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Effective Practices for Capturing Useful Meeting Minutes

Updated on March 5, 2015

Cabinet Meeting

Though presidential meetings are definitely important, every organization has important meetings that need to have minutes captured.
Though presidential meetings are definitely important, every organization has important meetings that need to have minutes captured. | Source

Meeting Minutes Defined

Minutes are taken to capture decisions made and actions assigned, remind attendees of their project role, note what happened in the meeting, and record basic information (SMART Technologies, 2004).

What are not meeting minutes? Minutes are not an exact recording of who said what and everything done in the meeting (SMART Technologies, 2004), and they do not describe all the “he said, she said” details (Gaertner-Johnston, 2006).

Taking minutes is not a task reserved for only secretaries. Every person will take minutes at one point or another. Robbins (2013) states taking minutes shows that you are attentive and helps you learn.

Meeting minutes are an official record, so accuracy is extremely important (McKay) as they are a legal record of the proceedings and actions (Sylvester). Without good meeting notes or minutes, we may not remember or recognize:

  • Decisions
  • Accomplishments
  • Action items

If we cannot remember the items above, we risk going in different directions and then meeting again for the same original purpose (Gaertner-Johnston, 2006).

To ensure you write useful and accurate meeting minutes, follow the steps below in this article.

How well do you feel you capture meeting minutes?

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Minute Template

Searching the internet for "meeting minute templates" returns a wide range of examples that can give you a starting point for your template.
Searching the internet for "meeting minute templates" returns a wide range of examples that can give you a starting point for your template. | Source

Prior to the Meeting

Prior to the meeting, create a template. You can use the agenda as a good starting point for the minutes outline (Wild Apricot) e. In the template, include (SMART Technologies, 2004):

  • Date and time of the meeting
  • The purpose of the meeting
  • The meeting lead or chair’s name
  • List of attendees
  • Assigned action items
  • Decisions made

Choose a recording tool that works best for you to keep up with the meeting and take coherent notes (Vulcan). If it is a laptop or tablet, ensure it is in working order. However, be sure to have paper and pens available as a back-up. If you use an electronic device, be sure to follow these considerations:

  • Turn off sounds to avoid distracting other attendees (Vulcan).
  • Consider turning off corporate instant messaging tools.
  • Do not check email or do other tasks. Remember, your responsibility is to capture the minutes.

Some people advise against using laptops to capture minutes in meetings. Robbins (2013) feels that people cannot be attentive with a laptop between them and everyone else in the meeting. He states that having the laptop creates a barrier between others in the meeting and does not foster relationships. Some people may be irritated by the sound of the clicking keyboard and others may get frustrated seeing someone stare at a screen (Business Productivity, 2012).

You may also chose to audio/video record the meeting if permitted. As a courtesy, inform the attendees at the beginning of the meeting that they are being recorded. These recordings can be used later for clarification. Ultimately, the recorder must decide the appropriate tool for them to use.

During the Meeting

Arrive to the meeting a little early to allow yourself enough time to get settled. This will also ensure you get a good seat where you can hear everyone and see the white board (Business Productivity, 2012).

As people arrive, take attendance. If you do not know the attendees, ask the meeting leader to introduce you (SMART Technologies, 2004). Another option is to pass around an attendance sheet and have everyone sign in; however, as the meeting recorder you still need to be familiar with everyone so you know who is speaking (McKay). Also, note invited attendees who were not able in the meeting (Business Productivity, 2012).

When the meeting begins, note the time. During the meeting, do not try to record every word. It is important that you understand what is being said (SMART Technologies, 2004) and capture key points, such as those noted below (Business Productivity, 2012):

  • Topics covered (these should be part of the agenda)

  • Key facts (though if they are documented somewhere else, only reference them)

  • Action items/tasks assigned

  • Decisions

  • Items that could not be discussed due to lack of time, but need to be followed up on later

  • Questions that need to be answered

While capturing the key points, be sure to avoid biases, do not leave out information with which you disagree (McKay), and try to use positive language (Gaertner-Johnston, 2006).

Additionally, write down motions, who made them, and the voting results (McKay). Be sure to note motions that must be voted on at future meetings. It is acceptable to ask for clarification if a decision or action item is not clear (SMART Technologies, 2004).

If someone makes a report, write down who made the report, briefly summarize the information, and note the action taken (Vulcan).

If attendees utilize a white board, be sure to photograph it and store the image with the meeting minutes.

To help increase your speed of note taking, use the tips below (Business Productivity, 2012):

  • Use abbreviations, such as Jan for January, Q1 for Quarter 1

  • Use capital letters for names

  • Use symbols for up, down, question, good and bad

  • Skip non-important words, such as “for, to, as”

  • Leave out letters (commonly vowels) to shorten words. For example:

    • mgmt – management

    • sbsrb – subscriber

    • ancmt – announcement

    • pp – postpone

Be sure to note the meeting end time.

Do not try to capture the meeting discussions verbatim. You need to understand the conversations and capture the key points, decisions, and action items.

Summary

Being the designated meeting recorder is an important and vital role for organizations. Personnel will use minutes as a reference for their action items and decisions made, and the minutes could be used for legal purposes in the future. Following the tips in this article should help you create accurate and useful information.

Works Cited

Business Productivity. (2012, July 2). How to Take Good Meeting Minutes. Retrieved March 2, 2015, from Business Productivity: http://www.businessproductivity.com/how-to-take-good-meeting-minutes/

Gaertner-Johnston, L. (2006, January 5). Tips for Writing Meeting Minutes. Retrieved March 2, 2015, from Business Writing Blog: http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2006/01/tips_for_writin.html

McKay, D. R. (n.d.). Taking Meeting Minutes. Retrieved March 2, 2015, from Career Planning: http://careerplanning.about.com/cs/communication/a/minutes.htm

Robbins, S. (2013, August 4). How to Take Notes in Meetings. Retrieved March 2, 2015, from Quick and Dirty Tips: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/productivity/meetings/how-to-take-notes-in-meetings

SMART Technologies. (2004). How to Record Useful Meeting Minutes. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from Effective Meetings: http://www.effectivemeetings.com/meetingbasics/minutes.asp

Sylvester, N. (n.d.). How to Write and Keep Meeting Minutes. Retrieved March 2, 2015, from Nancy Sylvester: http://nancysylvester.com/docs/Resources/articles/meeting_minutes.html

Vulcan, N. (n.d.). How to Take Minutes at a Business Meeting. Retrieved March 2, 2015, from ehow: http://www.ehow.com/how_3815_minutes-business-meeting.html

Wild Apricot. (n.d.). How to Write Effective Meeting Minutes. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from Wild Apricot: http://www.wildapricot.com/membership-articles/how-to-write-effective-meeting-minutes

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