Board meetings are an important part of the livelihood of an organization, whether it is a corporation, non-profit, government entity, or school board. The decisions that are made in these meetings are crucial to the survival and/or credibility of the organization; the decisions that will make it or break it. To be able to learn from mistakes, however, these entities must have an excellent system for keeping track of these decisions, and that is where meeting minutes come in. This article will elaborate on why minutes are so important and effective techniques to accurately record them.
So, what makes minutes important?
Ian Pratt of What Makes a Good Leader.com says it best: “Memories are unreliable.”
Hence why records are written down. Minutes serve as an accurate record of what exactly happens at meetings. Memories can fade or be clouded by distractions, contradicting accounts, and selection (selective memory). Writing down an accurate account of what happened right after it happened or as it is happening is important for resolving discrepancies later on.
Minutes serve as a legal record. In the event of an investigation, investigators will want an accurate record of past events. The board will want to ensure that they take necessary measures to record the facts. In legal cases, the survival of an organization could depend on it. Minutes also create a higher sense of accountability and transparency in the organization. They tell what decisions were being made at meetings, who voted on those decisions, and how they voted. This, in turn, acts as an incentive for members of the board to keep due diligence when it comes to making informed decisions. It also points an objective finger to who did what in the decision-making process.
Previous points considered minutes are important for making better decisions in the future. Minutes tell the history of the decisions that were made, and they allow boards to track the effects of those decisions on their organizations and their stakeholders. You can only learn from history if you have an accurate and detailed record of it.
Effective Techniques for Effective Minutes
Minutes are one of the most important aspects of a board meeting. So important they must be approved at the next board meeting. They are an account of what happened at a meeting, a legal record that must be held to the highest standards of accuracy. To be effective at creating accurate minutes, here are a few helpful techniques.
1. Have a Plan
To succeed in your goals, one must have a plan. Coordinating with the Chair to plan out the meeting helps down the road when it comes to taking the minutes. If the meeting is planned out properly, it will allow for the minutes-taker to make an accurate record with ease.
2. Take Relevant, Detailed Notes
During the meeting, it is important to have an effective means of taking accurate notes. Having an outline of the agenda will help with this, as it serves as a reminder of what to expect during the meeting. Audio and video recordings of meetings can be a great help for clarification purposes if the organization has the means and the minutes-taker has the permission of the board members. Having online meeting management software can be a tremendous help with taking notes during and after the meeting as well, especially if the software has a means of automatically creating a minutes packet.
Knowing what to make note of is very important as well since one has very little time to take notes as the meeting progresses. Important information to make note of includes, but is not limited to, date and time of the meeting, attendees, approval and amendments (if any) of minutes for the previous meeting, motions taken/rejected, items voted on, items that will be held until the next meeting, and the time of adjournment. Don’t try to write every single thing that was said down; focus on the decisions and action items.
3. Record and Finalize ASAP
It is extremely important to complete the minutes as soon as possible. Since memory has a tendency to fade over time, completing the minutes right after the meeting adjourns is most ideal, while the events of the meeting are still fresh in the mind. This helps to keep the minutes as accurate as possible and decreases the likelihood that they will need revising at the next meeting, saving the board time to focus on other decisions.
Meeting minutes play a vital role not just in the board meeting process, but in the overall well-being of an organization. They are an accurate account of the history of the board meetings, which makes them an important legal record. However, the accuracy of the minutes depends on the minute-taker, and using the mentioned techniques will make completing the minutes less painful and more accurate.