Accurately compiling meeting minutes helps ensure that attendees stay focused on assigned tasks, reduces miscommunication and improves the efficiency of subsequent meetings. The benefits of clear and comprehensive meeting minutes means any business owner, executive, or other leader who regularly holds meetings should establish guidelines for taking minutes. These guidelines should cover what happens before, during and after the meeting.
Before the Meeting:
Determine Who Takes Minutes
While a seemingly menial task, recording meeting minutes requires significant attention to detail. As a result, the minute-taker should have minimal participation in the meeting. This allows focusing most of your energy on recording essential points of the meeting.
Businesses often use executive assistants or receptionists to take minutes since these staffers often do not have an active role in the meeting itself.
Use a Standardized Form
Create your own standardized meeting minute form to use during the meeting. Standardization helps the minute-taker know where to put information and also helps attendees read the document later. Basic information should include:
- List of attendees.
- List of topics to discuss.
- Plan of action decided on each topic.
- Those responsible for carrying out those actions.
During the Meeting:
Fill in Essential Information
Before the meeting officially begins, fill in essential information such as the attendees and the date. This prevents an unnecessary waste of time during the actual meeting.
Record Only Important Information
Meeting minutes should not transcribe an entire meeting. On the contrary, meeting minutes record important tasks and directions in a simplified format. Thus, you should record information such as the delegation of duties, due dates, those assigned to those duties and any other seemingly relevant information. Meeting minutes should not contain general discussions or tangential information.
Ask for Clarification
The minutes must accurately reflect the salient points of the meeting. Ask for clarification if any information discussed during the meeting is unclear. Never guess, or you risk inaccurate information or omissions. When asking clarification, though, always follow meeting protocols. Some meetings take an informal approach, while others adopt the structured Robert's Rules of Order.
Refer to Past Minutes
The current minutes you compile may refer to past meeting minutes. This requires that you bring past meeting minutes to the new meeting so information is readily available to all attendees.
After the Meeting:
Check the meeting minutes for typographical errors or any unclear sentences. Fix these before finalizing the minutes. Any errors can potentially cause confusion regarding important tasks.
Send to Attendees
Send the meeting minutes to the attendees of the meeting for approval. This gives the attendees an opportunity to ask questions or fix mistakes. Inform all attendees if any changes occurred.
Finalize and File
Once all attendees approve of the minutes, sign the minute document with the approval date indicated next to the signature. Thereafter, file the minutes on your computer or in a folder with other meeting minutes. Keep all the meeting minutes together, which allows for easy transportation to future meetings and provides a central location if anyone needs to refer to the documents.
David Montoya is an attorney who graduated from the UCLA School of Law. He also holds a Master of Arts in American Indian studies. Montoya's writings often cover legal topics such as contract law, estate law, family law and business.