Love them or hate them, meetings are an unavoidable part of doing business. The key is to make them as productive as possible. Nothing is worse than wrapping up a meeting with nothing really decided and no action plan to move forward. One way to overcome this impasse is to take effective minutes.
Effective minutes capture clearly and simply the decisions made at the meeting. They also outline how to implement and track any action items. These minutes will be an official record of what transpired, so they need to be accurate and thorough. How then can you handle this task effectively?
Before the meeting
Since every organisation records their minutes differently, a good starting place is to review past meeting minutes and use them to create a template. If you are starting fresh, you can select and adapt one of the many minute templates available on line. Microsoft, for example, provides over 20 sample minute templates at https://templates.office.com/en-us/minutes. Many other online companies provide management software that includes minute taking applications for a fee.
Effective meeting minutes typically include:
· Date and time of the meeting.
· Names of the participants and absentees.
· Ensuring a quorum is present.
· Corrections and amendments to previous meeting minutes.
· Agenda items and the time allocated to each item.
· Actions taken or agreed to be taken.
· Who will implement each action item and when.
· Any documents or files associated with the meeting.
· Next meeting date and time.
During the meeting
Give thought to how you will record the minutes. Will you use paper or a laptop computer? Either way is fine, but choose the easiest method for you.
While an audio recorder can allow you to transcribe the minutes later, avoid the temptation to create a word-for-word transcript. Taking brief notes is far more effective. If you feel you must record the meeting, only do so after everyone present grants their permission.
The key is to differentiate actions and decisions from general remarks and to record who and when is assigned to follow though. If the group moves on without making a decision or an obvious conclusion, ask for clarification of the decision and/or next steps involved.
Make sure you include the exact wording of each motion, the name of the mover and seconder, and the result of the vote.
After the meeting
Try to write the minutes as soon after the meeting as possible while everything is fresh in your mind.
Review your outline and if necessary, add additional notes or clarify points raised. Check to ensure all decisions, actions, and motions are clearly noted.
Ensure you're including sufficient detail. It is often helpful to include a short description of the rationale behind the decision made. If the topic involved a lot of discussion before passing a motion, write down the major arguments for and against.
After you write your first draft, edit the minutes to ensure brevity and clarity, so they are easy to read. Then pass the record to the meeting chairmen to review them and approve them for circulation via hard copy or online.
Don’t forget to archive a copy as a permanent record.
Meeting minutes are an official—and often legal—record of the intentions and decisions from a meeting. While taking minutes may seem a daunting task, there are some simple steps you can take before, during, and after the meeting to ensure your minutes are most effective.