How to write effective meeting minutes

Documenting the points discussed; effective meeting minutes are a vital part of your business activities.

Well-written and accurate minutes of a meeting can recall important information that otherwise might be forgotten over time.

© Jenn Miranda /

In formal settings, they are even more important, as they are kept on file as legal documents. All board meetings should produce accurate minutes that contain details of matters discussed and decisions taken.

Every UK company must keep minutes of directors’ meetings by law, as laid out by the Companies Act 2006. This applies to formally convened board meetings and informal gatherings of board members. Failure to do so could be interpreted as an indication of underlying problems.

It is good practice for the minutes to accurately record all decisions, including those where dissenting views have been voiced. They should be clear and detailed enough for the reader to understand what has led up to the various decisions.

What is minutes of meeting?

As an accepted way of keeping a record of what happens at meetings, the basic elements of meeting notes include the location, date and time, the delegates’ names, topics, motions, voting outcomes and the date and time of the next meeting.

A secretary or administration assistant is often the official minute-taker, which means their role is to take notes throughout the gathering. However, this can depend on the size of the company and whether anyone on the team can write in shorthand.

The role may be given to another member of the team if it’s a small business that doesn’t have an official minute-taker. If the allocated person is new to the job, they will need a clear understanding in advance of how to take effective meeting minutes to avoid problems after the event.

Normally, one person takes notes as the official minute-taker, but other attendees may also choose to write their own on discussions that are particularly relevant to them. This could include the action points they’re responsible for, or specific projects they are working on, for example.

Why take meeting minutes?

Effective meeting minutes enable a company to retrieve details of attendees, discussions, facts, votes taken, decisions, conflicts and any other information at a later date if required.

They can also include further information, such as any corrections or amendments from the previous meeting’s minutes, project status updates, voting results and details of the meeting’s purpose.

Businesses can include details of the planned next steps such as research and follow-ups, the items to be discussed next time, a section defining the status of attendees (speakers, guests or non-voters, for example) and any relevant supplementary documents.

If any team members can’t attend and need to catch up, the minutes are a good way of doing so. Similarly, if there’s any confusion after the meeting about exactly what occurred, the minutes are available to check.

Providing legal protection, they are recognised as an official record of events by bodies such as the courts and auditors. They can also provide a timeline of how projects have progressed, the efficiency of decisions and how team members have carried out their action points. They can help to determine who is responsible for each different task.

As the information discussed at meetings is useful as a basis for decisions, the company will also be able to carry out more accurate long and short-term planning.

When your team meets regularly, the minutes from the previous meeting are there to remind you how it ended last time. This way, you can pick up where you left off. Everyone in attendance will have had chance to read them through before the next meeting starts. This will save time, as there’s no need to get everyone up to speed before commencing the new action points.

How to write meeting minutes

How can the minute-taker make it easier for themselves when so many people and topics are involved?

Pre-planning is the key. Get as much done as possible in advance of the gathering to make it easier. Create a template for the different types of events you attend if they have different styles. For example, an official board meeting may need a different template in comparison with a more informal team meeting.

Access the agenda in advance to determine the required framework. Make a list of the attendees so you know who’s expected and then you can tick them off as they arrive. Prior to the meeting, have a chat with the person in charge to clarify what’s expected. For example, check whether you should include how each member votes, or the names and details of the delegates who propose motions.

When determining how to take minutes in a meeting, it can depend largely on the person organising the event, unless your company has a set format that is the official preferred choice.

As well as noting the delegates as they arrive, you can also note when participants begin a particular action, such as joining a conference call, for example.

If your minute-taker can write notes in shorthand, this will make it much easier for them to keep pace with the discussions and make an accurate note of the event.

In years gone by, especially in the early to mid-20th century, shorthand was a skill taught at all secretarial colleges. Today, it has lost popularity to a degree and some bosses consider this type of speedwriting a dying art, although it’s still widely used by journalists, PR representatives and court reporters.

If the minute-taker is able to write in shorthand, it can certainly make it simpler for them to keep up with the discussions. Otherwise, minutes can be taken down in longhand in a simple manner, noting the important points, instead of trying to keep up word-for-word.

Some employees choose to record the discussion with their phone or other relevant software if appropriate, writing up the minutes after the meeting.

How to write up meeting minutes

Following the meeting, the minutes must be written up and distributed to the attendees and other relevant parties in a timely manner. It’s preferable to start doing this as soon as possible, while the details are still fresh in your mind.

Formatting the notes can include adding clarifications, noting the name and role of the speaker or participant and attaching additional documents in an appendix. Always use the same verb tense throughout the minutes and save the documents in a consistent style.

It can be useful to have the notes reviewed by another team member or line manager, especially if they are formal, or particularly important. This will make sure they are accurate, thorough and don’t contain any errors.

The minutes of a board meeting may need board approval, as they are being filed as an official record. The approval process will commonly occur at the beginning of the next meeting.

When the minutes are written up and approved, if necessary, they can be shared with attendees and absent team members via various means. They can be created in Google Docs, for example, where you can set the document to “read only” and share it to the relevant people. You can also use another word processing program to convert the minutes to a PDF or Word format and send by email.

Finally, store all the meeting minutes safely and securely in one location, creating digital folders that are easy to retrieve, should someone need to see a specific set of minutes. Always have a backup method in case of a system problem that may compromise the original minutes.

Store a digital copy on a cloud storage service or an external hard drive. You can also print a paper version to store in a designated file drawer with physical folders, organising them chronologically.

While some employees may view written minutes as outdated in this modern technical age, they will always remain relevant as a means of documenting what has happened during a meeting. Minutes are shared within an organisation to keep everyone on the same page and serve as a reference document for the future.

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