A meeting that ends with no clear agenda, goals or decisions can feel like a complete waste of time. And in this fast-paced world, time is a valuable asset that cannot be wasted.
While agenda-setting is one way to keep meetings from becoming fruitless and ineffective, there is another oft-overlooked and underrated tool that can change the way you do meetings: minutes.
By tracking your meeting’s discussion, you can create an actionable report – including challenges you are facing, decisions made and more. The minutes of a meeting also serve as a checkpoint for progress, helping you figure out the next steps to propel your team forward.
But what is the most effective way to take down meeting minutes? Here is everything you need to know about effective minute-taking, from what to include to a sample template.
What to Include in Meeting Minutes
Agenda: A meeting agenda is an outline of everything that needs to be discussed. This includes (but is not limited to) discussion points, updates, and action items. Meeting agendas may also include who will be participating and what they will be presenting. Agendas are usually given out prior to the meeting, so grab a copy (or ask for an electronic version to be sent to you) and jot down a condensed version in your meeting minutes.
Date and time: This one sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people forget this. Add the time and date so that you can easily file and find agendas when you need to.
Participants: Jotting down the names of participants will help you keep track of who was present and who missed out on important discussions. This also makes it easier to attribute questions and comments to the right person.
Discussions and updates from previous meetings: It’s always good to have the minutes of the last meeting on hand. That way, you can make a checklist of all the tasks finished, corrections made, and problems solved. As a result, you get to monitor your team’s progress and hold people accountable for their tasks.
Decisions and achievements: This section includes everything that was agreed upon in the meeting, from next steps to assigned tasks to new projects and businesses to embark on. If you voted on a decision, don’t forget to record the motions taken/rejected as well as the outcome of the vote.
If you’re taking minutes for a board meeting, in some cases it’s important to note down which way specific board members voted, who made motions, and the like. Lastly, include deadlines and names of project leads so that you can remind everyone of their tasks after the meeting.
Tips for Effective Note Taking
Make an outline (or template) beforehand: Before the meeting starts, create an outline of all the discussion points based on the agenda. With a template, you don’t waste time fumbling over which discussion points go where. This gives you more time to jot down the actual discussions later on. Plus, a template creates consistency across all your minutes.
This is recommended for all kinds of meetings but especially for those among high-level executives (e.g. the board of directors). Make sure your pre-meeting outline also includes the names of each staff member present as well.
Take photos or ask for copies of presentations: Meeting minutes should not be limited to what has been said. Don’t forget to note down important information brought up during presentations. If you can’t keep track of both the speaker’s talking points and their visuals, ask for copies of their slides afterward and include it in your report. With a speaker’s permission, you can upload their presentation or documents to your website or elsewhere and create a hyperlink to their presentation within your minutes.
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification: If you’re the designated secretary at a board meeting or conference, everyone is relying on you to make an accurate report of what happened in the meeting room. Therefore you shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions and make clarifications.
You don’t have to write EVERYTHING down: Taking meeting minutes doesn’t mean writing down every single word said. Track only the essentials, and leave throwaway comments and unnecessary input off the record.
Record the minutes of meeting: Everyone’s got a voice recorder app on their phone these days. By recording the discussion, you have something to refer to if you find lapses and missing information in your notes. It’s a good idea to have your meeting attendees’ agreement and permission before starting to record.
Use meeting management software: Consider meeting management software that enables you to conduct your meetings and record meeting content more efficiently. Some programs even come with real-time collaboration, which means that you and other team members can all add information to the minutes document as the meeting happens.
Sample Meeting Minutes Template
There’s a myriad of ways you can format your meeting minutes – you just have to take the time to figure out which one works best for you. To get you started, here’s a fool-proof “by agenda” meeting minutes template you can try at your next meeting.
- Start with the most crucial information like:
- name of participants,
- committees present (such as membership, sales, marketing, HR, admin, finance committee, etc.),
- and the agenda.
- Next, segment your template by agenda items. For each agenda item note the presenter and the ensuing discussion.
- Jot down any conclusions made from the discussion, then end the segment with:
- a list of action items,
- the persons responsible for fulfilling these tasks,
- and task deadlines.
- Repeat the process until the end of the meeting.
With efficient minute-taking, you create a valuable document that can help boost productivity in your organization. Accurate minutes help you hold each other accountable, remind one another of tasks and upcoming deadlines, and identify problems in a flash. At the end of the day, this document can turn your next meeting into a productive and actionable discussion.