Difference Between Meeting Minutes & Retreat Notes
Meetings and retreats provide an opportunity for the stakeholders of a company to interact. Whether this interaction takes place in a formal setting or a fun, engaging environment off-site, you're probably going to want a record of what was discussed. Minutes and retreat notes are both critical records of business discussions, but each has a different target audience and a specific purpose.
Minutes provide a historical documentation of key information. They serve as a record of business transacted and resolutions adopted at a firm’s official meetings, such as board of directors gathering, managers' meetings and annual stockholder meetings. Board actions, elections of officers or directors, and reports from committees and staff are included in the meeting minutes. The recording or corresponding secretary records the meeting, writes the minutes and upon completion, distributes the minutes to attendees.
Notes taken at a retreat serve as explanatory notations of what occurred at the off-site event. Firms participate in retreats for team building, strategic and long-term planning purposes, and retreats help solidify a management team by providing time to interact in a casual environment. Brainstorming, outside-the-box thinking and blue-sky ideas are often discussed and encouraged at retreats. Notes are jotted down by individuals to capture thought-provoking ideas or meeting segments that are important to them. Although these ideas might be a good starting point, it is not necessary or advisable to include preliminary and sometimes unworkable suggestions in historical-based meeting meetings.
Because they serve as an official record, meeting minutes should follow a consistent format. The degree of detail varies, but there should be enough information included to make the minutes useful should they be referenced in the future. Meeting minutes generally include basic information, such as the date and time of the meeting, names of those in attendance and not in attendance, names of guests, whether a quorum was established, and board and committee reports. Most importantly, minutes capture any board actions like approvals, delegations of authority, directives and resolutions. While notes may include some of the same information as minutes, notes vary vastly in format and content and are not considered an official record. An individual’s notes may contain attention-getting comments subscribed quickly in incomplete sentences or phrases. Confidential or sensitive information may be covered in notes, but is not included in minutes.
Once written, the meeting minutes are sent to those on the distribution list, entered into record and available to stakeholders requesting them. Approved at the following meeting, minutes are then accepted into the permanent record as the true representation of the proceedings and therefore can be accessed as important evidence in legal proceedings or during an examination by the IRS. Informal and sometimes with a shorthand only understood by the note taker, notes are personal in nature. They are usually not distributed to attendees, although they may be shared with a few. In instances where notes from the retreat include a personal task list or private thoughts, they are meant only for the eyes of the note taker.