minutes header should contain the place, date, names of those present, name of the minute-taker and the beginning and end of the meeting.
  2. Agenda items – Arranged in chronological order.
  3. Minutes of important points of the meeting from memory. Subjective Focus on decisions or incidents of the meeting.
  4. Signature of the minute taker and the supervisor.

Save and attach everything shown from the presentation

If presentations were shown in the meeting or pictures and graphics were created on the flipchart, these should be saved. In this case, for reasons of transparency, it is possible to add them as an attachment to the minutes.

At the end of the protocol, each annex should be listed independently in this case. Presentations can be printed out to save paper or sent digitally.

Example: Minutes of a works council meeting and their legal basis

In companies, minutes are usually created to present decisions and resolutions in a comprehensible manner. All participants are given the opportunity to remember the items on the agenda by writing the minutes. Outsiders who did not participate in the meeting can understand the communication and the course of the meeting on the basis of minutes.

Depending on the form of the minutes, the transcript can be rich in detail or concise and compressed. The keeping and taking of minutes is not regulated by law for companies.

This is not the case for works council meetings. If a secretary works in the works council office and on behalf of the works council, she should be familiar with the legal requirements for works councils. In addition, it should apply the minimum legal requirements for works council minutes.

Legal basis for the taking of minutes by the works council

The legal basis for the type and scope of a protocol of the works council can be found in the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG). In the § 34 BetrVG is specified:

  • Minutes must be taken of every works council meeting.
  • These must at least contain the wording of the resolutions and the majority of votes with which they were passed.
  • The minutes must be signed by the chairperson and one other member.
  • The minutes must be accompanied by an attendance list in which each participant must sign in personally.
  • If the employer or an authorized representative of a trade union took part in the meeting, the relevant part of the minutes must be handed over to him in transcript form.
  • Objections to the minutes must be raised in writing without delay; they must be attached to the minutes.

The duty to take minutes refers, among other things, to:

  • meetings of the works council,
  • Works council negotiations
  • Committee meetings and working groups.

There is no obligation to take minutes in the case of an individual discussion with an employee or negotiations with the employer.

How works council minutes should be structured

In contrast to the contents of minutes in companies, minutes of the works council should contain the following components:

  1. The Minutes header should contain the place, date, names of those present, name of the minute taker and the beginning and end of the meeting.
  2. A Attendance list must be distributed as a template at the beginning of a works council meeting. All participants should sign the list personally and confirm their participation by signature.
  3. The Head of the meeting should be recorded in the minutes.
  4. Agenda items – arranged in chronological order.
  5. Minimum requirements: Record the wording of decisions made and their voting results.
  6. Signature of the chairman of the works council and another works council member.

The protocol style can be chosen independently by the works council. For this reason, the secretary is able to choose the most suitable form from the different types of protocols in consultation. The legislator requires in the industrial constitution law at least the production of a resolution protocol.

How to create the minutes ready to send as a secretary in the aftermath of a meeting?

High quality and detailed protocols require, above all, time in preparation and follow-up, concentration and determination. Through good preparation, the assistant ensures in the first step that no disruptions occur in the session due to defective writing utensils or poor organization.

If she can follow the session undisturbed and if the protocol form was established in advance, she can record details, the course as well as results and decisions with high attention and concentration.

Protocol rules that you should follow

Your goal-oriented notes will enable you to create protocols truthfully and with depth at all times. The following protocol rules support a secretary in taking fact-oriented minutes:

Protocol style:

  • Purposeful and adapted to the goal of the meeting.
  • As short as possible and as long as necessary.
  • Oriented to facts.
  • If decisions are recorded, they should be recorded verbatim.

Writing Style:

  • Objective, truthful and factual.
  • Simple and understandable, without foreign words or nested sentences.
  • Don’t use platitudes, metaphors or long-winded examples.
  • Written in the present tense and in indirect speech.
  • Correct spelling and punctuation.


  • Logical structure and comprehensible outline of the individual agenda items.
  • Outline of the protocol visually appealing, created in a readable font.
  • Recommendation: Send it as a PDF file or letter to exclude subsequent changes.

Summary and conclusion

Minutes that are written carefully and on the basis of comprehensible protocol rules help to present decisions and resolutions in the company in a transparent manner. Taking minutes is a significant and responsible task for this reason. It should not be underestimated at any time.

As a minute taker, you face different challenges that imply good comprehension skills. In addition to a focus on the agenda, it is important to include communicative elements and structure them in the protocol. Facts must be presented truthfully and in detail. The structure of a protocol should be logical and inform the reader at a glance.

The choice between types and forms of the protocol

To ensure this, different protocol types and protocol forms can be chosen. The decision as to which form of minutes is purposeful for a meeting should be made comprehensibly on the basis of the goal of the meeting. A verbatim record is on the whole the most comprehensive and secure form of record. Every detail of a dialogue and likewise nonverbal communication is recorded and logged.

A comprehensive transcript can be made in the same way with a progress log. This form of protocol is goal-oriented, since in addition to resolutions, the path to the goal is actively described. A progress report is simpler than a verbatim report. It is especially useful for companies that find it important to record decision making.

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Depending on the event, the choice must be made beforehand on the type and form of the protocol © Neomaster – Shutterstock © Neomaster – Shutterstock

A result protocol or a resolution protocol focuses exclusively on the results and resolutions. The protocol of results is more extensive than the protocol of decisions and is written in bullet points.

Because of its subjectivity, a memory log is generally not suitable for recording resolutions, details and results in a professional manner. Attachments, such as photos, flip chart elaborations or presentations should be included with minutes for transparency reasons. In case of doubt, the supervisor should determine which attachments are significant and should be sent with the log.


Protocols are significant in the workplace environment and are a tried and true means of transparency. By her professional attitude, a fact-oriented preparation and by the correct logging of decisions a secretary contributes to the fact that minutes are not only a described sheet of paper, but have by their contents positive effects on the total enterprise.

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