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If you don’t take down meeting minutes you’ll hate yourself

by Celine on November 13th, 2007

I attended a pretty significant boardroom meeting today and was appalled when I realized that no one was taking down the minutes!  So I  immediately took initiative to write things down.

Why? Because minutes are good for the following things:

As a legal document.  For the IRS and other government agencies, meeting minutes can be considered as legal documents.  This can come in handy whenever you want to sue someone or save your asses from being sued.  Actually, this should be reason enough.

To keep records.  Trust me, you’ll need to know who said what.  Whether it’s to trace the source of brilliant ideas or to point fingers (hopefully not the latter), there will come a time where you’ll need to refer to the meeting minutes.  Also, you can’t expect a human brain (especially mine) to remember everything.  It’s also common that people don’t really listen to what everyone says 100%, so they’ll need a different way to access such transitory information.

For accountability purposes. Whenever there’s a meeting, you’re likely to hear about new assignments due for the next meeting.  How are you going to know if people did their assigned tasks if you didn’t write them down?  True, they should take the initiative and remember their own jobs, but not everyone is going to do that.

Back in the old days (well, last August), Tris wrote an excellent post about how to mind map your meeting minutesHere are some additional tips:

Record the audio, if you can.  Because whether you type on your laptop or scribble with your pen, you’re bound to miss out on some key facts - especially if people are talking fast or if many people are talking at the same time.  You need to take down notes so that audio transcription won’t become a chore, but the audio recording is important in case you don’t get everything down the first time.

Get the minutes done as soon as possible.  Because the sooner you get them done, the more accurate they are. Also, some people might immediately need the info from the minutes to proceed with certain projects, especially if they weren’t present.

Get a supervisor to approve the final version of the minutes.  Why? Because in case someone contests something written in the minutes, you can always go “Aha! But Ms. Supervisor approved it!”  Or, paraphrased more tactfully, getting the supervisor’s approval secures the finality of those minutes.

Once you’ve finalized the minutes, send it to all attendees and relevant personnel.  Because keeping this record isn’t just for you, it’s for everyone.  They need written details of the meeting so they’ll have a clear understanding on what was discussed.

So please, for your own sanity and for the sake of your company, remember to take down minutes.  If you don’t take down minutes, your meetings will be but fleeting, falling leaves from a dying tree - and we all know that only haiku writers benefit from such transitory things.

POSTED IN: Workplace pimps, Workplace hacks, Staying Sane, Cube life

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