What Are Meeting Minutes and How Are They Used in Business?

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Meeting minutes are notes taken of discussions and decisions made during meetings.
 
In informal settings, meeting notes are taken to provide a record of the discussion for future reference. In more formal settings, for example, for board meetings, minutes are taken and kept on file as legal documents.
 
It’s important that the right person take notes because the note-taker must be able to quickly determine which information is pertinent, and what can be left out. This article provides some tips on taking effective minutes and a template for easy and thorough note-taking.

 

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The basics of effective meeting minutes

Meeting minutes document the most important points discussed during a meeting. They serve several purposes:
 

  • Inform absent team members of the discussion and decisions made
  • Serve as a record of discussions for future reference
  • Provide “takeaways” for meetings that are informational
  • Supply reminders of action steps

Note-taking is a skill that can be improved over time. These tips can help note-takers get started:
 

  1. Note the important details
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Format notes after the meeting
  4. Have notes reviewed
  5. Distribute to your team

 

1. Note the important details

Here is a list of important information that note-takers may wish to include in meeting minutes:
 

  • Subject of meeting
  • Location (if relevant)
  • Date and time
  • Attendees
  • Agenda items
  • Status of action items
  • Date and time of the next meeting
  • Expected actions from teammates by the next meeting
  • Items to be discussed during the next meeting

 

2. Keep it simple

Keep notes clear and simple:
 

  • Create or use a template for regular meetings
  • Note participants as soon as they join the call or enter the meeting room
  • Write notes in a simple manner instead of trying to keep up word-for-word
  • Ask for repetition or clarification if necessary
  • Record the discussion with your phone or meeting software if appropriate

 

3. Format notes after the meeting

It is best to start formatting right after the meeting when your mind is fresh:
 

  • Add clarifications
  • Use the same verb tense throughout
  • Note speakers or participants if you are documenting a discussion
  • Attach documents discussed as an appendix
  • Save documents in a consistent naming style

 

4. Have notes reviewed

If you are taking notes for reference and the meeting is very important, ask another person on your team to review. This will ensure that you recorded everything accurately and thoroughly. Official meeting minutes for board meetings must be approved by the meeting chairperson in order to be filed as an official record.

 

5. Distribute

Once the minutes are approved or complete, share them with participants and absent team members via email. Keep notes or minutes in folders organized by date for easy retrieval.

 
Related: How to Grow Your Business

 

Why take meeting minutes

Well-organized and thorough meeting minutes offer a number of advantages. They can:
 

  • Provide structure: Facts, decisions, votes taken, conflicts, attendees and other important details can be retrieved if needed.
  •  

  • Offer legal protection: Auditors, the courts and the IRS consider meeting minutes official records of the actions of an organization and its board.
  •  

  • Measure progress: Meeting minutes can serve as a timeline of progress on projects, efficacy of decisions, and effectiveness of team members in terms of action steps.
  •  

  • Determine ownership: Minutes record votes, owners of tasks and decisions.

 
Related: How to Create a Performance Improvement Plan

 

Meeting minutes template

This template can help ensure that your meeting minutes are thorough and effective:
 
[Meeting name] meeting minutes
Location: [Address or name of meeting room]
Date: [Date]
Time: [Time]
Attendees: [list of names]

 
Agenda items
1. [Item]
2. [Item]
3. [Item]

 
Action items        Owner(s)       Deadline   Status

[Action item 1]    [Name(s) 1]    [Date 1]    [Status 1 for example, In Progress or Complete]

[Action item 2]    [Name(s) 2]    [Date 2]    [Status 2]

[Action item 3]    [Name(s) 3]    [Date 3]    [Status 3]

[Action item 4]    [Name(s) 4]    [Date 4]    [Status 4]

[Action item 5]    [Name(s) 5]    [Date 5]    [Status 5]

[Action item 6]    [Name(s) 6]    [Date 6]    [Status 6]

 

Meeting minutes FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about meeting minutes:

 

Who should record meeting minutes?

The person taking meeting minutes can be a professional note-taker, such as an assistant who attends solely for the purpose of recording the meeting. However, meeting minutes can also be taken by one of the meeting participants.

 

Should meeting minutes be signed?

If minutes are intended as official records, they should be signed by the person recording notes. The minutes may also be signed by the approving chairperson.

 

Should meeting minutes be written in the past tense?

Yes, because the notes are referring to things that happened in the past. The only time the past tense is not used is when you are writing details about things that are going to happen. For example, ‘The annual report will be checked for errors and discussed in the next meeting.’
 

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