Taking minutes of a meeting on a laptop computer

Ann from Presque Isle, Maine in the United States has asked for tips about taking minutes on a laptop computer.

The trick here is to prepare in advance. If you prepare the agenda and make it very detailed, then when the meeting is running, all you have to do is fill in the gaps on the agenda document and it becomes the minutes.

Most minute takers I know who move to taking minutes on a laptop, never go back to doing it manually.

Remember the key understanding you must have about minutes is that minutes are a record of what is decided and what is done, NOT what is said. Once you have that understanding then taking minutes on a computer is a breeze because you simply capture main points during discussion and then the final decision and then the action that is required.

People who have the most difficulty with minutes whether they are manual or on a computer are those who try to capture what people say – and this is not what minutes should be.

A great advantage of taking minutes on a laptop is that there is no transcribing later – a huge time saver!. You may need to edit slightly but it’s a much easier task than trying to transcribe handwritten notes.

I have been training in minute taking for over 25 years and now, about 70% of the minute takers I meet take their minutes directly onto a laptop and would never go back to handwriting.

It may take a person not used to a laptop a couple of meetings to get used to the idea of taking minutes directly onto the laptop but it is worth persevering.

There are other hidden advantages also. People who take minutes on a laptop are generally more highly regarded by the other people in a meeting than those who hand write minutes – it sounds crazy I know, but it’s true.

Also, if you do the minutes on a laptop, you can distribute them very soon after the meeting and that goes down very well indeed. It is ridiculous, but true, that minute takers are judged by the time it takes the minutes to be distributed far more than they are judged by the content of the minutes! The reason is that almost no-one reads the minutes, but they know when they receive them!

Please Note: The author accepts no responsibility for anything which occurs directly or indirectly as a result of using any of the suggestions or procedures detailed in this blog. All suggestions and procedures are provided in good faith as general guidelines only and should be used in conjunction with relevant legislation, constitutions, rules, laws, by-laws, and with reasonable judgement.

8 Comments »

  1. avatar Harry Waisbren Says:

    I can very easily imagine that, in this day and age, 70% of minute takers do take their minutes directly onto a laptop, “and would never go back to handwriting.” A meeting’s historical record can be so important, and a laptop helps in so many different ways, that purism just can not suffice as a rationale.

    However, I find it particularly telling that the trick to taking minutes is “to prepare in advance.” This manifests itself in so many different ways, yet larger than examples like using the agenda to set up your format (much less bringing a laptop in the first place), the key I see is to take the craft of minute-taking seriously enough to achieve the full extent of its value.

    Check out my review of the book “Taking Minutes of Meetings” for a discussion of why, and how, this craft can be so valuable:
    http://www.qworky.com/blog/2010/04/qworky-review-taking-minutes-of-meetings/

  2. avatar Rick Says:

    As an IT professional, I actually disagree with the idea of laptops at meetings for any reason. A paper and pen won’t crash and are far less intrusive to the flow of a meeting than a person hunched behind the screen of a notebook tapping at the keys and trying to pay attention at the same time.

  3. avatar Meeting Software Says:

    I always late to come my meetings but your post is too good.

  4. avatar ouractionlist Says:

    we advise to fill in the action list together and fill in during the meeting. Say iPad is ideal and at the end of the meeting you can open the action list on your pc and go through it.
    And if one person takes notes avoids everyone playing around

  5. avatar Gail Says:

    Do minutes need to be signed by the President & the Secretary?
    And if so, can our 1st VP, who is chairing our AGM, sign them?

  6. avatar Heather Says:

    Is there a good template for agenda and minute taking when we do almost all meetings via telconference? I am looking for a good format to implement.

  7. avatar walktall Says:

    Use a table format.
    If you email me I can send you something.
    david@davidprice.com

  8. avatar Samantha Gumede Says:

    Good day Sir.

    My name is Samantha working for the huge and respected company, i’m currently a secretary by designation.
    I have a huge problem when its comes to minutes taking, i usually use my phone to record and pretype later on i can’t decide or i don’t know the format i should be utilizing…please assist me

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