A guide to taking meeting minutes: When, why, and how to take minutes
This guide provides everything you need to know about meeting minutes, including: format, essential elements, a short checklist, how to take minutes, and much more.
Meeting minutes represent a significant responsibility. They provide a record of the decisions, discussions — and most importantly — outcomes from a meeting, and are a vehicle for transposing discussions into tangible actions.
Yet meeting minutes are a source of frustration in organisations everywhere. However, taking minutes needn’t be a laborious task. By following a simple set of guidelines, utilising a meeting minutes template, and establishing best practices for how to take meeting minutes in the context of your organisation, you can easily transform the process of taking minutes from a headache to a breeze.
What are meeting minutes?
Meeting minutes are a formal, written record of the discussions, decisions, and resulting actions for a formal meeting. They are the written ledger that enables participants to recall the content of the meeting, and to turn it into meaningful action.
Meeting minutes, in particular those of the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors, are also recognised in courts and by auditors as legal documents. In many instances, if a company is required to go to court to defend or deny a position, the court will rely on meeting minutes as a reliable account of the contents of a meeting. If a decision made by a company is not recorded in the meeting minutes, it can be considered as evidence in court that it did not take place at all.
When to take minutes?
The question of when to take minutes varies according to a number of different factors, including:
- The type of meeting
- The jurisdiction the meeting takes place in,
- The sector of the organisation, and
- The organisation’s individual constitution.
As a result, before a meeting takes place, it is important for all parties involved to understand the significance of the meeting, each participant’s role in it, and their respective legal duties.
ICSA, the Governance Institute defines Board meetings specifically as the "highest form of internal decision-making of an organisation.”1 According to this definition, meeting minutes are considered the most accurate internal record of those meetings for that individual organisation, and not recorded explicitly for the interpretation by a third-party.
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The link between taking meeting minutes and improving meeting productivity
Taking meeting minutes fulfils many other important functions. The fact that someone records the minutes of a meeting benefits the quality of the meeting process by ensuring that the actions and related tasks have a level of accountability. Taking meeting minutes therefore plays an important role in eliminating bad meetings from our lives.
Taking meeting minutes helps keep the meeting on track by recording the progress. It also encourages active participation, as meeting participants realise that what is discussed is actually important and worth mentioning.
Taking meeting minutes helps to ensure successful follow-up
Taking meeting minutes also helps the meeting participants to conclude each agenda item with the definition and assignment of clear action items. How to define and assign clear action items:
|What?||Define a specific action item|
|Who?||Assign a person to take responsibility for it|
|When?||Define when the action is to be carried out by.|
These action items increase the likelihood that agreements made in meetings will be implemented on time — and successfully. Meeting minutes are therefore the most important tool for ensuring follow-up and preparing for the next meeting.
How to write minutes: Our meeting minute guide
What are the elements that should be taken into consideration with regards to the style and format of meeting minutes? Who approves the meeting minutes once these have been taken? How are minutes published? And who has access to them afterwards?
Download our free meeting minutes guide to get an overview of these details. You will also receive a checklist for taking meeting minutes, and some examples of real-life applications to meeting minutes.
Meeting Minutes Guide
1 “The Practice of Minuting Meetings”, ICSA The Chartered Governance Institute, 2016.