Part of this investment in time is the development of a tool that you will find very, very, useful.  It is called the “Minute Taker’s Survival File” – your very own, customized ring binder containing a vast array of information. Your own experience dictates what is essential but the following are basically what you would expect to find in a reasonably complete and well organized Minute Taker’s Survival File:

  • Top of the list is your pre-designed form for minutes that you simply fill in for each agenda item is the most effort-saving tool of all. See Page 40 for an example on how agenda evolves to minutes.
  • information which are useful, like; the calendar from last year, the holidays for this state and other states is that is relevant, public holidays for this year and next year,
  • the organisation chart perhaps if that is relevant, phone numbers and fax numbers of the key people in your organisation,
  • key people external to the organization
  • if you’re in government, the ministers’ office personnel you may keep
  • the names of the key people’s partners may sometimes be relevant,
  • the last annual’s budget is something that people often call for,
  • the current budget of the organisation or the section or this particular meeting or this particular project,
  • duties statements if that is appropriate,
  • the corporate plan,
  • the mission statement,
  • the regional office numbers,
  • the internal phone directory,
  • an airline timetable can even be useful sometimes.
  • a list of abbreviations, a list of acronyms, a list of abbreviations, a list of jargon.  What I suggest you do, is start your own dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations and jargon and obviously store them alphabetically, keep the master document in your word processor that only you have access to – put a password on it and then every time you hear a new piece of jargon or a new acronym, write it down, find out what it means after the meeting and write it into your dictionary and then that goes in your Minute taker’s Survival file.  I’ll guarantee you that everyone will want a copy.
  • Other things to put in the survival file are newsletter, spare pencils, an eraser, highlighting pens and whiteboard markers. I know people who actually have in their survival file a clear plastic zip folder that clips into the ring binder, and they keep in it headache tablets, throat lozenges, and indigestion tablets because it is amazing how often people ask for something like that.  You also keep, off-course the current agenda, a copy of the last minutes and any other papers you want.

Any other pre-structured or pre-formatted documents stored in your computer that can be printed out as “templated forms” you fill in during meetings. Your preference dictates whether you use the hard or soft copy during the actual meeting.

This example shows you how the ‘Agenda’ evolves into ‘Minutes’ with ‘red italics’ showing action arising from the meeting based on the agenda.

Sample Minutes

How the agenda becomes the minutes

Everything in Arial Italics is added or changed.

The rest is as it was on the original agenda.

Rhodium Club 101       Committee Meeting Agenda      February 4th, 2009

  1. Members in attendance: Mavis Columbine (Chair), Graham Langley, David Peterson, Joan Laws, Risk Saggers, Bill Styles, Gloria Hotham ,

          Apologies: Michelle Williams, Gordon Smith, Grady Morgan

  1. Minutes of Previous meetingMinutes Approved
  2. Treasurer’s report:
  • Report Attached . Balance: $3465.12 No outstanding bills or income.
  • Statements will now be sent to Treasurer – bank has been notified
  1. Main Business
  • Agreed that a document be prepared for the Chairman covering their duties including getting the Port

Action: Program Director to prepare draft

  • Agreed that Standing Orders be changed to require members to give apologies to Program Director instead of Chairman thus allowing program to be kept flowing.

Action: Program Director to Organise

  • New Venue: Agreed that venue issue would lie on table (for committee) pending further information.
  • South of River Inter-Club Competition. No Decisions – Carried forward to next meeting
  • Thanking of critic. Agreed to add Thanking of critic to Notice of meeting

Action: Program Director to organise

  • Agreed that Introducing the Chair would be rostered every second week for a trial period and that President would introduce the introducer.
  • Agreed that tutorial would be rostered to be run by Bill to cover Introducing the Chairman and Thanking the Critic.

Action: Program Director to organise

No Other Business              Meeting closed 9.27pm

Module 8:The Minutes Themselves

The single most significant understanding which minute takers need to appreciate is that minutes are what is decided and what is done

NOT a record of what is said.

Minutes of any meeting have four purposes with an optional fifth:

  1. The protocol issues: to provide information about the meeting, – what the meting was, where it was held, when it was held, who was there, who gave apologies for non attendance, and confirmation of the previous minutes;
  2. To provide a record of the issues which were raised;
  3. To provide a record of the decisions which were reached about those issues.
  4. To provide a list of action which needs to be taken as a result of the decisions.

Optional – depending on the needs of the meeting

  1. Where necessary, a summary of the main points considered in making the decision.

It is vital that the minutes:

  • Are accurate;
  • Are produced quickly – within 24 hours of the meeting;
  • Are not verbatim reports of what were said!

Minute takers are judged, more than anything else, by how quickly the minutes are available after the meeting. Most people do not look at them in detail, they judge you by how quickly they receive them!

Minute Recording Sheet

Topic/Agenda Item:
Main Points and Details:


Action Required:
By:  (person/people) Deadline:


Have a look now at what is headed the “Minute Recording Sheet”, this is the central tool to the whole system.  It is designed so that you put at the top your topic or agenda item, which you may already have generated by the way from your computer, but I’ll tell you how in just a moment.  Then you have got the main points and the details. At the bottom of the form, there is a space for the actual decision to be recorded.  Then there is a space for the action that is necessary to be recorded, the person that needs to do that and the deadline and there is a check box if you want to tick it off when it is completed.

If you are in a meeting which is in any way political, it is well worth keeping a decision sheet.  On this sheet, you record the actual decision.  It is signed by the chairperson at that meeting.  It becomes a very, very useful tool.  You then give each decision a number and you reference those, you may store them in your wordprocessor or even in a small database but you keep the information about the decisions that are made.  It is not a crucial point, but it is worth having half a dozen of those or maybe 10 in your Minute taker’s Survival file.  So that when a major decision comes up, you can actually record it in the detail that needs to be recorded or you can simply put it in the minutes.  So, as you go through the meeting, you use these various forms to keep the information that is necessary.

Now, what you do when you are in a meeting and you filled in all these forms, is you go back after the meeting to transpose it all and type it up.  If you go back to the form called the “Minute Sheet”, they you will see that all you actually need to do is type up the words that are one there.  It make is much, much easier because there is no hieroglyphics.  Let me give you an example of what I mean by hieroglyphics.  How often do meetings actually go from? Item 1 and all the way through the end of it, and then onto Item 2, and all the way through to the end, and then onto Item 3, and so on.  The answer is, in my experience vary rarely.  Mostly, meetings go, Item 1, then half way through, something else comes up which may be Item 4, and then they go back to Item 1, and then they may jump to Item 5, and so on.  If you are using the sheets we suggested, it is so easy for you to follow this.  If you are using an A4 pad, then you get to the bottom of Item 1 when they change direction, you have to write a little asterix maybe, and then you put Item 4.  Then you come back to Item 1, and then they go on and now you have to put 2 asterix and then you come back and so on.  So, you end up with hieroglyphics all over the page.  If you use the sheets we suggested, then what you do is, if the meeting, goes from Item 1 to Item 4, you simply turn to the page that has Item 4 written on it and you record the information there.  Then when they go back to 1, you simply turn back the page to number 1 and so on.  Then they jump to Item 5 and back to Item 2, then they get onto Item 3 and then eventually to Item 4.  You’re the only person at that meeting who is able to say this: “Would you like me to tell you what you have already discussed on this item?”  Now you may laugh and say that “I couldn’t say that”, well maybe you couldn’t, but my suggestion is that you should because the meeting will not know and if you don’t tell them what they already had discussed, they will cover it again and they will waffle again.

Compare and Contrast the old and New Method to take minutes.

A typical set of minutes??

A traditional set of minutes for a school Parents meeting

Minutes for Green Valley Primary School Parents and Citizens Association.

Meeting held on 25/10/04.

Meeting declared open at 7:30pm.

In attendance: John Williams (Pres.), Helen Simpson (Treas.), Peter Cook (Sec.), Sean Ryan, Natalie Allen, Susanne Sommers, Cheryl Atkins, Diane Crowe, Bill Craig and Karen Walton.

Apologies: Ellen Johnston, Charles Hilton and Marcie Barber.

  1. Minutes for previous meeting, held on 18/10/04, were read.
  • Motion: That minutes for previous meeting held on 18/10/04 are a true and correct record.
  • Proposed: Sean Ryan, Seconded: Cheryl Atkins. Carried.
  1. Financial report presented.
  • See copy attached.
  • Motion: That the financial report be accepted. Proposed: Diane Crowe, Bill Craig. Carried

2.1 Accounts for payment. List attached. Motion: That the accounts as listed be approved for payment.

  • Proposed: Natalie Allen. Seconded Bill Craig. Carried.
  1. Principal’s report:
  • Interschool sports to be held at Helena school, 12/11;
  • Science specialist appointed for next year – name not yet known;
  • School triennial inspection completed and report due soon. No issues expected;
  • Bullying problem has been dealt with. One child no longer a problem. Second child withdrawn by parents and now attending another school;
  1. Request for support of school concert.
  • Motion: That the P and C support the school in the production of the concert, to be staged on 10/12/04, and take full responsibility for organising refreshments, printing tickets and staffing front of house.
  • Proposed: Susanne Sommers, Seconded Diane Crowe. Carried.
  • Responsibilities allocated:
  • Refreshments: Sussanne Sommers,
  • Printing tickets: Natalie Allen,
  • Staffing front of house: Bill Craig.
  • All to report progress to President, John Williams, on 8/11/04 with full report to next P and C meeting.
  1. Requested donation for graduation book prizes.
  • Motion: That the P and C donate $500 to the school to purchase book prizes for graduation as per request from school staff.
  • Proposed: Karen Walton, seconded: Susanne Sommers. Amended.
  • Amended motion: That the first motion be amended to read, the P and C donate $600 to the school to purchase book prizes for graduation.
  • Proposed: Natalie Allen, Seconded: Bill Craig. Carried.
  • Treasurer requested to forward cheque to school principal, Rob Jeffries.
  1. Tabling of special report on “School Crossing Attendant.”
  • Report prepared by Diane Crowe. Copy attached.
  • Motion: That Diane Crowe be thanked for her work on the “School Crossing Attendant” report and be charged with pursuing the recommendations as outlined at the conclusion of the report and to present her findings at the next P and C meeting.
  • Proposed: Cheryl Atkins, Seconded: Sean Ryan. Carried.
  1. Request for donation of $100 for Year Seven Garden Project.
  • Motion: That the year seven class submit a detailed proposal outlining itemised expenditure before request receives further consideration.
  • Proposed: Bill Craig, Seconded: Sean Ryan. Defeated.
  • Motion: That a donation of $100 be forwarded to school principal for the Year Seven Garden Project.
  • Proposed: Cheryl Atkins, Seconded: Susanne Sommers..
  • Amendment: That a donation of $75 be forwarded to school principal for the Year Seven Garden Project.
  • Proposed: Diane Crowe, Seconded: Natalie Allen. Amendment Carried.
  • Amended motion carried.
  • Treasurer requested to forward cheque for $75 to the school principal.

Next meeting will be convened on 22/11/04.

There being no business the meeting was closed at 9:05pm.


How the agenda for the same meeting would look using the new table format



Your role as a minute taker is crucial in making things efficient.

Once you have got back to the office and you have typed up the minutes, you now come back to the mode that we put you in for the agenda. You are back into raising your profile mode. What you do, is type a footer at the bottom of the minutes which reads: Minutes prepared by Cheryl Smith, date and the time. But you must make sure that that date and the time is very soon after the meeting. It’s important for you to get the minutes done immediately after the meeting. The general rule is that if minutes are done more than 48 hours after the meeting then you are not efficient. So that’s the general rule that people have.

Other forms that may be of importance:


For Your Information Sheet

Relevant to these people:
Relating to:
Information Provided By:
Main Points:
Questions: Response:



Internal On the Fly Meeting Record

Date:                                                          Time:                          Location:
People Present in discussion:






Relating to: (Project, issue etc)


Description of the issue:






Options covered:






Decision reached:







Action Required:                                                                                             Person/Deadline


Most of the good minute takers I have spoken to have their minutes out within hours of the meeting, 2 – 3 or even less after the meeting. It doesn’t take any more time, in fact it takes less. You see you will agree with me I am sure that if you put the minutes off, they take longer to do and they are harder to do. If you do them straight away, then they are easier and they take less time.

Now I know your objection. You’ll be saying but I have other things to do when I get back from the meeting. Yes I know. But what you need to do is see the meeting and the minutes as the same job not as separate jobs. Bear in mind too, that who says you have to type all the minutes. You may be able to photocopy those minute sheets and that becomes good enough. Now only you can make that decision in consultation with your supervisor but that’s a good way to go.

Ultimate Worksheet Challenge:

A question for you: Could you go back to your office right now and take out a document in one form. That is in one piece of paper or two pieces of paper but the one document which lists all of the outstanding action, and the deadline, and the person that is responsible for it, for every item for the meeting that you go to? I’ve only every met one person who can do that. You see most people don’t actually manage the business of the meeting. If you don’t, the minute taker, no one will. But if you do, your profile will increase markedly and your job will become much easier.

So this is what I suggest you do. Use those action lists and create action lists from the minutes after every meeting. You do it in a very easy way by using your word processor, and I’m assuming that you have a word processor to use. You type in your word processor in just one document the name of the person who is responsible for the action, the action itself and the deadline.

Then you sort it. But you sort it in two ways. The same information only needs to be entered once, but you can sort it in any way. The first way that you sort it is by person. So that you ask it to look for all the Fred’s, then all the Mary’s, then all the Betty’s, then all the Peter’s, then all the John’s and all the Sheryl’s. And it lists all the action for every person, each one by deadline. The other way to do it, is to list it all by deadline, so that it simply sorts on the oldest action first. And lists it all down. So it might be one for Peter, then one for John, then one for Mary, then one for Betty, then another for Peter and so on. Now the older the deadline, the more likely it is that people will get the action completed.

You print these action lists out and you actually staple them to the front of the minutes. Highlighting the person’s name. Over time you will find that the group starts to use the action lists far more than they actually use the minutes themselves. And indeed I’ve worked with organisations where they no longer keep minutes: they simply keep action lists and they become the working plan.

At the risk of being repetitive I’ll ask the question again. If you don’t do that action list in one document who will? Answer is: no one. If you do it however, think of how efficient you are seen to be by the members of the group. And if you are seen to be very efficient, then people will rise to your level of efficiency and your job will be easier. You see as a general rule you will find, that not only meetings that generally, people will rise to the level of efficiency that is demanded of them and they will lower themselves to the level of efficiency that they can get away with. If you demand a high level of efficiency then you will receive it. And that will make your job as the minute taker much, much easier.