Meeting Notes: What Would You Include?

Most meeting note-takers work too hard. They record too much information–information that no one wants or needs beyond that moment in the meeting. And their work will not be rewarded. People won't read those long, detailed meeting minutes. 

After taking the online course Meeting Notes Made Easy, attendees can recognize unnecessary information and stop recording it.  

How about you? Can you recognize what to leave out?

Below are five excerpts from fictional meeting notes. If you were the note-taker, would you include all the information shown? If not, what would you cut? 

Fictional Excerpt 1. 

CALL TO ORDER

Commissioner Jon Branch called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m.

Commissioner Branch noted who would be on the Risk-Management Committee this year: himself, Commissioner Tina Olson, and public member Susan Meyers, who is starting her second year on the Risk-Management Committee.

The focus of the discussion today is the 2016 Risk-Management Plan, long-range goals and objectives, and annual goals.

Would you include all the information above? If not, what would you leave out? 

 

Fictional Excerpt 2. 

INDIVIDUAL UPDATES

Sanya has started attending the Tuesday noon Toastmasters meetings and encourages anyone who wants to work on public speaking to come. 

Margo is having lunch today at Anthony's with a new potential client, Jim Severes from Allied, who was introduced by Brian Nelson. 

Ted will take PTO tomorrow and Friday. Nadia will provide backup for his clients. 

Eileen got engaged last weekend! 

Fabiola has a meeting with WMAA tomorrow. 

Hitomi wants everyone to know that expense reports are due today. 

Alejandra is almost finished editing the XYZ proposal. 

Lenke has not yet heard from Don about the trade show booth. There is some concern about its size. 

Would you include all the information above? If not, what would you leave out? 

 

Fictional Excerpt 3.

Dr. Miller made a motion to approve the January 9 minutes as amended; it was seconded by Ms. Otto and unanimously approved. Amendments include fixing the spelling of Harmon Reading's name in the attendee list (that spelling is correct), correcting the date at the bottom of page 1 (December 7, not December 17), and adding the word "proposed" at the bottom of page 2, to read as follows: "The proposed fee is $17,500."

Would you include all the information above? If not, what would you omit?

 

 Fictional Excerpt 4. 

David Washington introduced Janet Blake, who joined the board this month. Ms. Blake has worked as an attorney at Smith, Smith, and Jones for three years. Her interest in our work stems from her experiences working with immigrants on the Mexican border, when she attended college in Las Cruces, New Mexico. On the personal side, she is an avid photographer and hiker. We all welcome Ms. Blake (Janet) to the committee. 

Would you include all the information above? If not, what would you cut? 

 

Fictional Excerpt 5. 

New Refreshment Policy. People provided feedback on the proposed change:

–Jose thinks people should be encouraged to bring their own refreshments, unless clean-up is an issue. 

–Lizzy thinks the company should continue to provide refreshments. It seems "cheap" to suddenly stop, and it makes people wonder whether the company isn't doing well. 

–Karen doesn't care either way. 

–Cormac would like the coffee service continued. He thinks food is "overkill." 

–Billy would like tea, hot water, and cold water to be added to the drinks. 

–Martin suggested that we explain the reason for the policy change to all employees, then move forward with it. We agreed to Martin's suggestion. 

Would you include all the information above? If not, what would you cut? 

 

 

If you agree that meeting notes are a record of what happened at a meeting–not what was said–you will agree with these deletions:  

 

Fictional Excerpt 1. None of the information is necessary other than the actual call to order. 

CALL TO ORDER

Commissioner Jon Branch called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m.

Commissioner Branch noted who would be on the Risk-Management Committee this year: himself, Commissioner Tina Olson, and public member Susan Meyers, who is starting her second year on the Risk-Management Committee.

The focus of the discussion today is the 2016 Risk-Management Plan, long-range goals and objectives, and annual goals.

 

Fictional Excerpt 2. Although people at the meeting may have enjoyed sharing the information and listening to it, none of it belongs in the meeting notes. By the time the notes get distributed, none of the information is likely to be relevant.  

INDIVIDUAL UPDATES

[Insert:] Team members gave individual updates. 

Sanya has started attending the Tuesday noon Toastmasters meetings and encourages anyone who wants to work on public speaking to come. 

Margo is having lunch today at Anthony's with a new potential client, Jim Severes from Allied, who was introduced by Brian Nelson. 

Ted will take PTO tomorrow and Friday. Nadia will provide backup for his clients. 

Eileen got engaged last weekend! 

Fabiola has a meeting with WMAA tomorrow. 

Hitomi wants everyone to know that expense reports are due today. 

Alejandra is almost finished editing the XYZ proposal. 

Lenke has not yet heard from Don about the trade show booth. There is some concern about its size. 

 

Fictional Excerpt 3. According to Robert's Rules of Order, names of those who move and second approval of the minutes are not necessary. Also, the actual changes to the previous month's minutes should not appear in the new minutes.

[Insert:] The January 9 minutes were approved as amended.

Dr. Miller made a motion to approve the January 9 minutes as amended; it was seconded by Ms. Otto and unanimously approved. Amendments include fixing the spelling of Harmon Reading's name in the attendee list (that spelling is correct), correcting the date at the bottom of page 1 (December 7, not December 17), and adding the word "proposed" at the bottom of page 2, to read as follows: "The proposed fee is $17,500."

 

Fictional Excerpt 4. If people outside the meeting would like to learn about the new board member, her bio should appear in a newsletter article, an email, a blog post, or another communication. 

David Washington introduced Janet Blake, who joined the board this month. Ms. Blake has worked as an attorney at Smith, Smith, and Jones for three years. Her interest in our work stems from her experiences working with immigrants on the Mexican border, when she attended college in Las Cruces, New Mexico. On the personal side, she is an avid photographer and hiker. We all welcome Ms. Blake (Janet) to the committee. 

 

Fictional Excerpt 5. Details of the discussion do not belong in meeting notes–only the outcome of the discussion.

New Refreshment Policy. People provided feedback on the proposed change.

–Jose thinks people should be encouraged to bring their own refreshments, unless clean-up is an issue. 

–Lizzy thinks the company should continue to provide refreshments. It seems "cheap" to suddenly stop, and it makes people wonder whether the company isn't doing well. 

–Karen doesn't care either way. 

–Cormac would like the coffee service continued. He thinks food is "overkill." 

–Billy would like tea, hot water, and cold water to be added to the drinks. 

–Martin suggested that we explain the reason for the policy change to all employees, then move forward with it. We agreed to Martin's suggestion.  [EDIT TO:] We agreed to explain the reason for the policy change to all employees, then to move forward with it. 

 

To learn more about what to leave out of–and what to include!– in meeting notes and minutes, take the online self-study course Meeting Notes Made Easy

Lynn
Syntax Training 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Who will receive this information? Depending on the recipient list, some items could be important and even warrant expansion: Did you know we have a risk-management committee? Allied is finally talking with us! What’s holding up the big XYZ proposal? And…what’s the refreshment policy change?

  2. I agree with your analysis on all of these, so long as we are discussing private BUSINESS organizations. If this is a public organization where you must be accountable, the rules change. You might need more of an accounting of what was discussed, though not EVERYTHING that was discussed. Certainly capture decisions made and vote counts for the official record.

  3. Hi George,

    I appreciate your comment. You are right that key points should appear in meeting notes. Too often though we rely on meeting notes to communicate news to the organization. That’s not their purpose.

    Let’s send out an email letting people know about the change in the refreshment policy, and let’s have managers post that email. And if people don’t know we have a risk-management committee, let’s tell them in a newsletter article, a blog post, or an email announcement.

    In our meeting notes, we can include the decisions of the risk-management committee. Or let’s attach to the meeting notes the presenter’s slides. Let’s not make the meeting note-taker do the work of introducing the committee to the organization or the public.

    Regarding the proposal Alejandra is almost finished editing, let’s turn that around to an action item. Who is going to proofread, approve, and send out the proposal?

    I’m voting for meeting notes that focus on key points, decisions, and action items–not news.

    I always appreciate your perspective.

    Lynn

  4. Hi Laura,

    We agree that decisions and vote counts belong in the public record. Was there anything in the material I cut that you would have kept in the minutes? I think the edits are appropriate, even for public organizations.

    According to Robert’s Rules of Order, which people follow in meetings run by parliamentary procedure, it is wrong to include discussion. The minutes should include what was done, not what was said.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Lynn

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