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Don’t ask me why, but in my more than 25 years working with people on their meetings, dog clubs and volunteer fire brigades seem to have the most trouble with their meetings!

I’ve had a query from a man in a volunteer fire brigade in rural Australia. It’s exactly the same query I have had several times before from similar groups in different parts of Australia.

The minutes have gone from being 3 – 5 pages long to being over 15 – 20 pages long because one, or a small group of members have insisted that the meetings record what everyone says.

So what do you do?

Firstly, I suggest the minute taker immediately hands over the job to one of the people who want the minutes to be a verbatim record or close to it. They’ll soon learn a) it is impossible and b) it is of no value to the group.!

Secondly, the group needs to make a decision that the minutes record the decisions and the action but NOT the discussion.

Discussion and who said what has no place in minutes. The golden rule of minutes, accepted worldwide is this:

Minutes are what is decided and what is done, NOT what is said!

Sometimes it is necessary to record the major reasons why a decision is made or the major factors that were considered in making a decision but who said what is of no relevance whatsoever (except to the person who said it!)

It is often suggested by misinformed people that there is a legal obligation to record what people say. I am not a lawyer but in the many discussions I have had with lawyers, they all say that the more you document, particularly what people say, the more you open yourself up to legal difficulties.

There are some acts of parliament that actually dictate that minutes should not record discussion.

So what do you do if you have people who want a verbatim record – 1.) give them the task of taking the minutes! then 2.) resolve that the minutes record decisions and action only and not discussion unless the major points need to be recorded in which case, they are recorded only as bullet points.

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