Ask two or more persons what happened in a meeting and you get at least two different versions of the events that took place: either something is left out, something is added or the facts are mis-remembered. Minutes solve this issue. The 3M Meeting Network stated it as: “The most important reason to create a record of meetings is to create a shared group memory. Individuals selectively perceive, retain and recall their own experiences. Therefore, meeting participants will remember a meeting quite differently from one other. . .” Minutes as a shared group memory; a way to keep the facts straight, to bring all participants (and absentees) to a common level, to have a way to easily review deliberations and decisions that may have been made several years in the past. In short, Minutes are the way that organizations remember who they are, by what they have done.

Benefits of keeping minutes

If accurate minutes are kept for each and every meeting, there are many benefits that can arise from having minutes:

  1. Action Items. Even though an organization has the right to re-visit discussions and decisions made, by having minutes — especially if a bit of rationale is recorded along with the action — the decision can be explained, even years later with no one who was present at the original meeting is in attendance at the current meeting.
  2. Open Items. Minutes give you a record of items left unfinished — so-called “open items” — so that they will not get forgotten to be taken care of by the organization. Minutes record motions pending when a meeting adjourns, when items are referred to a particular meeting with, possibly, a particular time or when they were referred to a committee for specific action.
  3. Historical Example. Minutes can provide a great example for meeting that occur infrequently, such as annual meetings or conventions, in the preparation of a future gathering. I’m not advocating that because “we’ve always done it that way” you have to do it the same way in the present; minutes can give you guidance how meetings were structured previously, and hopefully we can learn from our successes as well as our failures.
  4. Meeting Preparation. If you have previous meeting guidance and a listing of open items from previous meeting minutes, the chair and/or secretary are 90% complete in preparing an agenda for an upcoming meeting. All that is left is finding out about committee reports and keeping an “ear to the ground” about any new business that might come up at the meeting.
  5. Training Materials. Minutes can be used — very effectively — as information for new members or meeting professionals to understand how your organization has operated in the past. Again just because “we’ve always done it that way” . . .
  6. Increases Confidence. When an organization writes good minutes, reviews the minutes, corrects any inaccuracies and learns from what has gone before, a comfort level is achieved by the membership. The participants will have an increased level of confidence that all outstanding items will be taken care of, previous successes will be repeated and previous mistakes avoided.

Next. Preparation before the meeting. . .

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