The best way to produce accurate minutes

The main goal of minute-taking (or ‘scribing’) a meeting is to accurately record and clearly present the proceedings and outcomes of the meeting.

Accurate minutes are necessary for meeting attendees, who will later need to ratify the minutes, and implement the decisions or actions decided on at the meeting. Accurate minute-taking is a legal requirement of incorporated associations and some other organisations.

How accurate does the 1st draft of the minutes need to be?

The first draft of a meeting – the draft you type while people are speaking – doesn’t need to be highly accurate in terms of spelling, punctuation or grammar. However, it has to include all the information required for you to later rewrite and edit it into an accurate representation or summary of the meeting.

The level of detail required in the first draft of the minutes will depend on the requirements of the organisation or people holding the meeting. (For example, they may need a transcript of the meeting, in addition to concise minutes; or they may need very detailed minutes.)

You may choose to record the meeting on a digital recorder, instead of typing while people speak. That is, you may merely take a few notes during the meeting, and rely on the recording for the main information you’ll need to write up the  minutes. If you use this method of recording the meeting, be aware that all the comments of the attendees will need to be clearly audible in the recording, so that the minutes can be accurately transcribed.

Can you record a meeting? Can you voice-to-text the recording?

If you are not confident or able to scribe the minutes reasonably accurately in ‘real time’ (that is, type what people are saying, at the time of the meeting), your only option will be to record the meeting with a digital recorder.

However, a normal digital recorder is note useful when recording a meeting of seven or more people because the recorder needs to be placed within 3-4 metres of all participants, for the recording to be sufficiently clear.

Comments provided by meeting participants who are further away than this will probably not be audible in the recording. This will mean that the minutes will have gaps of information and will not be accurate.

If it is a small meeting (up to 7 people) and you record it, you can produce a transcript and then use that transcript to write up the  minutes. You can produce a transcript by either of these methods.

  • voice-to-text technology: Word has a good quality program that converts voice to text. Word’s converter, AI or any other IT you use to convert audio to text is not human and does make mistakes that a human wouldn’t make. If you are not a fast typist this can be a good first option, before listening to the audio while correcting the transcript to make it accurate before writing the  minutes.
  • If you are a fast typist the hands-down best way to produce an accurate transcript on which to base your minutes is to transcribe the audio file into an accurate transcript. This can be done in one draft, and is faster than proofreading/correcting an AI-produced transcript against the audio.

When do you need to scribe in ‘real time’ i.e. type the minutes as people speak?

Minute-taking in ‘real time’ (i.e. typing what is being said, while it is being said) can be difficult when people are speaking at 100 to 140 words per minute. However, minute-taking in ‘real time’ is the only option for a meeting involving 8 or more people.

Regardless of the size of the meeting, if the scribe is fast and accurate, minute-taking in real time is the most efficient method of producing accurate minutes.

More information about scribing minutes

Image: Thank you to WOCinTechChat for permission to use this image.

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