Writing minutes – it’s easy!

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    Writing minutes - it's easy!

Writing minutes – this is how it’s easy!

If you document meetings, discussions and meetings accurately, you are literally in control! You determine the basis on which decisions are made in the future. So writing protocols is worthwhile. My top five tips for doing so:

1. Negotiate in advance with your future readers, how long the minutes should be.

This is the best way to avoid minutes that are too long or too short and the subsequent grumbling about them: Ask how many pages the participants in the conversation are willing to read. A limitation to 1 page for example means that not every contribution is mentioned, but only a rough course of the conversation is outlined.

Everyone understands terms such as "minutes of results" or "minutes of proceedings" differently, but a page limit sends a clear signal as to what the minutes will look like later on.

If that’s not possible, here are 2 extra tips:

  • Yes, the level of detail can vary from item to item. You don’t have to use the same "zoom" everywhere.
  • As a rule of thumb, the more conflictual a conversation situation, the more detailed your readers will want it to be. You want to know exactly who represents which position and why. Conversely, the more agreement or a factual, constructive problem-solving mode prevails, the less detailed it needs to be.

2. Just don’t write everything down – use "sorting tables" instead.

If you write everything down, you have already lost. Minutes work with abbreviations and summaries. It is important to filter out what is relevant and to note it down in bullet points, and to do so in the way you want to read it later on.

80% of all meetings are "problem solving" meetings. People come together to find the best solution together. This results in a filter: Everything that does not serve the purpose of finding the best solution can be discarded.

Such problem-solving conversations usually go through chaotic phases: Proposals come to the table, are cross-commented, accepted, further developed or discarded. For all the chaos, though, it’s individual suggestions that meet with feedback. More not! This is exactly what I can cool map in a table: List all suggestions horizontally, sort the feedback below vertically, agreeing arguments get a smiley, disagreeing arguments get a hanging mouth – or whatever takes their fancy.

The logic here is that even as I’m taking notes, I’m sorting chaotic conversations into exactly the structure I want to read them in later. Saves tons of time in taking minutes!

3. Intervene when the red thread breaks.

While this should be done by the person leading the discussion, as the minute taker, they are the first to notice when:

  • The conversation bounces from pebble to pebble
  • A new barrel is opened
  • A person speaking is unclear
  • No significant solution has been found yet

Be brave when "stop calling! My experience: All participants of the conversation will thank you for it.

4. Write the result first.

A little trick that massively speeds up your transcript. You start "at the bottom" so to speak: You first write the result, the decision, the agreements made AND THEN the necessary things about the course of the conversation. This maps HOW the result was obtained.

If you proceed in such a way, you will represent the course of the conversation quite concentrated and so reduced. Your minutes get bite, traction and shape.

And you manage to map even complex conversations with a minimum of time and effort.

5. Avoid passive voice where possible.

… the questionnaires were without consultation with employees developed. As a result there was criticism and lack of cooperation. It is suggested, that the questionnaires once again be revised. Then should the final decision-making authority be granted. Through it Are Hopefully more accurate survey results achieves.

Here’s how many minutes read – and here’s how they work as a sleep aid. Passive makes the reader passive. So, wherever possible, name horse and rider. And paraphrase those present with any label that allows the active, for example:

… the questionnaires have been developed by the HR department without consultation with the employees. As a result, they expressed criticism and showed a lack of cooperation. We decided today: The team itself is to review the questionnaires again by 15. June. HR can then decide what to adopt from it. In this way, we can all – hopefully – achieve more accurate survey results.

Got it? Good luck!

Do you have many people writing minutes?? Want consistency, stringency and increased utility in your documentation? Then book the workshop Tools for great minutes – guaranteed worthwhile!

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