How to Save Time With Your Council Meeting Minutes

Lena Eisenstein
6 min read

If you’re a municipal clerk, you may have found yourself thinking, “The task of taking council meeting minutes isn’t hard, it just takes too much time!” The frustration stems from much of the preparation being redundant and repetitive. This article is for clerks who desire to do a great job of completing meeting minutes while eliminating their frustration by using technology to streamline the process. Software solutions can expedite minute-taking by prefilling and pre-populating data and tracking follow-ups. The many features of a board portal can do even more to make the clerk’s job easier.

What Are the Main Issues that Frustrate Clerks?

There’s an obvious connection between the past meeting minutes, the new agenda, and the current meeting minutes, but clerks have difficulty finding a fast and accurate way to transfer information from one document to another.

It’s time-consuming to record the same attendees for each type of meeting.

Each meeting has a different number of members which means that quorums are different for each meeting. Clerks need to learn to do mental math quickly to determine whether a quorum is present.

It’s also difficult to record votes as they come in and make a fast determination whether a motion carried or failed. There’s also the issue of recording how each member voted and how to make voting transparent for the public.

While there’s an agenda to follow, sometimes meetings just move along too quickly to record important information accurately. Clerks may find themselves jumping around their notepad, scribbling notes in various sections, so they don’t forget to add things to the minutes later.

After the meeting, they have to place all the follow ups from the meeting on their calendar to make sure they get completed in a timely manner.

The public may put pressure on the clerk to publish the meeting minutes online as fast as possible after the meeting. The clerk still has to get them typed up and approved, find space on the municipality’s website to publish them, and get them posted.

Fortunately, there’s a technological solution that solves these problems and more, so clerks can focus their time on more important matters.

Technology Offers Solutions for Minute-Taking Before Council Meetings Start

Managing agendas and minutes using the iCompass meeting manager provides clerks flexibility to change things as necessary. Attendance and voting are automatically recorded in real-time and can be displayed in the transparency portal.

Clerks can choose to take notes on paper and add them to the Minutes Module program later or record minutes directly into the minute’s builder. Experienced clerks may prefer to complete minutes, recorded votes, and meeting discussion during the meeting. Here’s how the program saves time for each section of the meeting.

Attendance and Voting

Clerks have the option to set up automated attendance, voting, or both.

Minutes Manager lets clerks input the names of the attendees for each council and committee meeting. The initial setup is done on the main template so Clerks can set it and forget it – until next election! When the meeting starts, the clerk clicks on the button for Roll Call and it automatically records Present attendance.

Clerks can also choose to set up automated voting before the meeting begins. Using a few clicks you can input the criteria for the meeting’s quorum and it calculates the quorum automatically.

Additionally, the clerk can set the program to display attendance or voting results internally. If they wish, they can also set the program to display the attendance records and voting results directly onto the board’s transparency portal. These features are in keeping with best practices regarding transparency and openness for board meetings.

Building the Minutes Template

Since the minutes are based off the agenda items, most of the information transfers from the agenda program to the minutes program automatically when the clerk builds the online agenda. After building the agenda, the clerk can move to the Minutes Module and pre-populate items, resolution, or motions and even action items. The clerk can adjust any of these areas during the meeting, and after, as necessary.

Minutes Module uses a drag-and-drop technology, so clerks can change and move things around in seconds. Tabs for headings, items, resolutions/motions, and follow-ups are color-coded, so they train your eyes to quickly go to the section you need. You can even reorder and move around whole sections of the minutes template using the drag-and-drop technology.

How to Save Time During the Meeting

Once the meeting begins, it’s simply a matter of clicking on the roll call button and letting the software record the attendees. At the same time the program will let you know if a quorum is present and record the presence or absence of a quorum in the minutes. This is another time-saver!

With Minutes Module, recording votes couldn’t be easier. The template gives you an area to check off the names of those who make and second motions. When it’s time to vote, send out an electronic call for votes. The software will automatically record how each member votes. The program displays each member’s vote, the total votes for and against, and whether the vote was carried or defeated. As if voting couldn’t be easier, the program also records abstentions and conflicts of interest.

Automated Tracking Saves Time on Follow-Up Actions

You may recall that one of the color-coded tabs is for follow-ups. If a member agrees to accept a follow-up action, it’s simply a matter of dragging the follow-up tab to the appropriate section of the template and typing a quick note about which member is responsible and what they agreed to do.

At the end of the meeting, you can export the follow-up actions into Action Tracking to make sure members complete their responsibilities.

How to Save Time in Publishing Meeting Minutes

You should be able to see how you can implement these time-savers to nearly complete the meeting minutes by the time the meeting is over. All that’s really left to do is proofread the minutes and double-check the format to make sure it’s readable and aesthetically pleasing. The program even lets you perform a quick spell-check and options for quick format tweaks. At this point, you have an accurate, complete, and polished copy of meeting minutes that’s ready for publishing online. You can choose to publish a split-screen of the agenda and the minutes. Just press publish and links to the copies automatically appear on public area of the transparency portal.

The transparency portal allows constituents to subscribe to automated emails containing meeting material of their choosing. It also lets you send a group email directly to the council members and staff with the link to the published minutes.

Would you believe that the minutes you just created can set the stage for your next meeting’s agenda? The program can send a copy of the minutes directly to your next agenda and start building it for the next meeting.

You can also easily upload a signed copy of the adopted minutes by transferring it from your computer to the publish area of the Minutes Module program.

In summary, Minutes Module is a solution that saves clerks time and frustration of routine duties before, during, and after meetings. The process supports good governance because it keeps meeting records open, transparent, and easily accessible to the public. Ultimately, the overall process lends itself to an extreme sense of job satisfaction for municipal clerks.