Meeting minutes can be many things: A requirement, a chore…or an important asset. When minutes are concise and clear, they help a board get their important work done well.
But how do we create the best possible minutes for an organization? Here are several helpful dos and don’ts.
Do send minutes, agenda, and agenda request ahead of time.
This is more of a “better meetings” tip, but worth including because the process to create the best agenda, meetings and minutes tends to flow from one to the next. Send board members the previous meeting’s minutes and the new meeting agenda far enough ahead of the meeting for them to review it thoroughly and include a request for any items they wish to add to the agenda. This will keep everyone on the same page and reduce the possibility of something important being brought up in New Business and kicked down the road.
An even better reason to send minutes early? Board members who have plenty of time to review the minutes will give you better input from board members than if they scan them in the short time between their arrival and the call to order.
Don’t try to have it both ways with notes.
You can create a set of clean, organized notes, or you can capture everything accurately. You simply won’t have the mental bandwidth to listen intently, write carefully and edit on the fly. Make peace with messy and disorganized notes; you’ll be revising what you’ve written anyway, so why not take advantage of that fact?
Do record the meeting and do use timestamps.
Even if you’re taking thorough notes, an audio recording is an invaluable backup. Using audio can make written notes better. Keep an eye on the progress bar or time display on your recording device and note the timestamp of major events or potentially confusing conversations you may want to review later.
Don’t record unless you’re absolutely certain you have everyone’s permission and a record of it.
Some board members will have issues with recording, but this should be rare as long as you clearly ask for permission up front and explain that the audio will remain private. Also, some U.S. states (such as Illinois) have “two party” laws which require all participants in a recorded conversation to know recording is going on and consent to it.
Do stick to the main facts.
The most important consideration in creating clear, concise minutes is to include what occurred without adding too much detail. Where possible, keep the minutes to:
● The main facts: Who was there, call to order and adjournment, action items, motions and votes, etc.
● Arrivals and departures if members come late or leave early.
● Questions asked and the resulting answers.
● “Discussion followed” for discussion prior to voting.
Don’t go blow by blow.
Make an exception to “discussion followed” if something said during the conversation must be included to make the resulting decision clearer. But avoid blow-by-blow recounting of statements made during the conversation, which usually add content without adding value.
Handling a discussion that includes needed context could look like this:
Ms. Smith moved we increase our spending on Facebook ads for the annual conference by 25%. Mr. Jones seconded. Discussion followed. Ms. Ferrer asked if the money would come from the marketing budget or the budget line for the conference itself. Ms. Smith amended her motion to use funds from the conference budget, and Mr. Jones seconded. Further discussion followed. Motion passed unanimously.
Do refine your process.
Creating minutes should be something that flows easily and produces a product that meets everyone’s needs and provides an accurate picture of your meetings. Don’t be afraid to refine your process until it works beautifully for you and your association.
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