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 transpired during the meeting.
Minutes usually include:
- the names of the participants
- the agenda items covered
- decisions made by the participants
- follow-up actions committed to by participants
- due dates for the completion of commitments
- any other events or discussions worth documenting for future review or history
Meeting Minutes as a Historical Document
As a historical document, minutes are useful for documenting the key ideas or discussion points that led to a decision. For example, effective meeting minutes may specify the five alternatives the team discussed and the key reason why one was selected over the others.
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. Of course, this rule is different for other types of meetings such as situations where legal action is being discussed, court hearings, and so forth. These minutes do require an exact record of the conversation and statements. But, unless HR is discussing a litigation suit, your typical workplace meeting does not document every iota.
When and How to Share the Meeting Minutes
Ideally, meeting minutes are disseminated to meeting participants electronically at the end of the meeting. This way, the participants have immediate notice of their commitments and deadlines and can raise any questions or seek any clarification. If this is not possible (e.g., the note taker wants to check for errors) the note taker should always disseminate the meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting.
Minutes also serve as a reminder of the commitments team members made during the meeting. They help participants transfer their meeting commitments to their calendars and their daily tasks lists.
Also, 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.
How Do Organizations Handle Taking Meeting Minutes?
Critical to a meeting’s success, the note taker, or recorder, documents the meeting for participants, to have a recorded history, and for employees who were not able to attend the meeting. Without full meeting minutes, the meeting’s prospects for success are diminished because people, on balance, cannot absorb and then remember a wealth of information at one time.
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 or in corporate board meetings, 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 and the ability to stay focused. 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. Or, the role of minute taker passes from employee to employee. The role of the note taker builds leadership, communication, and effective meeting leadership skills, and can be a coveted job.
Requirements of a Meeting Minutes Note Taker?
The requirements for the note taker include the ability to:
- 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. (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 agree on commitments before leaving the meeting
- Be a team player and be flexible because the attendees can add to or correct anything that they disagree with in the minutes.
- Work expediently to distribute copies of the meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting, which has been the standard recommendation of meeting facilitators for decades. Because most recorders are capturing the minutes on an electronic device such as a laptop or iPad, the note taker should distribute the meeting notes after a quick review of spelling, grammar, and clarity.