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Robert's Rules of Order Video blog

ROBERT'S RULES REVEALED: Ep. #11 - Minute Taking Made Easy

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - Susan Leahy

SUSAN: Alright, so today we’re on with Rhonda Scharf. And Rhonda, were going to be talking about your area of expertise, minute taking made easy. You’ve got a website named minute taking made easy. How are you doing, Rhonda?

RHONDA: I’m fantastic thank-you for inviting me.

SUSAN: Well thank you for accepting. I really want to kind of start off with that point, well how do we make minutes easy.

RHONDA: Great question. And its actually the way I sort of “kick-off” my full day seminar. Because so many people are doing it so hard, they aren’t making it easy for themselves at all. So, one of the first points that I say is that whenever you’re going from rough copy to full copy, that’s where most people struggle, the meeting part okay maybe they’re a little boring, sometimes they’re a little long but that’s not the worst part of it. The worst part is when you got back to you desk and you say “now what?”. Instead of saying “now what?” you ask yourself this question “will it matter in two seconds, two minutes, two hours, two days, two months or two years?” And if it does matter in the future, that’s what needs to go from rough to final. If it doesn’t matter, I mean it may have been important in the meeting, but if it doesn’t matter, leave it out!

SUSAN: Wow! And I really like that and I feel like a lot of people look at their rough notes and they think they’ve go to cram it all into it and make it look pretty as it goes into the final, but its that sense of asking that question: “will it matter?”. So, what are some of the things you see put into the minutes that don’t matter?

RHONDA: You know, a lot. Back in high school we got bonus marks for having things being really long and descriptive, we don’t need it to be so long and descriptive now. So I think with minutes, a lot of it needs to come out, but one of the most common things that I see, and probably because its always been there is the line: “The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.” Well, you know what? The chair person should welcome everyone to the meeting, that’s polite, that’s nice. But it doesn’t matter to the history of the organization, to the history of the meetings. So that’s the kind of stuff that I call fluff, and it fills up the page, you don’t need it there. It should happen, but I don’t need to record it.

SUSAN: That’s right and well its interesting because sometimes I think people think that they’re court stenographers instead of meeting… There’s a definitive difference between dictating what happening in a court of law opposed to the business that takes place within a meeting. Right?

RHONDA: Absolutely. We’re not supposed to collect who said what. What happened, what was discussed, but not by who. And you’re right, court stenographers have this cool little machine that helps them do that, and we don’t. So, you’re right we’re not supposed to be making the same kind of document.

SUSAN: Right. We’re not supposed to be creating the same kind of document, can you tell me what document because I think the document, the minutes, minutes are actually easy. What goes into that document?

RHONDA: You’re summarizing what matters in the future, so what was discussed, what was the rationale for that decision or the decisions that were made and just it’s a summary, almost a bullet point. Okay we made a decision to do X, here’s what we talked about to make that decision. That’s it!

SUSAN: That’s it. And you don’t include anyone’s names? You don’t include he said this, she said that. None of that?

RHONDA: The only time you need a names are in actions, or if you choose to put the names in the motions. But you don’t need the names in the body of the document. It doesn’t matter who said what. The fact that it was said is what matters.

SUSAN: Okay now this is kind of an off the wall question. What if somebody says “I want my name added to the minutes as saying this"? What do you do in that circumstance?

RHONDA: Yeah. Its up to the chair actually. But the chair should always agree to that. And that’s really an ego thing talking. Unless you’re an elected official, elected official, I understand that. But within a corporate business?

SUSAN: I love what you said! I want everyone to hear what you said. That’s and ego thing people! And way too many people have way too much ego when sitting in their meetings. You heard it from Rhonda, you’re absolutely right, that’s an ego thing. Get your egos out of the meetings so you can actually start creating making and conducting business. So, very important. So Rhonda I tell you, always enlightening. I appreciate your perspective, the world appreciates the work that you do. And again, this is Rhonda Scharf and she has a great website called minute taking made easy.

Marge Sehnert commented on 01-Mar-2013 07:44 AM
When taking minutes I always use the agenda and make short notes. Whenever anyone has a motion, it is written down on a form so that the president can say the exact wording, and I can type the exact wording.

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