Also called the minutes of a meeting (abbreviation MoM), minutes are the official summary of what happened during a meeting.
Like meeting notes, minutes serve as a record that everyone can refer to, understand, and act on (if necessary). They should document what happened and what decisions were made.
When written well, and when using a good meeting minutes template, minutes are a critical communication tool for your entire organization. Unfortunately, that means chicken scratch and doodles won’t do here.
In this guide, you will learn and access everything you need to write effective formal and informal meeting minutes. We have a range of templates, some best practices, and answers to common questions about meeting minutes.
How to Write the Minutes of Any Meeting - What is covered in this guide:
- Tips on how to write meeting minutes
- Free meeting minutes templates
- Examples of minutes taken at a meeting
- Frequently asked questions about note-taking
Informal and Formal Minutes of Meeting Formats
Before diving into how to write meeting minutes, it’s essential first to figure out what type of format you’ll need, formal or informal, and where on that spectrum you sit.
Certain organizations such as nonprofits, public companies, local governments, and schools are required by law to create formal meeting minutes.
For example, in California, many state and local government bodies must make meeting minutes available to the public. Similarly, public companies are required to create meeting minutes for Board of Directors and Shareholder meetings.
Or, if you’ve applied for a PPP loan during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the required documents is the official minutes from a board meeting authorizing the loan.
Since these types of meeting minutes are required for compliance or legal reasons, they generally must follow a specific format.
For the most part, however, meeting minutes are more flexible and somewhat informal. They still need to be clear, professional, and templatized. But, you’re not going to get sued if you don’t include all the right information.
Think of informal meeting minutes as a meeting summary. The templates and forms you use are ultimately up to you. Still, just because they’re less formal doesn’t mean informal minutes are any less useful.
Example of minutes taken at a meeting
To illustrate what meeting minutes are, below is are two sample meeting minutes documents created from templates.
NOTE: There are 5 free meeting minutes templates at the end of this article for you to download as professional-looking Word documents, copy as Google Docs, or simply copy and paste from. These templates are also available from the free template library in your Hugo account.
Formal Meeting Minutes Sample
Informal / Simple Meeting Minutes Sample
How to Write Meeting Minutes - The Basics
Whether you’re writing in an formal or informal meeting minutes template, the keys to writing well are the same: be concise and clear.
Your creative writing skills must take a back seat (for now). Think of yourself as a journalist who is carefully documenting what is happening at the meeting.
And you don’t need a verbatim accounting of everything that people said in the meeting.
This about writing meeting minutes this way. If someone who didn’t attend the meeting read them six months from now, could they understand what happened?
Fill in your meeting minutes template clearly enough to be understood by someone who wasn’t there.
As you might imagine, there’s a balancing act when writing minutes. You must keep minutes concise but also provide enough context that what you write makes sense.
Just remember, it's often customary to review these meeting notes at the beginning of the next meeting. For example, a board meeting typically starts with a review and approval of the previous board meeting's minutes.
The amount of context you include as a meeting note-taker is a judgment call.
Just note the facts.
Definitely avoid jotting down personal observations and irrelevant conversations into the minutes. If you want to take separate notes of your own, you are welcome to do so. But the meeting minutes should be a factual record of the meeting.
Use a meeting minutes template for the right format.
If you’re writing formal meeting minutes, you’ll be more or less forced into a certain format. For trade unions, schools, city and county governments, and others, you’ll need to model your meeting minutes based on Robert’s Rules of Order.
But with informal meeting minutes, you have more flexibility, which you can use to make your minutes more usable and shareable.
By thoughtfully structuring your meeting agendas and minutes, you make both documents far more effective.
For example, you could link action items from your meeting minutes to your project management software to automatically create tasks. And if your agenda aligns with your meeting minutes, you can link relevant contextual information from the agenda to the automatically generated task.
In this way, your meeting minutes, agenda, and the meeting itself becomes far more effective.
Use these shorthand tricks to write meeting minutes faster
A lot can happen during a conversation and it can be hard for the note-taker to keep up.
Use initials instead of people’s full names. If there’s one note-taking tip that will save you loads of time, it’s probably this one.
Use acronyms where you can without sacrificing clarity. As with names, acronyms can be a big help. For example, we have a series of content we call “Behind the Team.” Whenever we discuss it in a meeting, the notes simply say BTT.
Using sentence fragments is fine as long as it still makes sense. No need for perfect grammar. Instead of full sentences, write things in your minutes like, “Decision to move forward,” or “Revisit strategy in 6 weeks.”
What should be included in the minutes of a meeting?
Here is some necessary information found in most meeting minutes.
- The title of the group that is meeting, or the meeting itself
- The date, time, and venue, if appropriate
- Who is in attendance and who is recording the minutes
- The meeting’s agenda
- What decisions were made and by whom
- Motions and vote counts (if applicable)
How do you write action items?
When adding tasks and action items to your meeting notes, here are five steps to follow.
Start your action item with a verb. A common time-saving mistake is to be too brief in noting a task, forgetting to include the “action” part of the action item.
- 😒 Bad: 2020 data
- 😀 Good: Pull the 2020 data to share with the team
Assign each action item to someone who is responsible. A single person must take ownership of every single task, otherwise that task may not be completed.
Don’t include more information than is necessary. It is up to the person who is responsible for the action item to keep track of details. These details don’t need to clutter up your meeting minutes.
Note a due date if there is one. Even if there is no clear date, often an arbitrary one, such as one week, is helpful for creating urgency to do the task.
Follow up on action items at the next meeting. If status updates on action items haven’t been given in the meantime, it can be helpful to blast through a previous meeting’s minutes to ensure action items were accomplished.
Who prepares the minutes of a meeting?
The minutes-taker may be a variety of people:
- A participant in the meeting
- Someone on the team who won’t be contributing but is privy to the information
- A professional note-taker
In formal situations, the person recording the minutes is often the secretary, an executive assistant, or an admin for the team or ranking member at the meeting.
In less-formal meetings, the person taking the minutes may simply be a volunteer. This might be the person who needs to participate in the discussion the least and can therefore focus on taking notes. Or, more often than not, the minutes-taker is the person who naturally wants to take notes, and does a good job.
This person who prepares the minutes of a meeting is sometimes called a “scribe” or “secretary.”
What is the proper order of an agenda?
If you’re following Robert’s Rules of Order, prioritize your agenda in this order:
- Minutes from the previous meeting
- Time-sensitive situations
- Unfinished business
- General items
- New business
If you’re not following strict parliamentary procedures in your meetings, much of this advice is still useful. Begin by carrying over any threads from the previous meeting, as well as large discussions or time-sensitive business. Leave more minor agenda items for the end.
How do you create a perfect meeting agenda?
We cover tips for effective meeting agendas in their own article, but here’s a quick overview.
The perfect agenda is brief but descriptive. It provides all the necessary background without being so long and unwieldy that no one wants to read it.
For an effective meeting agenda, follow these steps:
- Prepare your agenda before the meeting; at least 24 hours in advance.
- Clearly define the goal of the meeting so everyone knows why they are there.
- Prioritize agenda items based on importance.
- List discussion topics as questions that need to be answered.
- Allow reasonable amounts of time for each topic.
- Include necessary background info for decisions to be made.
- Share the agenda with attendees so they can have input and show up prepared.
What is the best template format for meeting minutes?
Should you use a Word Doc, Google Doc, Excel, PDF, email, or something else for your meeting minutes templates?
When considering what type of file or document to use for your meeting, the most important factor to consider is how you will save and share your minutes.
Standard files like Word Docs, Excel spreadsheets, and PDFs all have a similar limitation as templates for meeting minutes—they need an extra step to be used or shared. Opening any of these file types requires a special program that not everyone may have access to.
Additionally, regular files like Word Docs and PDFs need to be saved carefully in the cloud, with attention to not having multiple versions of the same file in dispute.
Often meeting minutes are also emailed, but email should not be the only place the meeting minutes live. The minutes should also be saved somewhere centralized so they can be found later if need be.
The best solution is often a cloud-based type of document, such as a Google Doc. Even better is a doc in a free meeting management system like Hugo, where notes are easily shared (or kept private), and automatically organized.
DON'TS: What not to include in meeting minutes
One of the most challenging aspects of taking meeting minutes is having restraint—choosing not just what to put in the minutes but what to leave out.
Don’t try to record everything verbatim. Minutes aren’t a transcription; they’re a summary. (See the best meeting transcription software if you need a word-for-word transcription.)
Don’t include personal thoughts or observations. If you have thoughts and ideas during the meeting, record them separately from the official minutes.
Don’t repeat information that is already there. Especially if the agenda clearly states a discussion topic (e.g., “2021 Budget Discussion) you do not need to write a redundant note in the minutes, which in this case would be “Budget was discussed for 2021.”
Don’t handwrite your notes. Because minutes are a record of what happened in the meeting, it’s better to start with a digital format since they’ll ultimately need to be saved and shared.
What tense should meeting minutes be written in?
Meeting minutes are a recounting of what happened at the meeting. They should read like a description of the past, not like an announcer calling a sports game as it’s playing out.
- Incorrect: The board approves the 2021 budget.
- Correct: The board approved the 2021 budget.
What are the abbreviations for minutes of meeting?
MoM stands for Minutes of Meeting.
MM stands for Meeting Minutes.
Note: Using these acronyms may be confusing to people who are unfamiliar with them.
How do you pronounce meeting minutes?
Even though the word “minutes” originates from the notion of something being small or my-newt, meeting minutes is pronounced like the word for a minute of time.
To say, “Please take minutes for this meeting,” you would pronounce the word the same as when saying, “There are sixty minutes in an hour.”
Do meeting minutes need to be approved or signed?
Certain formal meeting minutes do need to be certified in some way in order to be an official record of a meeting. Often the Chair needs to review and approve the minutes before they can be circulated. Or, for many organizations, minutes are reviewed and approved by the group at the beginning of the next meeting.
However, apart from these situations, whether your minutes are approved or not is up to the leaders at the organization and how they want to run their process.
Free Meeting Minutes Templates
Use these to guide your writing but remember that your meetings may require slightly different or additional information. Don’t get so enamored with copying the samples that you forget to write your meeting minutes in a useful way for your organization.
In the bottom right corner of any template, click the "Get this template" button to choose from three formats:
- Free meeting minutes template word doc
- Free meeting minutes template google doc
- Option to use the meeting minutes template inside Hugo (Free account)
Formal meeting minutes template
As mentioned, formal meeting minutes are generally written based on Robert’s Rules of Order. The template below is structured based on these rules.
If you’re starting from scratch, this is a perfect starting point, but you should adjust it based on your organization’s needs. If your organization has used meeting minutes before, ask someone to see a copy of what’s been done in the past and make improvements as you see fit.
Informal meeting minutes template
The following template is super basic. It sets the goal, meeting agenda, and records next steps for any type of meeting. And it doubles as a meeting summary template. Feel free to make it your own by adding elements of the formal template or your own ideas.
Simple meeting minutes template
And here's the template based on the informal meeting minutes sample at the top of this article:
Staff meeting minutes template
Do you have an all-hands staff meeting coming up? Here's a free template for you to download or copy.
Team meeting minutes template
This example agenda is based on a template that we use at Hugo for a lot of our team meetings.
Get more free meeting minutes templates (Word, Google docs) 🙌
Remember, the minutes of your meetings are there to help your organization be more collaborative, transparent, and efficient. Keep that in mind and whatever form or template you choose to use for your meeting minutes will work just fine.
The only additional meeting-related document you’ll need to worry about now is the agenda. Good thing we’ve got more than 80 meeting minutes templates for you to choose from. Get them in Word Doc or Google Doc (or add them to your free Hugo account)👇
So grab the templates you need and get ready to make your meetings matter even more.☝️ If you’ve ever wanted a tool to extract the most useful, relevant bits of information from a meeting, minutes could be your new best friend.