The importance of accuracy when minute-taking

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.

Minute-taking is also a legal requirement of incorporated associations and some other organisations.

How accurate does the first 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/should you record a meeting on a digital audio 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 only useful when recording a meeting of up to 7 or 8 people, and the recorder needs to be placed within about 4 metres of all participants. Comments provided by meeting participants who are further away than this may not be audible in the recording. This will mean that the recording – and therefore the minutes – will not be accurate.

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, it needs to be done if you are minute-taking a meeting that is not being digitally recorded.

If the meeting involves more than 8 people on site, the distance between the recorder and some participants will be too great to produce an audible recording of the meeting (using a normal digital recorder). Therefore, minute-taking in ‘real time’ is the only option for a meeting involving 8 or more people.

Many scribes prefer to minute-take all meetings, large and small, in ‘real time’ because if the scribe is fast and accurate, this is the most efficient method of producing accurate minutes.

More information about scribing minutes

Proofread by Dee Sansom from On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading.

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

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