Minute writing: Humans vs AI

Eve Marriott | May 21, 2024

yellow and black glowing robot toy.

Should you use AI minute-writing tools? Or are they causing more harm than good? Image by Jochen van Wylick / Unsplash licence

So you want AI to step in as your new minute taker. Fair enough — it’s easy to use, requires less thinking, and is available at your fingertips any time you need. But is it actually as convenient and reliable as it sounds? Or is it causing more problems?

Here are our main takeaways from using AI minute-writing tools, plus some things to keep in mind when using them.

1. Their eye for detail isn’t the best

A Woman Looking Through a Magnifying Glass

On inspection, AI tools lack an eye for detail and can lead to errors. Image by cottonbro studio / Pexels licence

While most AI minute-writing tools do take a full transcription of everything that’s said, they usually aren’t that accurate. You’ll find most transcripts are full of errors — not just in the words said, but in who’s said them. These tools aren’t the best at distinguishing different people’s voices.

You’ll usually get a full verbatim transcription of the meeting. This works for some situations, but is not an accessible form of minute taking. It creates more work down the line if people have to sift through the full transcript to find what they need.

Most AI tools will give you a good summary of the main points of your meeting alongside the verbatim transcription. Usually, you’ll get the main points in a bullet list, but with varying degrees of accuracy. Some relevant information may be missed.

AI tools also aren’t as adaptable as a person. If they can’t understand an accent, speech pattern, or a language, the minutes won’t be accurate. And they can’t ask you to clarify what you’ve just said — like a person usually would if they’ve missed something.

If you don’t mind a long, detailed transcription or you only want a quick summary of your meeting, AI tools could work for you. However, if you need something that’s less detailed but more than just a summary, having a person take your minutes is far more reliable.

2. They can’t really give you quality assurance

Five yellow stars on blue and pink background

They can’t give you that five-star quality assurance. Image by Towfiqu barbhuiya / Pexels licence

One thing AI can’t quite manage is quality assurance. While you do get an in-depth transcription and a quick summary, it can’t verify accuracy. Nor can it ensure the minutes are up to your organisation’s standards. A person would typically set themselves up to meet those standards — especially for important company-wide meetings.

AI tools also lack the contextual understanding and critical thinking involved to put meeting minutes together. For example, some things said in a meeting need to be reworded to create better understanding, or to land in the intended way. Only a person is really able to do this.

A person can also understand the context of discussions, nuances, and non-verbal cues far better than an AI can. An AI tool can only listen and transcribe, but a person can ‘read the room’ and contextualise the minutes to match. People can be far more flexible and adjust their approach based on meeting dynamics. They can also filter information and prioritise key points — providing more meaningful and helpful minutes.

Remember, AI minute-writing tools have been created to transcribe and summarise. So if your meeting only needs that, they’re a good option. However, for professional, accurate, and empathetic minutes, choose a human minute-taker.

3. Be aware of privacy risks

red and white neon signage that says ‘recording’.

AI minute-taking tools are recording devices by design. Image by Lucas Alexander / Unsplash licence

A big thing to consider when using AI tools is that you’re being recorded on a platform that your organisation doesn’t own. These tools don’t necessarily offer a great level of privacy or security. And by using them, you’re creating a digital footprint that you can’t control.

Once you’ve used AI to record a meeting, the tool then stores your information in the cloud. You have no control over this — even with security subscriptions you can pay for. This raises some pretty valid concerns about confidentiality (especially if the content in your meeting is sensitive).

A person taking minutes is far more likely to maintain confidentiality. Plus, they’ll usually store the minutes in a secure place controlled by your organisation.

Think carefully before you use an AI minute-writing tool.

If it’s a sales meeting involving company figures or discussing a sensitive client project, maybe stick with a real person to record minutes. But if you’re brainstorming, or just want a summary of a quick catch-up with a colleague, AI tools could be the easier option.

4. They can save you a lot of time

Shallow focus photograph of an hourglass.

AI tools are great time savers, especially for quick meetings. Image by Jordan Benton / Pexels licence

One of the best things about AI minute-taking tools is the time and energy you can save. The minutes are pretty much ready as soon as the meeting is done. And they integrate with other software systems, like an Outlook calendar, which streamlines your workflow. They’re ready for you to press record when your meeting starts — which is especially great if you forgot you needed to take minutes.

If a person takes your minutes, they’ll look different depending on who’s taking them. But if you use an AI tool, they’ll always follow the same formula and flow of formatting and style. However,  that style and formatting is limited to what the AI tool has built in. If you want a customised minute-writing format, you’ll benefit from having a person take the minutes.

5. Follow a good formula to make it work

A person holding a laboratory flask.

You’ll need to handle AI tools like a fine science, so create a formula that works for you. Image by Chokniti Khongchum / Pexels licence

For AI tools to work well, you need a good agenda and allotted speaking time for the people with agenda items. Only allow one person to speak at a time, otherwise your AI minute-taker might not correctly note who’s spoken or what they’ve said. Make sure to mention the name of who’s about to speak for better accuracy.

Part of the formula is knowing you have good technology. If you have great microphones, your AI tool will be able to create more accurate minutes. But if your mics pick up a lot of interference, or aren’t clear, the AI tool may struggle.

If you’re sharing a single microphone with your team, the AI tool won’t be able to decipher who’s talking. The transcription will look like the same person is saying everything. You’ll need to mention who’s speaking in the meeting so that detail is recorded in the minutes.

If you’ve accounted for all these elements, AI minute-writing tools should work well for you and your organisation. But if you have tech problems, or software you can’t rely on, go with a person. Or only use AI tools in meetings where total accuracy isn’t a priority.

Our final thoughts

AI minute-writing tools aren’t the enemy. They can be very handy. But think critically about whether they’re suitable for the type of meeting you’re about to go into, and use them with care.

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