Meeting Minutes
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Taking Meeting Minutes

Minutes can be defined as a written record of the business transacted at a meeting. They may well have some legal and authoritative force.

What Points Should I Bear in Mind?

As a general rule, the fewer the words used the better. Ask yourself, what was the purpose of the meeting? Minutes of a formal meeting must include: decisions taken, motions passed and the names of the people who attended. Those of a standing committee must provide enough information and discussion so that absent members can participate on equal terms at the next meeting. Minutes of a subcommittee must include enough to keep its parent committee in touch with developments and to explain the reasons for decisions.

Write in the simple past tense (Mr Smith reported that...), and as soon as possible after the meeting. Selective note taking at the meeting will greatly assist this process. Concentrate on conclusions. Do not record controversy; state what was decided.

The way minutes are numbered varies from organisation to organisation. Here are three common methods:

  • consecutively, from the first meeting onwards
  • consecutively, beginning each set of minutes with 'I'
  • and consecutively, beginning each year with 'I'

Check that your minutes:

  • provide a true, impartial and balanced account of the proceedings;
  • are written in clear, concise and unambiguous language;
  • are as concise as is compatible with the degree of accuracy required;
  • follow a method of presentation which helps the reader assimilate the contents.

Once the minutes have been drafted, ask the chairperson to check them. Then circulate them to anyone who will be expected to act upon them. It is a good idea to clearly identify these people by putting their names in an 'action' column on the right of the page and opposite the appropriate references in the text.

If someone asks for a correction, try to negotiate an acceptable form of words. However do not be fooled by people who want you to report what they should have said, not what they actually said. At the following meeting these minutes will be discussed and any arguments over them will be resolved. The chairperson will then sign them as correct.

What would be a suitable format?

Headings in the minutes of a meeting should broadly correspond
with those which appear in its agenda, as follows:

1. Heading (including where and when the meeting was held)

2. Present (who was there)

3. Apologies for Absence (who should have been there, but was not)

4. Minutes of the Previous Meeting (note: any corrections and state 'The minutes were accepted as a true record of the meeting [with
the above corrections]') Simple statements of what actually occurred at the meeting

9. Any Other Business (the 'leftovers')

10. Date of Next Meeting (also give the time and location).

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