Meetings are a common occurrence in any business. Whether you’re having a monthly check-in with a department or a sales presentation with a customer, meetings help people to make important decisions, clarify misunderstandings and decide on action items to achieve business goals. In order to ensure everything that gets discussed in a meeting is acted upon, it’s vital to take minutes during the conversation.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Meeting minutes are a written business tool where everything that happens during the meeting is recorded for reference.
Purpose of Meeting Minutes
The meeting minutes definition includes having a clear goal for the document. In some organizations, meeting minutes are used to track the progress of deliverables, while in others, they are used to list action items. There are many goals that the minutes of a meeting can serve:
- Provide a reference of all points that were made as a historical record
- Inform people who missed the meeting what took place
- Ensure projects are on track and remove roadblocks
- Assign action items to certain employees
- Establish next steps for projects
Before the meeting, establish what you want the minutes to achieve. This will help the person who is taking the minutes to tailor the document to best achieve that goal. In many cases, you may need to achieve more than one goal with the minutes. As a result, it’s critical to have a clear understanding of your goals so that your minutes document can help you reach them.
Format for Taking Meeting Minutes
While there are many different formats for taking meeting minutes, it’s best to establish a structure that works for your organization. Use it as a template in every meeting so that the notes are comprehensive and easy to follow. Minutes of a meeting samples may include:
- Meeting name and date: This informs the reader of the purpose of the meeting and when it took place.
- Attendees: List the names of the people present at the meeting.
- Absent: List the names of people who were invited to the meeting but were not able to attend.
- Meeting agenda: An agenda helps to keep the meeting on track and shows readers what was being accomplished during the discussion.
- Business from previous meeting: This is important if the meeting is part of a series. Use this time to check on progress for action items from the last meeting.
- Action items: These are usually items that are listed on the agenda. They are discussed in priority order. If there are any takeaways or further action items that come out of this discussion, make a point to bold the font or make it stand out so it’s easy to spot at a glance.
- Business for next meeting: If there is anything that needs to be done by the next meeting, list it so that all participants can see the deadline.
You can tailor your meeting minutes format to your organization and the kind of meeting you are having. It’s best to use a consistent format every time so the person taking the minutes knows what to capture and where.
Minute-Taking Best Practices
Ensure your organization creates and distributes an agenda for each meeting. This helps to keep both the meeting and the minutes for the meeting on track. Prior to the meeting, assign someone to take the minutes. It’s more productive if the leader of the meeting is not the one taking the minutes. This way, he can focus on the discussion, and another colleague can focus on taking notes.
Be sure to edit and distribute the meeting minutes as soon after the meeting as possible. Send it to both the attendees and absent employees so everyone can see the record of the meeting. If someone was not invited to the meeting but was asked to contribute an action item, forward the meeting minutes to her as well.
Don’t try to record every word that was spoken at the meeting. It’s more effective to write down key information as it pertains to the goals of the meeting and the goals of the organization. This also makes it easier for the readers to digest the information and act upon it.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.