Your biggest meeting to date comes to order, and — darn the luck — you’re asked to take the minutes. If this is your first foray into meeting documentation, you may be unsure of where to start. Needless to say, the time to learn the basics is not in the midst of the biggest meeting of your career.
Fortunately, since this imaginary situation is only a workplace nightmare and not a real event, you’ve got time to prepare. Learn the basics of meeting minutes, and you’ll be ready when you’re asked to take the lead.
Minutes serve as the official documentation of a meeting. They record conversations, ideas, and decisions that can help propel projects forward. Meeting minutes can also provide legal protection, decision logs, and a record of assignments for high-performing teams. They can be used to identify deadlines for key project milestones, record budget deliberations, and note project gaps.
Project leads often use minutes to help update planning documents and project management software to align with any new decisions. Governing bodies use minutes to log strategic direction, identify voting decisions, and make note of key milestones. Meeting minutes serve as the official record that a meeting took place, which is essential in any line of business.
Your organization’s structure and work style will determine the level of formality needed for your meeting minutes. If you aren’t sure, ask the team leader for guidance.
Generally, meetings of governing bodies or leadership teams will be more formal. These minutes should record decisions and include details about voiced opposition, support, and any voting statistics. If your meeting follows Robert’s Rules of Order, it’s a good indication that you need formal minutes.
Less formal minutes can make sense for regular internal meetings. While less exacting, such minutes should still include the meeting’s purpose, discussion points, and action items. Always include the next steps that are discussed after a key decision, no matter the meeting’s level of formality. If your team needs to shift between formal and informal meeting styles, become familiar with both approaches.
Formal minutes must often be reviewed and approved at the next meeting of your group. If this is the case, minutes will need to be distributed prior to that. When you meet, a vote will be called to add the minutes into the official record. Less formal meeting minutes can simply be distributed to participants after the meeting.
In the heat of a meeting, you may be feverishly taking notes, unaware that you missed jotting down an important detail. Consider using an online minutes template to create consistency with your meeting minutes.
Include meeting date and time, participants, purpose, agenda, action items, next meeting, and reportable documents. By using a template, you can focus on content more than the format. If your meeting has a regular cast of characters, insert their names, titles, and contact information in your template. Identify project roles where appropriate, as well as links to key document storage locations. When you make your minutes work as a useful business tool, they can be more effective for your team.
Consider your work style and how you might take minutes most productively. Some people find that drafting minutes during the meeting works well. Others prefer to take rudimentary notes while recording the full conversation — with permission — and using it to write up the minutes afterward. Try multiple options before you land on a standard practice. As a participant in the meeting as well as the note-taker, you need to balance your engagement and efficiency.
Now that you’ve logged your meeting minutes, what do you do with them? Since minutes serve as a record of a recent discussion and related decisions, they should be distributed to the team. Check with your project leader to determine the usual process so you can meet their expectations.
Before you hit send on your minutes, look over your notes and ensure that key details are accounted for. Review project commitments, due dates, and decisions for each agenda item. If you’re concerned that you missed something, reach out to the relevant individuals to confirm.
Once you’re confident your minutes are clean, send them to a trusted team member for review. They can help spot any gaps, giving you a chance to fix them before the minutes are distributed.
Once your minutes are finalized, send them out to the team for review. Request follow-up within a few days so any errors can be identified and rectified. After you’ve confirmed the accuracy of your minutes, save them to the project folder as part of the official record.
It can be tempting to keep meetings casual, but without proper documentation, important information can be lost and decisions second-guessed. Yet recording meeting minutes is rarely any business person’s activity of choice. Luckily, when you simplify the minutes-taking process, you reduce the amount of brainpower required to record meetings. You’ll free up creative energies for participation and problem-solving instead of mere note-taking.
A meeting minutes protocol that includes a template, designated note-takers, and distribution best practices will help boost overall productivity. When you optimize your meeting minutes efforts, your team can work more effectively and with more transparency.