I typically start my Minute Taking Made Easy workshops by asking my class if they like taking minutes. After a few chuckles and groans, the overwhelming response is no; they do not like it at all. I think it is fair to say that while we don’t like the task, most realize that we need to have minutes for our meetings.
To begin, minutes are often required for compliance reasons. Your business may need to hold an annual general meeting (AGM) or an annual shareholder meeting, annual stockholder meeting, or something along those lines. The rules change from country to country.
Regardless of the rules in your country, these documents have a purpose and must follow certain guidelines.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”iYRl7″ via=”yes” ]Your minutes actually have a purpose. Do you know why you are taking them?[/ctt]
Here is what you need to know about the minutes you take:
- Minutes need to be clear. If someone didn’t attend your meeting, would the document be easy enough to understand that they get a summary of what happened? If the document makes no sense to anyone who didn’t attend, they do not satisfy their purpose. The first purpose is for anyone who attended the meeting and who didn’t attend the meeting to understand what happened.
- Minutes need to be a summary. Minutes are no longer a verbatim account of who said what (and yes, at one point 50 years ago, that is how they did write minutes). The purpose is to create a summary document, not a transcript of what happened.
- Your document needs to be objective vs. subjective. Objective is unbiased, and subjective shows your opinion or feelings. Avoid sentences such as, “A lengthy discussion ensued,” as it is a subjective assessment of the discussion (you felt it was a long discussion.) The purpose is to create a document without interpretation.
- Include action items. Include who is responsible and the due date. Most people skim your document after the fact to see what their responsibilities are. One of the purposes of this document is to identify the action items required prior to the subsequent meetings.
- Include all decisions. Regardless of the outcome of the decision (accepted or denied), we need to record any decisions your group has made. Not all groups use motions, and while motions are decisions, you can make many decisions without using motions too. This is a historical document, and recording the decisions is the main purpose of the document.
- Include the discussion that surrounded the decision. The fact that you made a decision (one way or the other) is good and needs to be recorded, but how did you get to that decision? Summarize some of the topics you spoke about (not who said what). For instance, if your group decided to close the office on Friday afternoons, you would record that decision. You should also summarize the topics discussed, such as: morale, overtime, phone and email coverage, longer hours Monday-Thursday, etc. So that if in the future, someone wonders why the decision was made, they can refer to the minutes and see the topics that were discussed to reach that decision. Historically we made a decision, and it was based on these discussion points fulfills the purpose.
- Minutes are a legal documents that can be used in court proceedings. As minute taker, you are the official memory of the meeting. In legal cases, you may be summoned to court to testify what was discussed at the meeting. The final purpose is to provide documentation if required.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”e7x29″ via=”yes” ]Understanding the purpose of your minutes often helps us understand what we are creating and why we are creating it.[/ctt]
Understanding the document’s purpose often helps us understand what we are creating and why we are creating it!