In my experience, taking minutes of a meeting is a thankless task. The only time you are likely to hear anything about the minutes you’ve taken is when you’ve made a mistake. Few people will sing your praises because you did a good job of taking the minutes. And let’s face it; taking minutes is not all that exciting. You’re there to capture what other people say, not to come up with your own ideas. You have to pay attention the whole time you’re at the meeting and not let your mind wander. While other meeting participants can sit back and relax, you can’t. And when everyone walks out of the room when the meeting is over, you still have a lot of work ahead of you. You have to review and edit your notes, complete the minutes, and distribute them.
I remember working in an organization some years ago where no one on our senior management team was designated to take the minutes of our meetings. We were supposed to rotate the task. But there were some members of our team who always had a reason that they could not take the minutes. They weren’t very good writers, they’d say. Or they were really busy. Or they were going to have to leave the meeting early. Whenever the question of who would take the minutes came up at the start of the meeting, which it inevitably did, they would rifle through their notes or jot something in their padfolios to avoid eye contact with the rest of us sitting at the conference table. And I must admit, too, much as it pains me, that a few of the older men on the team held fast to the idea that the task of taking minutes was more suitable for a female colleague.
The people who take the minutes of our meetings are doing an important and valuable service for us. If you’ve never had to take minutes, think about how different their experiences at meetings are from yours. Be grateful that you don’t have to be the one to take the minutes. Thank them for what they are doing to support you and your colleagues. Compliment them on their excellent minutes. And when you do, smile warmly and mean it. — Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com