Got a minute? Read our advice on becoming a professional minute taker.
Minute taking might be the career you’ve been looking for all along!
Writing minutes is often viewed as a chore that many people would like to avoid. However, high quality minutes are critical in documenting an organisation’s governance and decision making processes. Increasingly, organisations are seeking the services of professional minute takers who have the skills needed to produce a brief and accurate summary of meeting proceedings.
Any professional minute taker will tell you that they have spent years honing their minute taking skills, usually in high level EA or PA roles. It is a specialist skill, and EAs who excel in this area are often highly sought after. Many of our minute takers at Pacific have extensive backgrounds as Executive Assistants and operate their own successful VA businesses, with their minute taking services being in high demand.
Online minute taking involves listening to an audio recording (or teleconference) and producing succinct, accurate minutes of the meeting proceedings. This can range from committee and Board meetings, to AGMs, management team meetings, and other events. Minute takers are supplied with the client’s agenda, template, and any other relevant documentation, to assist in the process.
Pacific has a secure online portal where audio files are downloaded and completed documents uploaded, meaning that the work can be done entirely from your home office. Imagine no more commuting to work! Not to mention the money saved in transport costs, work outfits, lunches, and other expenses. On occasion, clients do request an on-site minute taker to attend their meetings in person, which provides an exciting opportunity to engage directly with a range of businesses. This is great for minute takers who enjoy face-to-face contact with clients.
Online minute taking also offers the freedom to set your own hours – you simply indicate your availability using Pacific’s online portal. This provides our minute takers with the ability to fit work around their lifestyles so that they can spend time with their families, undertake study, or pursue hobbies they’re passionate about. It’s a great opportunity for EAs and PAs who are seeking to achieve better work-life balance, return to the workforce on a flexible basis, or develop their own businesses.
We tend to find that our best minute takers have previous experience in EA or PA roles where they’ve been responsible for minute taking. They also have strong writing and critical thinking skills, especially the ability to briefly summarise key points of a discussion. For this reason, some of our top minute takers are also postgraduate university students who have developed their written communication skills throughout their studies and in research assistant roles. Online minute taking provides a great opportunity for postgrad students to earn extra income while completing their studies.
One of our professional minute takers, Laura, gave us a run-down of what’s involved in the job on a day-to-day basis. If you are interested in becoming a professional minute taker, you will find some helpful info and tips in the profile below.
Minute Taker Profile – Laura
Tell us a bit about yourself and the work that you do. What does your typical day involve?
I am a mum to three kids, aged 11, 9 and 4. My husband works long hours in the construction industry. We try to balance our lives between work, family and our own interests. Minute-taking has been wonderful because it has enabled me to work in an interesting and diverse environment, while still providing sufficient flexibility to focus on other aspects of our family life.
As a subcontractor minute taker, I work most days. The majority of my work is done at home. Once I have kids off to school/kindy, I usually settle down to begin my minute-taking work. This generally involves checking the meeting agenda and updating the minute taking template to show time, date and location of the meeting, attendance, and agenda items. I then have a quick read through any meeting documents that have been uploaded along with the audio to get a sense of what the discussions are likely to entail. I refer to these documents throughout the course of the meeting, in much the same way as the meeting participants do. Then I listen to the meeting and note the salient points of discussion, the actions and the resolutions.
On the occasions that I attend meetings (twice a month on average), I have to be a bit more organised about ensuring kids get to before and after school care/kindy and ensuring there is a meal ready for when we all arrive home! Although it require more time and organisation, I really like onsite minute-taking because it enables me to step into a professional environment on a regular basis and keeps me in touch with the world of business.
What do you enjoy about professional minute taking? What are the challenges?
I think what I enjoy most is the opportunity to learn about a multitude of different industries. I have taken minutes for organisations that operate in so many different sectors including mining, horticulture, retail and medical research, to name but a few. I also really enjoy the opportunity to meet people in their workplaces when I attend onsite meetings. It gives me a real sense of the passion that people have in their industry roles.
The most challenging part of being a minute taker is determining what should and should not be noted. Meeting participants can be passionate and challenging. They can speak at length about particular issues and want to know that their points have been noted in meeting minutes. Keeping notes concise and to the point, while ensuring the salient points are noted in a diplomatic way can be challenging.
Another key challenge would be getting to grips with technical language and acronyms (pre-reading and Google can help).
What do you see as the role of a minute taker?
The minute taker’s role is to provide an independent and unbiased set of notes that concisely identifies the key discussion items, actions, resolutions and other outcomes from a meeting.
What are the top 3 essential skills for a minute taker?
- Preparedness: Good preparation for a meeting will really help a minute taker to focus on meeting discussions. Key preparation items would be:
(a) Having the minutes template pre-filled with the relevant meeting details and agenda items.
(b) Pre-reading the meeting material that is provided (not necessarily in detail, but enough to understand what will be discussed at the meeting).
(c) If attending in person, knowing where the meeting is to be held and organising parking in advance.
- Listening carefully and filtering out the relevant from the not-so-relevant.
- Communication: When in attendance, the minute taker needs to be prepared to confirm they have picked up action/resolution items correctly (reading back) and on occasion, to assist the Chair when a formal resolution requirement has been identified in the agenda (i.e. seeking a mover/seconder/vote etc.)
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a professional minute taker?
I had taken minutes in previous administrative roles, so when the opportunity arose to take minutes as a contractor with Pacific, I knew that it was something that I could do. My advice would be to attend a minute-taking course. Prospective minute takers could also listen to some meetings online (lots of Council meetings are available for example) and have a go at taking notes.
What advice would you give to organisations about minute taking? (e.g. How can they get the best out of their minute taker?)
Preparation is the key! Clients can get the most out of their minute taking service by:
- Providing a minute-taking template in advance of the meeting (if they have one).
- Providing an agenda and relevant meeting documents for the minute taker to refer to.
- Providing a previous set of minutes (if a new client) to guide the minute taker on the level of detail required in the minutes.
- When audio recording a meeting:
- Stating the date, time and location of the meeting.
- Stating the names of all attendees and noting all apologies
- Speaking clearly during discussions (and one at a time).
- At the end of a discussion, clearly stating the actions/resolutions for noting.
- Identifying by name the movers and seconders of any motions.
- In voting situations, clearly stating the number for and against a motion.
- Stating the end time of the meeting.
Interested in Becoming a Minute Taker?
If you’re interested in becoming a minute taker after reading the above, you can apply online via our Careers page.