So that they can be useful in the future, meeting minutes need to be brief and to the point.
What are the meeting minutes and their purpose?
Meeting minutes are the written record of everything that happened during a meeting. They highlight the key issues discussed, motions proposed or voted on, and activities to be undertaken.
Their task is to provide an accurate record of what transpired during the meeting. Meeting minutes are used to inform people who didn't attend the meeting or to keep track of what was decided during it so that you can use it to inform future decisions.
The minutes of a meeting are usually taken by a designated member of the group.
In some circumstances, meeting minutes serve a legal purpose. For example, with a board meeting, the minutes are a legal record of board activity.
What should be excluded in the meeting minutes?
Avoid switching tenses in your writing. Stick to past tense.
Avoid recording the debate; just record the outcome. People may debate, offer evidence, research, and more. None of this needs to be recorded. The minutes should include the point that was discussed and the decision that was reached.
Avoid making personal observations or opinions. Don't make your own comments. Stick to just the facts.
Avoid verbatim quotes. Minutes are not a legal transcript. Always summarize.
Avoid letting the meeting move on if you're confused. If you miss a key point, ask for clarification for the minutes before the meeting changes topic.
Avoid summarizing documents that are shared in the meeting. Attach them to the minutes and simply reference them by name and state how the document is used.
What should be included in the minutes?
The date and time. Your template should always include the date, time, and possibly location if your meeting moves around.
Meeting participants. Document who attended and who was absent from the meeting. Note specific positions, such as the chair, secretary, committee members, or other titles that may be helpful for your organization.
Approval of the minutes from the previous meeting. This is a common practice. Note any corrections that are made to minutes from previous meetings here as well.
The meeting agenda. The meeting's original agenda should serve as an outline for your minutes. Such an agenda may include formal sections, such as a Call to Order, but this is not mandatory.
Vote counts. If an issue is put to vote, what is the issue? What member put forward the motion and who seconded? Did it pass or fail, and by what vote?
Tasks. Any action items that came up during the meeting, including which meeting participant is responsible.
Documents that are shared during the meeting. If something is passed around during the meeting, attach a copy to the minutes as well (provided there is no legal or confidential reason not to). For example, in a board meeting, there is sometimes a "closed session" attended by only certain board members. The details of this would be omitted from the minutes.
A recording of the meeting. If your meeting is recorded (video or audio), attach a link or file to your digital meeting notes.
Pre-planning meeting minutes
A well-planned meeting helps ensure effective meeting minutes. Therefore, the meeting agenda should always be made available to the person taking the minutes—ideally, as a digital file they can copy and use to take notes as well.
This helps the person writing the minutes anticipate what is coming next and not have to fill in every topic.
Other meeting minutes tips
Write the minutes as the meeting takes place. Take meeting minutes during the meeting and refine them just after. You want to record the information from the meeting while it's fresh in your mind.
Use a digital format for your meeting notes. Because you'll need to store and share the minutes online, avoid hand-writing them first unless you want to type them up again later.
Use people's initials as shorthand for their full names. Tighten up your notes and record information more quickly with this tip.
Use an audio recorder. If you can't keep up with the meeting and need a reference for later, use an audio recorder (with permission from all attending).
Meeting minutes are important for any organization that wants an official record of the attendance, topics, votes, and decisions made during their meetings.