Friday, September 24, 2004


(Writing down what people say)

Guest Office Bod Number Four Debbie says:

Oh for goodness sake. A complete waste of everyone’s time wherebv some poor sod (usually me) has to write down everything people say in a meeting irrespective of whether they are talking a load of tosh, taking their own notes anyway, or don’t care because they only came for the free biscuits…ACTION DH - these should be deluxe biscuits for the next meeting and remember that Mark doesn’t like Jaffa Cakes.

There is a lot of snobbery involved in minute taking a general feeling that there is only one possible way of correctly recording minutes. This simply isn’t the case –at every place you work at you will find different idiosyncrasies. E.g. in my current institution, it doesn’t matter what you write as long as the minutes end up on green paper (mid green mind, not pale). In my last post I was selected above equally competent colleagues for the highly prestigious task of minuting Academic Board. I have an MA and on account of this, they decided that I would be the best person for the job. Apparently however, my highly accurate recording of what people said at this meeting was quite the wrong approach. Apparently what I was supposed to write was a piece of fiction and suddenly I realised that it was not the fact that I had an MA that was important, it was the fact that my course was in scriptwriting.

I am not taking any of that rot again and actively use minute taking as an opportunity to actively practice my scriptwriting. Nowadays I unashamedly write down everything including stage directions. BILL ANGRILY CROSSES DSL TO THE REFRESHEMENT TABLE AND SPILLS COFFEE DOWN HIS TROUSERS, BENDING DOWN TO CLEAN IT UP HE SNEAKS A QUICK PEAK UP VANESSA’S SKIRT.

You may think that such recording of detail is unnecessary but there are times that I wish I kept minutes in my spare time. It would be great to prove that James really did tell my family that he had been to Pinner Fair (even if it was in jest) because the fact that we can all remember the conversation is not enough.

By far, the worst part of writing minutes (apart from Word automatically bullet pointing bits you don’t want it to) is the collection of comments and approvals from attendees. This process always takes a month although quite why since no one actually reads the damn things apart from any mention of their own name, is beyond me. Next time I minute a meeting, I have a good mind to arrange the first three chapters of “The Famous Five go off in a Caravan” in bullet points substituting the names of the children for the attendees of the meeting and I bet that the only comments I will get back are “Looks fine to me but don’t remember drinking ginger beer or speaking to quite so many circus folk!” or “Very accurate Debbie but next time could we have more jaffa cakes”

Minutes? I don’t care, who does.


JAMES says:

But, why would I have said I had been to Pinner Fair if I hadn't? It makes no sense.


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