Taking meeting minutes is crucial when it comes to making meetings as efficient and as productive as possible. Whether it's a major board meeting, a corporate strategy session, or a non-profit committee meeting, having clear and simple notes to refer back to is useful for everyone involved - including those who weren't able to attend.
So how do you take meeting minutes effectively, ensuring all the right information is included?
In this guide we'll explore the art of taking good meeting minutes, with nine practical tips for taking the best minutes possible.
Meeting minutes are a written record of what's been discussed and decided during a meeting. They serve as a reference for those who didn't attend the meeting, and as a record for future decision-making. They help organizations to track progress, hold people accountable, and keep things moving forward.
Good meeting minutes are clear and succinct, without detailing every moment of the meeting. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the term "minutes" doesn't refer to detailing every single minute of a meeting. The phrase actually comes from the Latin "minuta scriptura", which means small notes.
Let's jump straight into our roundup of nine top tips for taking meeting minutes effectively.
1. Prepare in advance
Preparation is the number one tip for taking better meeting minutes. Before the meeting starts, take time to review the agenda to understand the meeting objectives and the topics that are going to be discussed.
Having a clear understanding of the meeting's objectives will help you focus your note-taking on what's most relevant, and having an awareness of the topics will make it easier to follow discussions and capture the key points.
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2. Use a consistent format for your meeting minutes
Consistency is key when taking meeting minutes. Using a standardized template helps maintain a consistent format, which in turn ensures that you don't miss any critical information.
Your template should include sections for the date and time of the meeting, a list of attendees, agenda items, key discussion points, decisions made, action items, and responsible parties for each action.
This template acts as a guide, and as the meeting progresses you can fill in each section as the information comes in. This helps to keep all your information organized and easy to follow.
Keep reading for a free template you can use for your meeting minutes.
3. Focus on the essentials
When taking meeting minutes, it's crucial to focus on capturing essential information - and essential information only. Concentrate on key elements such as decisions made, action items, deadlines, and significant discussions that may influence future decisions.
Avoid getting bogged down in unnecessary details or verbatim (word for word) recording of the conversation. Good minute-taking is all about stripping it back and identifying the key points which are most likely to be useful for future reference.
4. Use clear and concise language
The goal is to make your meeting minutes accessible and understandable to everyone, regardless of how familiar they are with the specific topics discussed in the meeting. As such, it's important to write using clear and concise language, and to avoid jargon, technical terms, or complex language that might be unclear to other readers.
It's also a good idea to consider using bullet points to convey information efficiently. That way, readers can skim through the meeting minutes to get the gist and to find what they're looking for.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for clarification
While taking meeting minutes, if there's any point of discussion or decision that isn't entirely clear, don't hesitate to ask for clarification during the meeting. It's much better to ask for clarification than to make assumptions or leave gaps in your notes.
This can be as simple as interjecting politely to confirm a deadline, the specifics of an action item, or the exact wording of a decision. Remember, your role as a minute-taker is to provide an accurate and comprehensive record of the meeting, and clarity is key for this.
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6. Distinguish between discussion and decisions
It's essential to differentiate clearly between general discussions and actual decisions made during the meeting. Focus on highlighting outcomes, agreements, or resolutions that result from discussions. This distinction helps you to create minutes that are not only accurate but also actionable, with a clear emphasis on points that require attention or follow-up.
7. Note action items and responsibilities
Make a point of clearly noting and highlighting any action items assigned during the meeting, along with the responsible parties and deadlines. This helps hold people accountable and ensures follow-through.
Clearly outlined action items help team members understand their responsibilities and the time frames they need to work within, which encourages people to work productively and efficiently to complete tasks.
8. Use a meeting transcription tool to create your meeting minutes
By recording the meeting and using Transcribe's AI-powered technology to generate a transcript immediately after the meeting has ended, you can quickly capture the dialogue and then summarize it into formal minutes. This can save you time, eliminate the stress that comes with taking minutes manually during a meeting, and ensure that no critical information is missed, especially in fast-paced or lengthy meetings.
Check out our guide on how to transcribe meeting minutes for more information.
9. Review and distribute promptly
Once the meeting is over, review and finalize the minutes as soon as possible while the discussions are still fresh in your mind. Distribute the minutes to all attendees and relevant parties as soon as you can, so that the necessary stakeholders can act on any decisions or action items without delay.
Promptly sharing your meeting minutes also gives participants an opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings or add extra information if needed, while it's still fresh in their mind.
Here's a free, simple template you can use for your meeting minutes:
And there you have it - nine tips to help you take meeting notes more effectively than ever before.
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