A guide to 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.
Taking minutes at meetings is an essential responsibility. Yet meeting minutes are a source of frustration in organisations around the world, when they really don’t need to be. Whether you are responsible for taking minutes or have been appointed as Executive Secretary or Secretary to the Board of Directors at your company, taking minutes needn’t be an 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?
But what are meeting minutes? Meeting minutes are universally recognised as a record of the decisions made, and the decision-making process, in formal meetings, and are typically recorded by a secretary or another designated employee. 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 needs to go to court to defend or deny a position, the court will rely on meeting minutes. 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 region where the meeting takes place
- the sector of the organisation, and
- the organisation’s individual constitution.
As a result, before a takes place, it is important for all parties involved to understand the significance of the meeting, each member’s role in it, and their respective legal duties.
For instance, in France, the official recommendation of the IFA, the Institut Français des Administrateurs, is to formalise meeting minutes of the Board.1 ICSA, the Governance Institute, on the other hand, defines Board meetings specifically as the "highest form of internal decision-making of an organisation.”2 According to these definitions, 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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Another purpose of meeting minutes: improving the productivity of meetings
Taking minutes also fulfils many other important functions. The fact that someone records the minutes of a meeting benefits the quality of the meeting process. The minutes therefore play an important role in eliminating bad meetings from our lives.
Taking 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. Unsurprisingly, meeting scientists found a significant correlation between taking minutes and the perceived effectiveness of a meeting.
Minutes of meetings help to ensure successful follow-up action
Taking 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 by when the action is to be carried out.|
These action items increase the likelihood that agreementsmade in meetings will be implemented on time and successfully. The minutes and action items are therefore the most important tool for ensuring follow-up and preparing for the next meeting. For this reason, the 7th principle of the Azend framework is: ‘We take minutes and assign clear and concise action items’.
How to write minutes? Our meeting minute guide
So, what are the elements that should be taken into consideration with regards to the style and format of the meeting minutes? Who approves the meeting minutes once these have been taken? How are minutes published, and who has access to them afterwards?
Download the guide to get an overview of these details. You will also gain access to a checklist of taking minutes, and some examples of real-life applications to meeting minutes.
1 The Institut Français des Administrateurs.
2 “The Practice of Minuting Meetings”, ICSA The Chartered Governance Institute, 2016.