With many traditional administrative tasks being taken over by tech, is there still a place for in-person minute taking for meetings?

Minutes have long provided an accurate record of meetings, from AGMs to board meetings and client discussions to team meetings. Often taken by a company secretary, minutes provide a summary of a meeting that can be distributed for later reference both by those present and non-attendees. When there is no company secretary, a meeting attendee could volunteer, or be assigned, to take minutes.

With recent advances in machine learning, there has been a shift to AI transcription in lieu of traditional minute taking. However, taking minutes and transcribing a meeting require different skills, with minute taking seen as an art in itself. It is a more intuitive and sophisticated way to identify and record key points in a discussion.

So, should businesses rely on AI to create an accurate record of important meetings? What benefits do minutes provide over an AI-generated transcript?

Global shift to videoconferencing

Since the beginning of the pandemic, video conferencing has become a necessity for many businesses both for internal and external meetings. Every day millions of people meet with clients, colleagues and friends using some of the top video conferencing platforms: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype and Cisco WebEx. Zoom, in particular, has seen huge growth, with a 3,000% increase in usage in 2020. It is now used by over half of the Fortune 500 companies.

Videoconferencing software has rapidly evolved to meet demand, with providers constantly adding new features. Transcription is one such feature that, pre-pandemic, was expected to be worth $31.82bn by 2025.

How automatic transcription has evolved

The top videoconferencing systems all offer live captioning using speech recognition tools. Some voice recording software products collect meeting data to track trends and patterns such as meeting attendance, time spent in meetings, etc.

They can listen for trigger phrases such as ‘take a note’ and highlight them in the transcript, as well as suggest schedules and work plans based on meeting action points. Others can identify topics discussed during a meeting and generate up to 10 suggested keywords or phrases.

Benefits of AI transcription

There are a number of benefits to AI transcription:

  • Saves time, as the transcript is automatically generated
  • Allows attendees to focus on the meeting, rather than taking notes
  • Saves costs on a minute taker – although there are software subscription costs
  • Improves understanding of (and for) non-native speakers
  • Aids accessibility for deaf and visually impaired people

Drawbacks of AI transcription

However, when using AI transcription software services, there are a few things to look out for including:

  • Low-quality recording, which can happen if there are issues with the hardware or Wi-Fi or if there are outside noises or interruptions. It can also occur if multiple attendees speak at the same time.
  • Attendee reticence. Some attendees may be less likely to speak freely if they know they are being recorded and that other people, such as their managers, could read the transcript later.
  • Unclear speaker identification, which can happen in AI audio recordings if two voices are fairly similar.
  • Inaccuracies, particularly around technical, legal or medical jargon or if there are multiple languages being spoken or regional accents. These meetings tend to be harder for artificial intelligence to transcribe, so a skilled, bilingual minute taker or one with industry experience, may be preferred.

When a skilled minute taker is needed

Minute writing is a skill of its own, very different from transcription, which records every detail of a meeting. An experienced minute taker can cut through lengthy and detailed discussions to record the salient points and agreed actions. This saves time for recipients of the notes, who may later need to refer back to the meeting.

Minutes are also an official record of actions decided during a meeting and serve a legal purpose as documentation of adherence to a company’s procedures and processes. Minutes can also be used as evidence in litigation, so it is important that correct information is recorded.

For important and/or high-level meetings, the human touch of a minute taker can be beneficial and reassuring. Accountability and compliance also benefit from having minutes with no inaccuracies. Some organisations choose to automate the elements they can while also taking minutes, in case the technology fails. This provides a clear and concise record of the meeting, while using the recording as an aide memoir.

Of course, there are also some meetings where a verbatim transcription is simply not needed. A department brainstorm, for example, or a team catch-up. In such scenarios, key bullet points from the meeting will be easier to read and digest. This also saves time for attendees, as automatically generated transcripts can be cumbersome to read as they include repetition and small talk.

To discover how our minute writing services could benefit your company, contact MSP at msp@mspsecretaries.co.uk or request a callback.