I am often asked why minutes need to be taken at a meeting. The questioner seems to believe that it is a waste of time for someone to write down all that was said at a meeting, never to be re-visited again. Over the next several posts I would like to explore What are minutes, why should they be kept and some tips for getting ready to take minutes, how to be effective in taking minutes and how you can speed up and increase the accuracy of minutes.

What are minutes?

Minutes are the official record of the proceedings of a meeting. This may not mean much to you now; but be in the position where I was in helping an organization provide all of their minutes to answer a discovery order in a court case. The minutes capture the essence of a meeting and are considered to be the legal record for that meeting. Individual organizations have great latitude in how much or how little is recorded in their minutes: at the very minimum, minutes should contain when and where the meeting was held, who was there when the meeting began/finished and what decisi0ons were made. Minutes record what is done at the meeting, not what was said during the meeting; typically meeting transcriptions are the name given to a verbatim copy of what is said, but transcriptions of debate may be included by the organization . whether the document is called minutes, Journal, gazette (published minutes in a newspaper) or any other name that an organization may call its permanent record.

Just like any permanent record, minutes need to be filed in a permanent place. Just imagine the look of horror on an executive director’s face when you ask where the back-up site for the organization’s minutes were when the office was destroyed by fire. There is only one official set of minutes, but an electronic, scanned or microfilmed set of minutes can be invaluable when the original is misplaced or, worse yet, destroyed.

Next. Why keep minutes? . . .

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