Also sometimes referred to by their longer name, the minutes of a meeting, minutes are the summarized record of what happened at a meeting. You can think of them as a more formal combination of your meeting agenda and meeting notes.
Similar to meeting notes, minutes are meant to 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.
Plus, when they’re written well, meeting minutes are a critical communication tool for your entire organization. Unfortunately, that also means chicken scratch and doodles won’t do here.
To that end, we’ve created this reference so you can learn and access everything you need to write effective formal—or informal—meeting minutes, including:
- How to Write Meeting Minutes
- Formal and Informal Meeting Minutes Samples
- Formal Meeting Minutes Template
- Informal Meeting Minutes Template
Informal and Formal Minutes of Meeting Formats
Before diving into how to write meeting minutes, it’s important to first figure out what type of format you’ll need: formal or informal.
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.
Since these types of meeting minutes are required for compliance, they generally must follow a specific format.
For the rest of us, meeting minutes are simpler and more customizable. You can think of informal meeting minutes as a meeting summary, so 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.
How to Write Meeting Minutes
Whether you’re writing formal or informal meeting minutes, the keys to writing well are the same: be concise and clear. Your creative writing skills must take a back seat (for now).
Your job is to write the minutes in such a way that someone who didn’t attend the meeting could read them 6 months after the meeting and understand:
- Who attended the meeting
- What decisions were made and by whom
- Why and how those decisions were made
- What was done as a result of that meeting
As you might imagine, there’s a balancing act between keeping minutes concise and providing the necessary context. 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.)
While you definitely want to avoid injecting personal observations and irrelevant conversations into the minutes, the amount of context you include is a judgment call. To strike the balance, imagine that 6 months from now someone will need to know what happened in your meeting, and write to that person.
TIPS: Making Meeting Minutes More Usable
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 can 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 is aligned 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 become far more effective.
Meeting Minutes Samples & Examples
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 way that’s useful for your organization. 👇
Formal Meeting Minutes Sample
Informal Meeting Minutes Sample
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.
And here's the template based on the informal meeting minutes sample above:
Get More Out of Your Meetings 🙌
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.