How to take minutes at a meeting - a comprehensive guide
As an official record of topics discussed, ideas raised and motions passed, meeting minutes are a crucial component of any board meeting. If you’re just starting a new role as a secretary for a boardroom, committee or other organisation, learning how to take meeting minutes is likely to comprise one of your principal duties at the outset.
That can seem like a daunting task to the uninitiated, but with a little preparation and planning, you’ll soon discover that recording board meeting minutes is not as stressful or as difficult as you might have once feared. All that’s required is to familiarise yourself with what meeting minutes actually are, why they’re important, what they should include and how to go about taking them efficiently and effectively. Thankfully, this article is on hand to answer all of those questions (and more!) for you.
What are board meeting minutes and why are they important?
Board meeting minutes are an official written record of everything which takes place during a meeting. They are an excellent communication tool, helping those who were present at the meeting (and those who missed it through absence) keep up to date with everything that was discussed. In this manner, they guarantee that everyone stays on the same page.
They’re also useful retrospectively since they can allow team members to check which actions were decided upon and who was responsible for following through on them, potentially with a deadline for doing so as well. What’s more, they can also be important from a legal perspective, since many organisations are required to document their board minutes as a legal obligation. They can be helpful in providing insight and information in the case of a company audit, too.
What should be included in meeting minutes?
The exact content of board meeting minutes will vary depending upon the circumstances surrounding the meeting and the nature of the organisation. Having said that, there are a certain number of items that invariably merit inclusion when recording meeting minutes. Some examples of these include:
- Date and time of the meeting
- Names and titles of the meeting’s attendees and absentees
- Amendments and corrections to the minutes of the previous meeting
- Amendments and additions to the current meeting agenda
- Outstanding business from the previous meeting
- New business
- Motions proposed, whether approved or rejected (along with explanatory information about who proposed them, the numbers for and against and any relevant details about the arguments of each side)
- Actions agreed upon going forwards, as well as the names of those tasked with handling them
- Any deadlines for said actions to take place
- Open discussion details
- Date and time of next meeting
- Time of meeting adjournment
While that might sound like an exhaustive list, it can be helpful to remember that even though they are called meeting minutes, you’re not expected to document every little thing in minute detail or give a minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow account of the event. Instead, concentrate on the key elements and make shorthand notes in the meeting itself, fleshing them out after the fact.
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How to take meeting minutes
As with most things in life, it’s easier to get a handle on how to take good meeting minutes if you break it down into more manageable chunks. With that in mind, here are the five steps you can take to ensure that taking minutes of a meeting is as stress-free as it is successful:
Step 1 – Preparation
It’s important to remember that every organisation will have different expectations about what exactly should and shouldn’t be included in their meeting minutes. With that in mind, it’s advisable to look through previous meeting minutes to get an idea of what sorts of details are deemed necessary in your particular place of business. It’s also a good idea to confer with the meeting chair if you have any doubts over what to include. Additionally, it’s best to review the agenda for the upcoming meeting, as this may inform your ideas on what will be most pertinent to document.
Step 2 – Recording
After the initial planning stage, it’s now time to actually record the meeting minutes themselves. Depending upon your preference and the options available to you, you may wish to do so in a physical notebook, on a laptop or other digital device or even using a dedicated software solution. The specific method of how to writing meeting minutes is up to you, but you should ensure that you take notes of the most salient points raised in the moment – you can always go back and add more detail afterwards. Don’t be afraid to ask attendees to clarify points they made or repeat themselves if you missed something, either. It’s important to be thorough and accurate.
One recommended strategy is to use a template. How do you take minutes in a meeting template? By identifying the core concerns of your organisations and the main topics of discussion or points of interest in the agenda, then structuring your template around these. If you do not want to make your own template, we have made a variety of ready-made options for you to use.
As well as the structure and the content of the minutes, it’s also important to maintain a neutral tone when recording them. You should only document the factual information of the meeting, refraining from giving opinions or using emotional language. A good way to ensure you avoid these pitfalls is to remove all adverbs and adjectives from the minutes. In this way, you’ll guarantee that you only take down what is being discussed and not what may or may not have been felt, potentially avoiding any legal ramifications in the future.
Step 3 – Editing
After the meeting is concluded, it’s advisable to edit the minutes immediately. This will allow you to keep all important information fresh in your mind and approach the task with more confidence and clarity than if you leave it to a later hour or date. When editing, you should look to expand upon any points which were glossed over during your initial minute-taking because of the pace of the discussion. You should also tidy up the format, remove any data which could harm the organisation from a legal standpoint and clarify any ambiguous descriptions.
Step 4 – Distribution
Once the meeting minutes have been edited, you should then take them to your manager or the chair of the meeting for approval. Only once this has been granted should you distribute them among the relevant team members. You can do this via the attachment of documents to emails or by using online tools such as Google Docs, which will allow everyone to view them simultaneously and in real-time.
Alternatively, your company may wish to simplify and streamline the distribution and enhance the quality of the minutes by using a dedicated meeting minutes platform. Whichever method of distribution your company favours, it’s a good idea to make sure you share the document in a timely manner.
Step 5 – Storage
Finally, it’s necessary to store the meeting minutes in a safe place for future use. Most board meeting minutes are reviewed and approved at the next session of the meeting, so secure storage is vital from this perspective. However, storage is also useful for revisiting the minutes at a later date, to check on progress, verify actions and provide evidence in case of an audit or legal investigation.
There are several storage options available to you. In today’s digital world, most organisations will choose to store their meeting minutes in an online repository such as Google Docs, Dropbox or some other location. Again, a purpose-built solution can offer a variety of advantages over its rivals here, which is why they are becoming increasingly popular. It may also be beneficial to store backup copies on a hard drive or even in paper format, depending upon the preferences of your company.
How to take minutes with ease
Taking, editing, distributing and storing minutes is vital for any organisation to run efficiently. Shaparency’s board meeting software can make every step of the process easier, with a range of features that are designed specifically for running meetings, taking minutes and keeping everyone informed.
To find out more, simply contact our team – who will be happy to walk you through our platform, its features and how it can help your organisation thrive.