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Leanne from Australia has asked this question: Is it legal for a secretary to use a voice  recorder (phone) to record a meeting instead of taking notes?
I , as the Chair, don’t like this idea and feel that it might be in breach of confidentiality.

Legality is not the issue here. There are two more relevant issues. One is appropriateness or propriety, the other is efficiency. There is though, some legislation that actually dictates that minutes should be decisions and action and not discussion. Minute takers who record meetings tend to think minutes need to record what is said – that is not what minutes are or should be.

Lets deal with efficiency first. Recording a meeting is generally something you should avoid if at all possible. Our research shows that a meeting that is recorded has all downsides and no upsides.  Firstly, people attending a meeting that is recorded will tend to say what they “think they should say” and not what they really think. And so research shows, that in meetings that are recorded, the real decisions tend to be made outside the meeting – a very very common phenomenon.  Secondly, the minute take will tend to “rely” on the recording which is very very unwise. Thirdly, our research shows that a minute taker who records the meeting will on average spend three times as long getting the minutes done because they listen to the whole meeting the equivalent of 3 times and their accuracy tends not to be as good as minute takers who take the minutes “live”. Finally, meetings which are recorded tend to be much more conflict ridden as people argue over what was said and call for the recording when none of that is really relevant – the decisions and  action are relevant, not what people said.

I have no desire to denigrate your minute taker, but minute takers who record meetings tend to be “old school”. There is a mindset for minute takers who record meetings and it is that they need to minute everything. Nothing could be further from the truth. Minutes are what is decided and what is done, NOT what is said.

Minutes should be taken directly onto a laptop computer and be available literally within minutes of the meeting concluding. For instance, I am company secretary for a professional association and I take the minutes. I take the minutes directly onto a computer while the meeting is running and on average have the complete minutes emailed to everyone within 5 minutes of the meeting closing – my record is 90 seconds.

Now the other issue – Appropriateness. In my view, it is not appropriate for the meeting to be recorded. As I have said, it creates the wrong “culture” for the meeting and there are no good arguments to record a meeting. I have worked with many many organisations which do not allow meetings to be recorded.

So what should Leanne do?

As chair, I suggest you have a coffee with the minute taker and explain that she must no longer record the meetings. It is your right to say that. I suggest you get the support of a couple of other board members as well. If he/she says she cannot take the minutes without the recording, then you need to find another minute taker or send him/her to some training. Modern minute takers would not dream of recording a meeting. I am developing an online minute taking training program but that will not be ready for a few months.

You also mention that he/she records on the phone. That is dangerous for the confidentiality issue which you mention in your question. I suggest that needs to stop immediately.

There are other posts about minute taking on this blog which you may like to look at – just search for the minute taking tag.

Please Note: The author accepts no responsibility for anything which occurs directly or indirectly as a result of using any of the suggestions or procedures detailed in this blog. All suggestions and procedures are provided in good faith as general guidelines only and should be used in conjunction with relevant legislation, constitutions, rules, laws, by-laws, and with reasonable judgement.


David Julian Price

[email protected]





2 thoughts on “Is it legal for a minute taker to use a voice recorder to record a meeting instead of taking notes?

  1. Dear David,
    Could you please advise me regarding following situation,please.
    Our ethnic women’s association has just celebrated its first Birthday.It has been very difficult but rewarding and interesting time for me, as its President, and majority og other members.
    At our first AGM last month our Vice President asked for a leave of absence due to her pregnancy.
    Yesterday, out of the blue,our Treasurer has asked for a leave of absence due to her studies…(smells of a rat to me)
    Both members have been rather passive thru the year and have not make it clear when they intend (if ever?)to resume their duties. On the other hand, there are two other very active and interested ladies,who joined our organisation a few months ago, but are not Management Committee Members at this stage.
    My question is: Can we replace absentees with these new members by electing them at out next meeting which is at the end of this month?
    Thanking you in anticipation of your reply.
    Kind regards,

    • You can replace them only by following the rules of your organisation.
      In general, an organisation will have specific rules for how vacancies on the management committee can be filled.
      If not, do what common sense would dictate – fill the vacancies with people who are keen to do the work required.

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