Minute Taking – An undervalued and overlooked skill

Minute taking is not a forgotten approach

In current day business minute taking is still as relevant, important, and in-demand resource for conducting efficient, effective and well-structured meetings as it ever was. Minute taking an Undervalued Skill. 

How would you record the key elements of any meeting, discussion or ongoing activity/project without the ability to record the actions, outcomes, decisions and future plans!

The main question I hear a lot is why would a business require minutes to be taken?

Well, this is easy to answer…… How would you record the key elements of any meeting, discussion or ongoing activity/project without the ability to record the actions, outcomes, decisions and future plans! 

The next question I’m asked is ….. why can’t I just use digital recording equipment and then circulate the audio to all the attendees?

Good question, however, if the meeting has many people attending, voices can be hard to hear, or the meeting could go off course and jump around a lot….
Would you want all your attendees to sit and re-listen to hours of talk and discussions? Is this efficient? Would you be able to guarantee everyone who attended made a note of THEIR action items, the agreed decisions and time scales? Would you be confident on this basis that each attendee knows what, where and when they are expected to deliver their actions…?
Personally, from experience people don’t and won’t remember what was agreed or said in the meeting. People have busy and demanding jobs and trying to rely purely on memory or getting them to listen to a long piece of audio is unlikely. Therefore, it requires someone being able to capture in a clear and concise manner all the discussions, important facts, actions, decisions and time frames, to help make it quick and easy for someone to review and identify the key items relevant to them from any meeting.
Therefore, this misunderstood, undervalued and overlooked skill of minute taking really is INVALUABLE and IMPORTANT.
The minutes and minute-taker provide accuracy, impartiality and capture the important information from a meeting, without all the noise and distractions of digression.

The key difference between providing minutes or purely sharing an audio recording is that where meetings go off course and someone makes a joke or talks about how their golf game went, this doesn’t need to be captured due to lack of relevance and sometimes inappropriateness.

The minute-taker can ensure that ALL discussions are presented and recorded in line with the agenda and those discussions about how many hole-in-ones someone made at the Golf course isn’t included.

Minutes are not normally meant to verbatim. However, some industries such as legal meetings and HR matters often will, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Person taking minutes with mobile on an open laptop

Importance of providing minutes

Providing minutes ensures that the flow of meeting and items discussed are represented clearly and by an unbiased role. The minutes will always be clear, accurate and factual. It removes any assumption or personal thoughts, opinions or feelings as there will not be any inaccurate information. They are purely a recording of the content of the meeting/discussion.

Are minutes just extra paperwork?

Agendas and minutes are not just paperwork; they are critical to a successful working relationship, where clarity, expectation, transparency and recorded information is key.

Minute taking is not old fashioned or undervalued in this process it is still very current, vital and relevant in so many meetings, as they provide a factual and important document detailing, agreements and actions between two or more people.

Who does minute taking benefit

Meetings are an integral part of professional life, this is the reason why it is essential to take minutes. More significantly the purpose of minutes are very important for both participants present and absent because:

  • The participants of the meetings have a reminder aid 
  • The minutes say who will do what and when 
  • They are the starting point of the following meeting 
  • They are helpful for those absent to know was discussed and what decisions have been taken 
  • In case of conflicts, they are useful to know what agreements were made 
  • For questions about privacy, it can be preferable during a meeting to write the minutes rather than record the whole discussion. For example, some people don’t like to be recorded or they don’t feel comfortable knowing that they are being recorded. However, the person taking the minutes can ask if they can record the meeting. This may be helpful to them to later write the official minute of the meeting. 

Minutes can be referred to and can be used for follow-up purposes. Effective meeting minutes are clear and to the point, but at the same time, they do not leave out important information.

Meeting minutes are written, accurate accounts of the proceedings. They should record important details, decisions and follow-up tasks. They also provide references for future meetings and clarification of previous meeting details. Written minutes can help prevent disagreements and misunderstandings because people can review the minutes to determine exactly what occurred at the meetings.

Discussion between colleagues at a meeting

Minutes can also provide the following:

1. Legal protection

Minutes capture important details that can’t be ignored if you want to keep your business in line with laws, compliance, regulations, policies and contractual agreements, and can back up any disputes. Minutes represent the actions of a board, company leadership, personnel matters and within some industries they are considered legally binding by auditors and the courts.  

2. Provide structure

They provide consistency for every meeting. They allow all attendees to know what to expect. It enables those who can’t attend to know what was said and agreed. Therefore, it is important to make sure a minute-taker sufficiently describes the content and decisions agreed. The minute-taker should also include the names of all attendees and apologies, the date and time of the meeting, the location and the name of the chair. Meeting minutes must always be approved by the chair prior to circulating.

3. Confirms actions

Good meeting minutes help drive a plan of action. They clarify how, when, why, and by whom decisions were made. They map out a plan for the action items (which helps get the work done) and they later provide valuable information to those members who aren’t able to attend the meeting.

4. Act as a measuring stick

Minutes record meeting decisions, which makes them a useful review document when it comes time to measure progress. They also act as an accountability tool because they make it clear whose duty it was to perform which action.  

Meeting minutes can be long and detailed, or they can be short and to the point, depending on the nature of the meeting. In situations of critical importance, and where the record is important, you may need to take detailed minutes. When this isn’t the case, minutes can be simple lists of decisions made and actions that need to be taken (with the responsible person identified).

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