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Robert's Rules of Order Video blog

ROBERT'S RULES REVEALED: EP #05 – What to Include in the Minutes

Monday, September 03, 2012 - Susan Leahy

Hi, Susan Leahy here from www.RobertsRulesMadeSimple.com. Welcome to another episode of Robert’s Rules Revealed. Today we’re going to be talking to fellow parliamentarian, Lorenzo Cuesta as we answer key questions about Robert’s Rules of Order. Now before we start, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single episode.

SUSAN: Okay so today we are on with Lorenzo Cuesta from Roberts-Rules.com and we’re going to be shedding some light on one of the biggest mysteries in meetings and that is how to take great minutes. Lorenzo, welcome, how are you doing?

LORENZO: Just fine I’m glad to be here.

SUSAN: I’m glad you’re here and like I said we’re going to be shedding some light on this question and I know you are the man to ask. What should actually be included in the minutes?

LORENZO: I'm glad you asked that because many of the problems groups have are caused by poor minutes. They don’t realize it. All they have to do is not go in to this long list of thoughts and ideas and criticisms, instead focus on the important things. Number one, write down the wording of every motion as stated by the residing officer not as anybody else heard it. Because it is his exact same wording that is what everybody is going to discuss and vote upon.

SUSAN: And we really need to emphasize this point because I think that sometimes the motion that is on the floor gets lost and the secretary just trying to write what she or he thinks that motion is. So I like what you said, the presiding officer has to state the motion and that is the motion that needs to be stated in the minutes.

LORENZO: That’s right.

SUSAN: What else needs to be included in the minutes?

LORENZO: Too often I see minutes that have a listing of things that were discussed or covered but they don’t say what happened. Minutes have to indicate the exact action that was taken. Fore instance was the motion adopted, defeated, postponed, referred, laid because all of this has a consequence not only in business but in the next meeting.

SUSAN: And it’s about the action, the action, the action that was taken people. And I think you’re right when the action is left out of the minutes the minutes are really no good they aren’t important it just ends up being a bunch of he said she said and people are ending up putting in dialog instead of the action and that’s what’s really important in meetings.

LORENZO: Agreed, that’s right.

SUSAN: What else is missing in meetings, what else needs to be put in there?

LORENZO: Here is another thing that is often misused and that is the number of the votes. They should only be included if there has been a ballot, such as an election. When a counted vote has been ordered, you have to say how much was for and against. But at no other time to you waste time trying to get the exact count because all you really need to know is whether or not you get majority or not, that’s all.

SUSAN: It’s like come on people, we don’t need to waste so much time. At the end of the day its if the motion failed or passed. I mean that’s really all we are interested in, unless you said that a formal roll call vote or counted vote was asked to be taken. But other than that that is all we need to put in the minutes, right?

LORENZO: Exactly, I had one other point. And that is, when the report by the treasurer is being given; all you need is four numbers- the current balance, the receipts, disbursements and the final balance. That’s it, nothing else is needed, don’t waste time.

SUSAN: Don’t waste time, and I think its that sense at the end of the day with the treasurers report, we only wan the final totals you don't have to put the whole report in there. Do you find that most of your clients include too much instead of the right things?

LORENZO: Definitely, and it gets to the point where you cannot get any business done because you're listening to someone read off all these numbers that nobody cares about.

SUSAN: It's never a great mystery to me why in a great organization when they say “who wants to be secretary” everyone sits on their hands because they think they are going to have to write so much. So remember people they are minutes, not seconds. And Lorenzo I want to thank you for imparting your wisdom and I want to encourage all of you to visit Lorenzo’s website Roberts-rules.com, he has some great handouts about how to write powerful minutes. So thank you so much Lorenzo and remember its minutes, not seconds. All right, take care.
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