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Be Kind to Your Note Taker

Last week I led a writing class for a group of administrative assistants who wanted help writing meeting notes and minutes. We began by talking about the challenges they face as note takers. Here’s their list of challenges:

  • Getting the information down when speakers talk quickly.
  • Recognizing what to record and how much of it.
  • Dealing with two people speaking at once.
  • Facing an incomprehensible stream of acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Trying to hear when side conversations compete with the main speaker.
  • Being unfamiliar with the attendees and topic, also known as “not having a clue.”
  • Not knowing when a decision has actually been made.
  • Feeling timid about interrupting the group with a question.

If you lead meetings, be kind to your note takers. Recognize the challenges they face, and do your best to eliminate them.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

2 comments on “Be Kind to Your Note Taker”

  • Thanks for your article on writing good meeting notes. I have searched and searched for good information to help me be a better minute taker and minutes editor. We have either two hour board or committee meeting a minimum of once a month. I am overwhelmed each time trying to accurately capture and then edit the information. I love my job but I am trying to be more efficient as our board and corporate secretary.

  • Helen, thanks for your comment. I hope you have applied the tips I suggested and have found them valuable. Please let me know if you have note-taking challenges I haven’t addressed in that article. I want to make sure it’s thorough.

    Good luck!


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