Taking Meeting Minutes
How to Record Useful
Do your hands cramp up at the thought of recording meeting
minutes? Do you question what information you should record and
what you should leave out? You're not alone. Most of us have sat
through a meeting madly scribbling what we thought were minutes
only to find out later that we've missed essential information or
that the notes were never used.
Why Meeting Minutes Matter
Don't give up, meeting minutes are important. They capture the
essential information of a meeting's decisions and assigned
actions. They keep attendees on track by reminding them of their
role in a project and clearly define what happened in a group
session. How many times have your colleagues been confused or in
disagreement about what happened in a meeting? With minutes to
refer to, everyone is clear. What most people don't know is that
meeting minutes shouldn't be an exact recording of everything that
happened during a session. Minutes are meant to record basic
information such as the actions assigned and decisions made. Then,
they can be saved and used for reference or background material for
future meetings relating to the same topic. The following
instructions will help you take useful and concise meeting
Before the Meeting
During the Meeting
- If you are recording the minutes, make sure you aren't a major
participant in the meeting. You can't perform both tasks well. If
you have to, be prepared! Study the issues to be discussed and have
your questions ready ahead of time. If you have to concentrate on
grasping the issues while you are making your notes, they won't
make any sense to you later.
- Prepare an outline based on the agenda ahead of time, and leave
plenty of white space for notes. By having the topics already
written down, you can jump right on to a new topic without pause.
Include the following information:
- Date and time of the meeting
- The purpose of the meeting
- The meeting lead or chair's name
- List the expected attendees
- Assigned action items and decisions made of previous
- For formal and corporate meetings include approval of previous
minutes, and all resolutions.
- Before the meeting, gather as much information from the host as
you can. Ask for a list of attendees, as well as some information
on the purpose of the meeting. This way you won't need to scramble
to understand what's going on while you're recording notes.
- Use whatever recording method is comfortable for you, a
notepad, a laptop computer, a tape recorder, a steno pad, or
shorthand. It might be a good idea to make sound recordings of
important meetings as a backup to your notes
After the Meeting
- As people enter the room, check off their names on your
attendee list. Or, you can pass around an attendance sheet for
everyone to sign as the meeting starts.
- Ask the meeting lead to introduce you to meeting attendees you
aren't familiar with. This will be helpful later when you are
recording assigned tasks or decisions. To be sure about who said
what, you could make a map of the seating arrangement.
- Don't make the mistake of recording every single comment.
Concentrate on getting the gist of the discussion and taking enough
notes to summarize it later. Think in terms of issues discussed,
major points raised and decisions taken.
- Record action items and decisions in your template as they
happen don't wait until after the meeting to pull them out of your
notes or you could make a mistake. If you don't understand exactly
what decision has been made or what action has been assigned, ask
the meeting lead to clarify.
- Don't wait too long to type up the minutes, especially while
your memory is fresh.
- Review the notes and add additional comments, or clarify what
you didn't understand right after the meeting. Do this while the
information is fresh in everyone's mind.
- Type your notes out in the template you created before the
meeting - this will make the notes easier for everyone to read and
- Don't force yourself to write the minutes in the actual
chronological order of the discussion - it may not work.
- Focus on action items, not discussion. The purpose of minutes
is to define decisions made and to record what actions are to be
taken, by whom and when.
- Be objective. Write in the same tense throughout and avoid
using people's names except for motions or seconds. This is a
business document, not about who said what. Avoid inflammatory or
personal observations. The fewer adjectives or adverbs you use, the
better. Dull writing is the key to appropriate minutes.
- If you need to refer to other documents, attach them in an
appendix or indicate where they may be found. Don't rewrite their
intent or try to summarize them.
- Be sure to have the minutes approved by the chair or
facilitator before distributing them to the attendees.
- Don't be intimidated by the prospect of taking minutes. Concise
and coherent minutes are the mark of a professional. The very
process of recording minutes can give you a deeper understanding of
the issues faced by your organization along with ability to focus
on what's important.
Recording meeting minutes ensures that the decisions and actions
resulting from a meeting aren't lost or forgotten. By taking the
time to record proper meeting notes you'll make sure the time and
effort that goes into a meeting isn't wasted.
Example of Minutes Form
|Name of Organization:
Purpose of Meeting: