16 February 2012

Minute Taking Q&A

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was giving a webinar on minute-taking yesterday.  There were a few questions that as I pondered last night, I wanted to give a more fulsome answer to today.  Since some of you are on my blog, I thought this would be a good way to answer those questions.

Do you need to record in the minutes when someone abstains from a vote?
This is a good question, but doesn't have a simple answer.  It all depends on what type of meeting you are recording at and what rules they follow.  The meeting recorder should have a good grasp of the rules of order that their meeting follows as that will help to answer questions like this.  But rest assured it is always OK to go back and find the answer.  I keep the rule book with me in the meeting and have tabbed it to some things that I want to be able to find quickly.  Here are some frequently asked questions about voting at a meeting.

For the most part, it is the result of the vote that counts, not who voted yes, no or abstained.  If your meeting rules say that they need 50% +1 to pass a vote and there are 10 people in the meeting with voting rights, then you would need 6 people to pass the motion.  If six vote yes, three abstain and there is one no vote, it is still passed and that is all that would need to be recorded.  Read further in the Roberts Rules answers above for more information as there are exceptions. 

At one of our meetings, a board member voted no to a motion and asked to have his nay vote recorded in the minutes.  He wanted it to be known that he was against it.  I recorded that the motion was carried (or passed), but noted that this member had voted no.

The same rules do not apply to every meeting.  For example, in Roberts Rules the Chair and ex-officio members have a vote, but in our meeting governance manual it states the Chair can only vote to break a tie and ex-officio members do not have a vote.  Again, it all depends on what rules your meeting follows and that is what you need to go by.

Legal requirements have to be kept in mind as well.  Your governance manual should be reviewed by a lawyer to make sure your rules and by-laws are within the law for your particular province or state.

Do you record a question and answer in the minutes and assign it to the people involved?
Minutes should not be a he said/she said recording.  If a question is asked and answered in the meeting you need to determine if it is even necessary to put it in the minutes.  It may not need to be recorded if it is not relevant to the outcome of the discussion.  If it is relevant to the discussion, then the parties should not be singled out in the minutes by recording their names, but rather I would suggest the following as an example:

In this scenario, when they were at the first agenda item to approve it, someone asked if Business Arising could be added to the agenda and went on to say why they thought it was important.  Another person in the meeting said they were part of another meeting and found it very helpful to have a Business Arising item.  The group agreed to add it.  I would therefore record it as follows:

1.  Approval of Agenda
The agenda was accepted as presented.
There was discussion on the format of the agenda. Business Arising is to be added to the agenda as a standing item and will be dealt with after the Aproval of the Minutes.

To add Business Arising as a standing item on the agenda.

All you really want to record in the minutes is the outcome.  Sometimes when there is a presentation at the meeting or a report is given and there are questions and answers afterwards, I will simply state in the minutes: Discussion and questions ensued following the presentation or There was discussion and questions following the presentation.  If there is an outcome, I will write: Discusion and questions ensued following the report from the Director of Finance.  Directors are to follow up with their teams and report back on any budget implications.

He said/She said Etiquette
As I mentioned above, minutes are not a he said/she said recording, but at times what the Chair says should be recorded.  For example, in a senior leadership team the Chair wanted the meeting participants to make sure when they submit briefing notes for their individual agenda items that they include recommendations and advise whether it is for information or approval.  I would record this as follows:

1.  ABC Company Matter
The Director of Human Resources reported on the proposed merger with ABC Company and the implications to the current staff.  Discussion ensued.  An email is to be drafted to provide staff with information on the merger.

To draft an email to staff regarding the merger with ABC Company.
(Director of Finance)

The Chair reminded the team that when a briefing note is presented at the meeting, it should have clear recommendations and identify whether it is for information or approval.

I hope this is helpful and answers your questions.

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