Minutes are the written record of everything that happens during every meeting that your organisation holds. They’re important for a number of reasons: anyone who couldn’t attend the meeting can read them to catch up; all decisions made during the meetings can be tracked; any future decisions can be cross-referenced with prior discussions to fully inform the decision-makers.
Reviewing minutes is an important step when making any major decisions. It makes sense, then, that minutes need to be, you know, readable. So here’s a few tips to keep in mind next time you’re called on to write minutes in an important meeting.
When you’re first learning how to take minutes, a quick googling will find you dozens of templates that people across the world have created to streamline the process. These are an amazing tool to guide you in what good minutes should look like, but they’re not all created equal.
First, look for templates that allow you to edit their layout on the fly. Any file that Microsoft Word (and equivalent) can open is typically the easiest to manage. You’re going to need a lot more space than most of these templates initially give, and if you bring up a .pdf file and expect it to work out great, you might run into some trouble.
Secondly, look over the template’s organisation structure. The meeting will have a flow to it, so your minutes should reflect that. Attendance to agenda items to adjournment is the most simplistic form of this flow, and if the template you’ve found doesn’t have a clear linear progression through these points and their (potentially very complex) subsections, it may not be up to scratch.
While finding an appropriate template is a great first step, there are a number of other ways to plan ahead for your minute-taking role. Whoever is arranging the meeting will have an Agenda planned - a list of discussion topics in the order in which they’ll be addressed. Having this incorporated into your minutes before the meeting will help you focus on the more important things like major decision points, vote tallying, or holdover topics.
Another great trick, if you can make it work, is confirming attendance and approving prior governance before the meeting begins. Sending out RSVP emails to all the invitees can be a massive time-saver once the meeting begins. All you need to do is mark off those who didn’t RSVP, rather than spend precious discussion time calling a roll and holding individual motions for the previous minutes, this meeting’s agenda, and/or amendments to any previous governance. Getting these arduous tasks out of the way via email or other recordable process before the meeting begins lets you get through the meeting in a breeze.
On The Job
The previous two points are great ways to save time during the meeting, but how exactly should you spend that time once you’re there? Discussion can fly by a lot faster than you’re able to notate it. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you’ll never be able to take down every word, so don’t try to. Take notes while the discussion happens, and come back to each point after the meeting adjourns to rewrite those notes into a clear and concise paragraph. Tracking just decisions, assignments, action steps, and holdovers on the fly is a quick way to cover all your bases.
That isn’t to say that you can just ignore things if they don’t seem relevant at the time. Always be sure to speak up and ask for clarification if it feels like something was glossed over. A great way to cover your bases here is to record the meeting - audio, video, doesn’t matter, so long as it’s easy to review once the meeting’s done. Be sure to get the board’s consent beforehand, of course.
Minutes are a vital part of every board’s life, and they should never be neglected. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll make sure that your meetings flow smoothly, and all the information created during them can be easily read by anyone, anytime.