The Importance of Taking Minutes and What to Include In Yours
According to Atlassian, the average employee spends up to 31 hours a month in meetings. Consider how many people a large multinational corporation employs, imagine the collective time spent attending meetings. How is it possible to keep track of every point and plan made, or any decisions reached during these meetings? Here’s where the understated importance of taking minutes occurs.
Interestingly, minutes have nothing to do with time. The name derives from the Latin ‘minuta scriptura’, meaning small notes. That is the essence of great minute taking, clear and to the point without omitting any details.
In my experience, a project without consistent and regularly updated minutes is a recipe for disaster. This potentially exposes the company to legal trouble in future, as well as creating internal friction. In this blog, I’ll discuss the immediate and long-term importance of taking minutes. At the same time, providing a guide on how to take effective minutes in your own meetings.
The Immediate Importance of Taking Minutes
- Avoid Repetition – You’ve had a productive meeting. Everyone leaves with a plan in mind, fully aware of the work required in between meetings. The next meeting isn’t for another month, and nobody took any minutes. A month later and you find yourself repeating the same points and plans, all because your colleagues failed to remember what transpired at the previous meeting. Just by recording what’s discussed and disseminating that information, silly time-wasting situations like this can be easily avoided.
- Keep Track of the Project – As well as providing all stakeholders with an idea of what they have to do prior to the next meeting, minutes present us with a tangible and easy-to-follow timeline of the project. This helps ensure that sponsors or other stakeholders who cannot attend each meeting are up-to-date with the project. They also act as a first-hand source when it comes to measuring a project’s progress.
- State Ownership – Minutes are often the only evidence on how a decision was reached and by whom. If a vote on a particular course of action occurs, recording who voted in which way can offer legal protection in the case of a lawsuit.
- Offer Legal Protection – Continuing on from the previous point, minutes offer legal protection and are incredibly useful if a lawsuit is filed or an audit is required. In Ireland, section 166 and 199 of the Companies Act 2014 require that we keep the minutes of directors’ meetings and other general meetings. Reviewing minutes is also a common procedure with any potential audits of the company.
What Should My Minutes Consist Of?
Now that we’ve covered the immediate importance of taking minutes, we should have a better idea of what typically appears on them. Any decent set of minutes should include:
- Date, Time & Location – This one is fairly self-explanatory. You can write the most stunningly concise minutes of all time, but if they don’t even have the time & date on them, they aren’t worth a thing!
- The Meeting’s Purpose – Documenting the purpose of each particular meeting provides you with a quick and easy reference point when re-analysing minutes in future.
- The Attendees and Those Absent – Who called the meeting to order, those who made it, plus those who didn’t make it and why.
- The Agenda – Establish an agenda for your meeting. This agenda must be distributed prior to the meeting and reflected in the minutes. Essentially, your minutes should be a mirror image of the meeting agenda. Note any deviations from the agenda.
- Decisions Made – Any decisions reached, big or small, should be noted in the minutes. Note any key points made by individuals along with these decisions, as well as any dissension or conflict between attendees.
- Actions Required – Note what the next steps are in your project, who you’ve agreed to assign it to, and the deadline agreed.
Remember, don’t simply write down everything said at the meeting, just summarise the main points carefully.
What to Do Before Each Meeting
Before you rush into your meeting, remember to:
- Read the Previous Minutes – Unless you’re attending the first in a long series of meetings, typically in a formal office environment the minutes of the previous meeting will be read aloud and agreed upon before continuing.
- Designate Someone to Take Minutes – Minutes are usually taken by a secretary or an assistant but doesn’t have to be limited to just them. Agree beforehand who exactly will be taking minutes. Should this person need to contribute to the meeting, appoint an alternative minute taker for those parts of the meeting.
- Agree on Your Format – Most companies have their own preferred format for taking minutes. Enquire whether your organisation does, if not, you can download one here! Your format can change depending on the type of meeting your attending, check out our blog on the various types of meetings you can encounter!
What to Do After the Meeting
As soon as the meeting ends, you must:
- Read Over the Minutes – Make sure they’re clear and legible. You might remember a point made immediately after the meeting and half-heartedly jot it down. But when you’re transcribing them at a later date, or if someone else has to transcribe them, important points are often lost or forgotten due to their lack of clarity.
- Address Any Points That May Be Unclear – If you missed a point, or didn’t quite understand something that someone was saying, clarify it directly after the meeting. As previously mentioned, delaying these incidents can lead to uncertainty further down the line.
- Transcribe and Share the Minutes – Present the minutes in a clear format and share them with all the relevant stakeholders. Ensure everyone agrees to the minutes and a consensus is formed. If minutes require any amendments, this is the point at which to do so.
- File Them – Once you’ve completed and presented the minutes in a clear format, and all relevant stakeholders agree to their contents, file them away where others can easily find them in future.
Additional Benefits of Taking Minutes
There are some less obvious benefits to consistent minute taking during meetings. These added perks include:
- Having your point acknowledged and added to the minutes can inspire confidence. The actual transcribing of an idea immediately makes that idea feel more “real”. Assigning a task owner and a due date creates a social pressure to carry out the idea. This is all part of the psychology of meetings, be sure to read up on our blog on understanding the relationship between psychology and meetings.
- Documenting ideas also builds trust among colleagues. This is why it’s encouraged to document every point raised, as opposed to just the ones you agree with. If you do this, you might notice some colleagues withdrawing from the meeting.
- Having a database of old minutes allows for companies to go back and examine actions taken in the past. This avoids any repeat mistakes and works as an example of how to make good decisions in future.
If you have a large conferencing event on the horizon, be sure to head over to 247meeting where we cater for conference calls of any size. Save time and effort when it comes to minutes by making use of our automatic transcription feature.