How to Write Meeting Minutes: Expert Tips, Meeting Minutes Templates and Sample Meeting Minutes
With everything that’s at stake in today’s challenging times, it’s no wonder that employers prize accurate minute-taking skills more than ever before. Minutes serve as a permanent record of what was decided, what actions must be taken, who must take them and when.
Every day, key meetings are probably taking place in your office. And the decisions made as a result of those meetings can involve millions of dollars, and even change people’s careers. That’s why the role of the minute-taker is so important.
Business Management Daily, publisher of Administrative Professional Today, designed this special report to teach you tips and tools to take accurate, professional minutes and save time using meeting minutes templates. Whether you’ve never taken minutes before or you want to take your skills to the next level, How to Write Meeting Minutes will help you master the task.
1. Pre-meeting preparation: 8 key steps
When just the thought of creating official meeting minutes makes your writing hand freeze, take note: Preparation starts well before the meeting.
2. During the meeting: 10 minute-taking tips
Even after years of practice, taking minutes wasn’t getting any easier for Terri Michaels. “I had become wordy, and the minutes were sometimes eight pages,” she says. “Each new director or company wanted them done differently.”
Finally, she enrolled in a workshop, where she learned that to take better minutes, “I had to adjust my listening skills and thinking patterns, and home in on what was really being discussed.”
Now Michaels uses these minute-taking best practices:
1. Ask yourself, as you’re taking notes, “Will it matter in two days, two weeks, two months, two years?” If yes, include it. “I still find myself putting things in my draft that do not matter and later removing them,” Michaels says.
2. Summarize. Don’t record conversations word for word.
3. Do record motions word for word, and indent them for easy scanning.
Mr. Hurst made a motion to approve the 2008 ranking list. Seconded by Mr. Goodhart.
4. Use keywords vs. sentences. Tip: Record minutes in a steno pad. On the left side, write keywords; on the right side, make short notations on the keywords. Want the notes to stick in your memory? Write on a color pad.
5. Keep emotions out of the minutes—yours and those of attendees. Example: “Mr. Smith, exasperated by the discussion, left the room.”
Download How to Write Meeting Minutes for the remaining five minute-taking tips.
3. When confused at a meeting, speak up!
You’re sitting in a meeting taking the minutes when you suddenly realize you don’t understand what’s being discussed. Speaking up to ask for clarification can be intimidating. Despite that feeling of discomfort, though, it’s best to summon the courage, especially since you’re the one charged with taking formal minutes.
Having a few useful phrases on hand can give you the confidence you need, says Jodi Glickman Brown, founder of communication consulting firm Great on the Job. She offers a few examples in a Harvard Business Review blog post:
√ “Forgive me if I’m behind the 8-ball here, but I’m a little confused about …”
√ “Max, I believe this is what you said … Is that correct?”
√ “I’m not entirely sure I’m following you. Could you please recap what you just mentioned regarding …”
√ “I’m sure I’m supposed to know this already, but …”
√ “I apologize if this is totally obvious to everyone here, but what does XYZ stand for?”
4. Conversation veers off track—now what?
You’re taking minutes in a meeting when the conversation suddenly goes off topic. Or, two attendees begin to argue. To what extent should you capture the conversation?
“The problem with side conversations: Sometimes people just chitchat and say nothing of value, but other times they say something important,” says Joan Burge, founder and CEO of Office Dynamics.
In How to Write Meeting Minutes, she offers tips for turning meeting conversations into a valuable road map—even when the conversation is difficult to track.
5. Use a meeting minutes template to save time
At her company meetings, senior administrative assistant Amy Finelli uses a meeting minutes template. That way, she can quickly send out notes after the meeting “because I don’t have to figure out how to organize the topics. And it looks the same each time I send it out,” she says.
6. Turn meeting minutes into action plans
After a meeting is over, everyone will scurry back to their desks to check email messages and resume work. They may quickly forget about the action items they just took on.
Your mission? To produce minutes that remind everyone what needs to happen next, and assure them that their meeting time was well spent.
These five suggestions will help you prepare to write minutes that yield results:
1. Use a consistent format. People refer to minutes to remember what the group decided and who’s in charge of doing what next. Help that information pop out with a consistent format that people will see each time.
2. Include discussion recaps, and key them to the agenda topic they match. No need to give a word-for-word account (see exception in No. 3), nor should you editorialize.
Example: “Bob feels we need to look into industry averages, as well as our company’s numbers for the past few years, before finalizing our sales goals.”
3. Be specific when it really counts. If the group makes a major decision, include synopses of the discussion’s debates and conclusions. A vague account will make your minutes less valuable.
4. List complete names and titles under an “Attendees” headline at the start of your minutes. Should someone refer to your minutes two years later, he might not know who “Bob” was.
5. Present action steps and deadlines clearly by using bullets, underlining or bolding keywords. Make sure attendees can see at a glance what’s expected of them.
7. Post-meeting: Closing the minute-taking loop
When it’s time to produce your meeting minutes, follow these steps:
1. Gather your materials
Pull together the agenda, your notes, any reports or documents that were distributed at the meeting, and verbatim copies of motions and resolutions.
2. Create a draft within 24 hours, while the information is fresh in your mind
If you used your laptop to take notes, it won’t take a lot of time to type your draft.
3. Double-space your minutes
That way, handwritten corrections can be easily and clearly inserted.
4. Make sure to include any attachments
5. Send a draft to the meeting leader
Ask the leader to review the minutes before you send them out to attendees. This gives him or her the chance to clarify anything, or to add an important point.
6. Prepare to make corrections
After you’ve spruced up your notes and formatted the document, you’ll need to make sure all corrections are made to the final version before filing it as a formal record.
Download How to Write Meeting Minutes for Minute-Taking Templates and Sample Meeting Minutes.