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Too Much or Too Little Detail

Taking minutes for a meeting is not something you ask of the first person you see. It requires knowledge and skill because meeting minutes form an integral part of meetings.

Meeting minutes should capture the purpose of the meeting and its agreed outcomes as a record that can be referred back to and that can be used for follow-up purposes. But, just how much detail should be included in a set of minutes?

Defining the purpose of the minutes

The manner in which meeting minutes are taken and drawn up is defined not only by the purpose of the meeting but also the purpose the minutes.

The required format for the taking meeting minutes should be clearly indicated to the minute-taker to avoid disappointment and wasting of valuable time by having to re-write half the record. It also helps the minute-taker not to miss important information during the meeting but to also not include unnecessary content from a board meeting with an objective stance.

A very useful tip to ensure constantly correct minutes reflecting the information you need is to establish a template indicative of the purpose. A previous example of previous meeting minutes, with which you are satisfied, could be distributed to your minute-taker to empower her/him in advance and assist in preparing for the meeting.

The meeting minutes should be used to record the meeting’s proceedings and decisions. They should be concise and brief for effective meeting minutes. As a general rule, the meeting minutes should be as brief as possible. This will enable the minutes to be easily digested by all participants at the meeting. It will also enable them to be written quickly.

How much detail to include in Minutes

Effective meeting minutes are clear and to the point, but at the same time, they do not leave out important information. They are not meant to be transcriptions of meetings, where every word spoken is recorded, but their original purpose was also never to just create to-do lists for all involved in committee meetings.
Keep the following two good practices in mind when deciding on how much information to include at each point on the meeting agenda:

  • If there is extensive deliberation before passing a motion, summarize the major arguments from the different parties before noting the decision for the official record.
  • Otherwise, at each point, just include a short description of each decision taken (10 – 12 words) followed by a brief explanation of the rationale for the decision made by meeting participants for an accurate record.

I.e. the objectives of the meeting and the decisions leading up to that should be clearly noted in the minutes and unnecessary content should be avoided, it is the duty of the chairman to clearly indicate if the information is valuable or unnecessary for taking effective meeting minutes.

business people in a meeting
Meeting minutes for board meetings

What not to include in meeting minutes

Personal observations or judgments should not be included in meeting minutes. All statements should have the same neutral tone of voice when you write meeting minutes. Write down everything everyone says, but write it all down. Don’t worry if your notes aren’t clear.

Don’t write a transcript — it would be impossible, so don’t bother. Do your best to pay attention during the meeting to see what issues, ideas and solutions are being discussed.

Don’t wait to type up the minutes

Don’t wait to type up the meeting minutes; rather, record your meeting minutes as they happen so that you can document them accurately and appropriately.

In a nutshell
When it comes to an effective format for your meeting minutes, the template is determined by the purpose and to save yourself a lot of trouble, this should be defined beforehand based on previous meetings, not amended afterwards.

Call us as AdminAssist today for a professional assistant to take minutes at your next meeting, or learn how else you can take advantage of our knowledge and skills.