How to create a meeting minutes template that delivers value
Meeting minutes serve both a legal and an operation purpose, and are central to organisational success. In this article, we explore how to create a minutes template of your own, before providing ours that you can use for free.
Meetings are a source of opportunity and frustration for C-Suite leaders around the world. For instance, in a recent Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Sherpany 37% of leaders admitted that they lack a clear overview of past decisions and deadlines, and 21% conceded that they don’t even have a process in place for following up on decisions. Meeting minutes play a huge role in this process - with 15% of leaders surveyed identifying a lack of concise meeting minutes as one of the top barriers to meeting productivity after meetings.
Thinking holistically, this makes sense: Meeting minutes serve a number of purposes, from providing a clear, auditable record of your discussions for legal purposes, to creating accountability for the actions that are agreed upon in a meeting. In this way, they are central to organisational success.
Meeting minutes are the gateway to ensuring that meetings deliver value. They guarantee that discussions in your meetings are written in ink rather than pencil, and for this reason they bring gravity, ownership, and momentum with them. A meeting minutes template, therefore, is essential to building consistency into the minutes process for your organisation, and helps this value to be captured and actioned uniformly across your teams.
For this reason, we have developed a robust meeting minutes template, which corresponds to our meeting agenda template, to ensure that your meetings deliver value.
In this article, we explore the importance of meeting minutes, before exploring how to construct a meeting minutes template of your own, before sharing our meeting minutes template for you to use for free.
What are meeting minutes?
Simply put, meeting minutes are a document that records the discussions, actions, and votes from a formal meeting. They are a legal requirement in many regulated industries, and for this reason, need to be kept in a way that is consistent and auditable.
By recording minutes, you not only keep track on what is agreed, you also clearly outline what actions need to take place, and perhaps most importantly, who will be responsible for delivering these actions and by when. In this sense, meeting minutes are integral to the post-meeting phase of the meeting, as explained in Azend®, our meeting management framework.
Having this record of discussions means that you build accountability into the delivery of meeting actions, and you also avoid duplicate discussions, as a clear record of previous meetings is readily accessible.
In many cases, meeting minutes can be kept somewhat inconsistently - and all too often, they are considered a ‘box ticking’ exercise, rather than the gateway to ensuring your meetings create value. As with all areas of success, consistency is key, and meetings are no different. Failing to capture the value of your meetings through meeting minutes can have dramatic consequences, and can even call the future of your enterprise into question. Therefore, keeping meeting minutes in a consistent way is essential to using meetings to their full potential and securing future success.
By using a well-designed meeting minutes template, you can do exactly that: Keep a consistent record of your meetings that is, inherently, actionable. Let’s explore how to create a meeting minutes template that will help you to achieve this.
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How to build your own meeting minutes template
1. The basics
While the task of keeping meeting minutes might seem somewhat administrative, it does not have to be. On the contrary, with a dedicated meeting management solution and some robust guidelines in your toolkit, you can create a meeting minutes template to use with each of your formal meetings.
When doing so, it is vital to consider the basics first. These include:
All great works of art need a title - and your meetings are the same. Your meeting minutes template should include a space for a meeting title, so it is clearly searchable and identifiable. You should agree to a naming convention for your different meetings internally so that all stakeholders can locate past meeting minutes as easily as possible. For example, a meeting title could be ‘Management Update - March 2021’.
While many of us are now working remotely, a meeting location is still important to include in your meeting minutes. It needs to be clear where your meeting took place, and your meeting minutes template needs to include the necessary space for this - whether it is virtual, in person, or a combination of the two.
Date and time
For your meeting minutes to be valuable, you need to know when the meeting took place. This could be covered in both the Meeting Title and also in a dedicated Date and Time field, which will be helpful when searching through previous meeting minutes.
Choosing your meeting participants can be a difficult task, but once they have arrived, they need to appear in your meeting minutes. Having an overview of who was present at the meeting, what their role is, and whether they were physically present or dialled in is important. It is also important to record apologies for those who were supposed to attend, but could not be present.
A fundamental of any meeting minutes template is a clear statement of the meeting’s objective. This should have been made clear well in advance, but needs to be clearly stated in your meeting minutes template so that the contents of your minutes have context when reviewed in the future.
Throughout your meeting, a myriad of documents and resources will be referred to. For the sake of ease when reviewing past meetings, it is important to include links to all relevant documents in your meeting minutes, and your template should provide for this.
2. The details
Once you’ve got the basics covered, you are ready to move on to each agenda item. Broadly speaking, your meeting minutes template should correspond to the meeting agenda template that your organisation follows. Therefore, for each agenda item, your meeting minutes template should include fields for the following:
Who is leading each agenda item? This is important, as should any clarity be required after the fact, this is likely the best person to follow-up with.
Type of item
Broadly speaking, an agenda item will fall into one of three categories:
It is important to record the nature of each agenda item, so that what follows is as clear as possible. This part could even be prepared in advance of the meeting to save you time.
While the meeting itself will have an overarching objective, each agenda item should have a clear objective, too. This helps to keep discussions focussed, and to ensure that your meeting is outcome-oriented. The objective of each agenda item should therefore be clearly recorded in your meeting minutes, to help ascertain whether it has been achieved.
Discussions, decisions, and actions
The content of discussions is a key component of the value that meeting minutes create, and your template can help to capture this. By leaving plenty of space for the minutes taker to note down the content of discussions, the decisions that are reached, and the action items that resulted, you will ensure that accountability and transparency are built into your meeting process.
Perhaps the most important function of formal meetings is to make decisions, and voting is inextricably linked with this process. Therefore, ensuring that the outcomes of votes are clearly recorded in your meeting minutes is essential.
3. The follow-through
Meeting minutes play a significant role in securing the value that a meeting creates. Therefore, building follow-through into your meeting minutes template is essential.
To do this, the following two sections should be built into your template:
Overview of tasks and decisions
While it is important to provide a transcript of discussions, decisions, and actions with each agenda item, it is also important to create a ‘TL:DR’ version in summary at the end of your meeting minutes. This means that all necessary actions are recorded in one place, which fosters transparency and supports ownership of outcomes. Furthermore, by having an overview of tasks and decisions, the meeting organiser can also check to see progress and communicate deadlines as they approach. Therefore, your meeting minutes template should include space towards the end for this overview to live.
Date of the next meeting
Many formal meetings form part of a broader series of meetings, for example a quarterly board meeting or a monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly management update, and it is therefore important to clearly state the next meeting date in your meeting minutes. This gives participants ample time to add it to their busy schedules, and ensures that everyone is clear how much time they should dedicate to meeting preparation and that they drive initiatives forward before the date of the next meeting.
Use a meeting minutes template to secure organisational success
Meeting minutes have a lot to deliver on, and in the absence of a robust meeting minutes template it can be easy to let things fall through the cracks. By having a template in place for your organisation’s meetings, you empower people to achieve the actions agreed in meetings, and ultimately cement the value that your meetings create.
By following the steps in this article, you can create a meeting minutes template of your own, which will help your teams to drive not only consistency, but accountability in their meetings.
If this sounds like too much work, then why not try our tried and tested meeting minutes template? It’s free and ready to use now.