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Minutes of meetings are essential legal documents for nonprofits, government agencies, societies and corporations. They provide a record of the decision-making process. Minutes are distinct from dictation. They are not a word-for-word transcript of what happened at the meeting; instead, they are a record of who attended, what was discussed, any votes that were cast and what was decided. Minutes are kept for several years.
Prepare to Record Accurate Minutes
Review the meeting agenda. This will allow you to plan for significant agenda items about which you will need to take notes. You will also get a sense of how many attendees to expect.
Draft an attendee sheet. This can be as simple as a piece of paper with the title of the meeting and date at the top with several numbered lines. You will distribute this at the start of the meeting for attendees to sign.
Ensure your recording equipment is working properly. You may choose to take notes of the meeting on a laptop, or with pen and paper, or by recording the meeting. If the meeting will cover sensitive information, discuss the recording with the chairman and explain your intent to use the recording only to ensure accuracy of the minutes.
Create Meeting Minutes for the Record
Take notes during the meeting. Focus on the subject matter of each discussion and leave out commentary. For example, note that funding allocation for a new building was discussed, but do not note that the "discussion was emotional and heated." Note who proposed each motion and what was resolved.
Create a document that will be the official meeting minutes. It should be the same format as prior meeting minutes. Consider using six sections: Call to order, roll call, approval of last meeting minutes, open issues, new business and adjournment. Under each provide a brief and neutral summary of the discussion or activity. If there was a vote count, include the tally. If votes were not counted, state only that a motion was "carried" or "failed." Create a space for the minutes to be signed by yourself as the note taker and the chairman, who will approve the minutes.
Circulate the minutes to board members within one week of the meeting and -- if the meeting was public -- file them as public record. Make changes and corrections as necessary. Refer to your own notes or to your recording of the meeting if clarification is needed.
Store Meeting Minutes in Company Files
File the meeting minutes with those of past meetings. You can keep the minutes in a binder, organized by committee or board, and in chronological order. Since meeting minutes are legal records, keep them at the head office.
Delete the recording you have made of the meeting, unless it is the policy of your organization to keep this record. Once your minutes are final there is usually no need to keep this back-up, and its contents might be sensitive or confidential.
Copy and distribute the meeting minutes at the start of the next meeting. These will be approved as the first point of business.
Review meeting templates if necessary. Study how older minutes were kept, or search online for "Meeting Minutes Templates."
Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).