Minute Taking – What to record/what to ignore

A woman in Florida asked, “Not receiving proper training, I’ve been resorting to recording verbatim minutes which can take hours, sometimes days. I’ve come to realize this is unnecessary and impractical … When there is a discussion, do I need to include who is commenting on what?”

This is a very good question – and a common one. In my experience, many minutes are just too long. Committee members don’t have time to read them. But what do you cut out? There are no hard or fast rules here, and there is no template that will fit every meeting.

My starting point is the purpose of minutes. Minutes are to be a communications tool for people who were not present, a history for the group, and a mechanism to assign and check on future actions.

Therefore, for the most part, few organizations require verbatim transcripts of a meeting. (There are exceptions, e.g., legal proceedings, union negotiations.)

When I conduct a minute taking workshop, my overall advice is to record a point only once. Do not belabour arguments and do not record names unless:

  • Someone asks to have their own or someone else’s name included for s specific purpose.
  • A person has been assigned a task.
  • Your group’s chosen parliamentary rules require it with a motion.
  • The name is needed for the history of the group.
  • It is to list who was present.

He said/she said dialogue and repetitive arguments or discussion are not needed.?The minute taker’s role is to provide a summary of what occurred at the meeting – not a regurgitation.

My book, The Minute Taker’s Handbook, provides more information for note takers. It is available at www.csae.com