What Are Meeting Minutes and Who Records Them at a Meeting?
How (and Why) to Record Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes are the written or recorded documentation that is used to inform attendees and non-attendees about what was discussed and what happened during a meeting. The meeting minutes are generally taken or recorded during the meeting so that participants have a record of what happened during the meeting.
Minutes usually include:
- the names of the participants,
- the agenda items covered,
- decisions made by the participants,
- the follow-up actions committed to by participants,
- due dates for the completion of commitments, and
- any other events or discussions worth documenting for future review or history.
Exemplary meeting minutes focus on decisions made during the meeting and commitments made by the participants. The commitments are accompanied by due dates and any other details necessary for a shared understanding by meeting participants.
Meeting Minutes as a Historical Document
As a historical document, they are also useful for documenting the key ideas or discussions that led to the making of a decision. For example, answering questions later when a team member says, "what ever were we thinking when we chose this goal."
Effective meeting minutes lay out the five alternatives the team discussed and the key reason why one was selected over the other available paths.
Effective meeting minutes for the typical business meeting do not need to record every discussion.
They also do not need to, and shouldn't, state who said what. Nor, should they document what every participant says in detail. In the example given, an effective note taker summarizes the discussion rather than writing down every word.
(Recognize that this rule is different for other types of meetings in such situations as legal action, court hearings, and so forth.
These minutes do require an exact record of the conversation and statements.) But, your typical workplace meeting does not.
When and How to Share the Meeting Minutes
Ideally, meeting minutes are disseminated to meeting participants electronically at the end of the meeting. Doing this, the participants have immediate notice of their commitments and deadlines. If this is not possible (for example, the note taker wants to clean up errors) the note taker should disseminate the meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting.
The minutes serve as a reminder of the commitments team members made during the meeting. They help participants transfer their meeting commitments to their calendars and to do lists. They serve as a reminder of any item that must reach participants prior to the next meeting.
(This can eliminate one of the most significant problems with meetings, in general—passing out information at the meeting so that participants spend the meeting reading rather than interacting.) After all, isn't interaction the point of a meeting? For anything else, you have tools like email and Yammer.
You'll want to review your prior meeting's minutes at the start of the next meeting so that people can check them for correctness and next steps.
Meeting minutes are an effective contributor to successful meetings when minutes are appropriately written and distributed in a timely manner. This is especially true when a team has formed strong norms that support its business success.
How Do Organizations Handle Taking Meeting Minutes?
Critical to a meeting’s success, the note taker or recorder documents the meeting for participants, history, and employees who need to know what transpired at the meeting. Without full meeting minutes, the meeting’s prospects for success are diminished.
The employee who takes the meeting minutes is usually a member of the team and takes the notes while participating in the meeting. In meetings that have legal or government related proceedings, ramifications, or requirements such as hearings, required corporate board meetings, or depositions, a nonparticipating individual takes the official minutes and often records the proceedings.
The employee who records the minutes must have an ear for detail to record accurately. The employee must also multitask effectively to participate in the meeting while recording the minutes.
In some meetings, the same employee takes the minutes at every meeting. In others, the role of minute taker passes from employee to employee. Like meeting leadership, the role of the note taker builds leadership, communication, and effective meeting leadership skills.
What Are the Requirements of a Meeting Minutes Note Taker?
The requirements for the recorder or note taker include:
- Record accurately the decisions, commitments and major discussion points made at a meeting.
- Record the action items that meeting members committed to doing along with the due date that members committed to making. Action items have a name attached, but the general discussion does not state who said what in informal workplace meetings.
- Review the major decisions and the assignments or voluntary commitments and action items at the end of the meeting so participants can review and agree on happenings and commitments before leaving the meeting.
- The meeting leader may ask the note taker to recap the discussion periodically during a meeting.
- In an ongoing series of meetings, the note taker takes a minute to review the meeting minutes at the beginning of the next meeting. The employees attending can add to or correct anything that they disagree with in the minutes.
- Distributing a copy of the meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting has been the standard recommendation of meeting facilitators for years. Now, however, the recorder most likely took the minutes on an electronic device such as a laptop or iPad. So, the note taker should distribute the meeting notes after a quick review of spelling, grammar, and clarity—often at or within minutes of the meeting.
The recorder is a role that a meeting must have to ensure that the results of a meeting are communicated and acted upon by the participants. Without the notes, the participants must rely on the memory of the other participants. Guaranteed, this is not a good plan.
The note taker's documentation of a meeting is necessary for the success of a meeting, just as documentation is necessary for improving employee performance.