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How to take notes in a meeting (with templates)
Updated: Jan 9, 2019
Whether it is a formal or informal meeting, corporate staff meeting, board meeting or a non-profit meeting, taking notes in a meeting is a crucial aspect as they are a summary for the essential takeaways from that meeting. Notes taken from a meeting are called "minutes". By the end of this article you will know how to take minutes in a meeting as well as see our 3 meeting notes templates that you can use for your meetings.
The style, format and the content of the minutes vary for different organizations, different committees and boards, there are general guidelines that can be followed in order to produce effective meeting minutes.
Taking and recording minutes is no rocket science, but it can get daunting and overwhelming, if not done properly. To make the task easier, there are ,meeting minutes templates or meeting notes templates that you can resort to. See below.
However, it is important to note that the templates vary according to the type of meeting, format and required details. Before jumping into the details, it is important that you first understand the purpose behind meeting.
For more information on meetings feel free to check out our article on how to run a successful meeting.
Why Take Minutes In A Meeting?
The term “minutes”, whose purpose is to capture the essence of the meeting by keeping a record of the relevant and important details:
Decisions made (motions and voting details)
Outcomes achieved so far
Outcomes to be achieved
Tasks that need to be focussed on
Tasks assigned to every participant
Identifying and tracking these and other action items
These details create a tangible record of the meeting for the participants and also as a source of information for members who were absent during the meeting.
Often, after the staff meeting, the participants go back to their desks and resume their unfinished tasks, check emails, which leads to members forgetting the important agendas, outcomes, decisions and tasks that were discussed during the meeting.
Keep in mind that the meeting minutes or meeting notes are also a form of “evidence”.
It is not uncommon to find that your colleagues have different recollections from the meeting. During such cases, not having the minutes recorded leads to wasting time, effort and money. In other instances, this internal “evidence” can also be a mandatory requirement for legal purposes, for the IRS or for audits.
Why the “minutes” in meeting minutes
Quite a lot of you would be curious as to why are they called meeting minutes. Here’s why:
The minutes has got nothing to do with time, but rather, it is to be interpreted as “small” or “minute”(my-newt). The term "minutes" is said to have derived from the 18th century Latin term “minuta scriptura”, meaning “small notes”, where “minuta” meant “small”.
With that being said, in this case, “minutes” in “meeting” notes, means compressing or breaking down large pieces of work or large amounts of data into smaller and concise format.
What to include in meeting minutes
Just like how the style, format and contents and details of minutes vary according to the formality of the meeting and the type of organization and the type of board and committee, there are general guidelines regarding the steps and aspects that are involved with the minutes of meetings. These are:
1. The Pre-Planning (Meeting Agenda) Phase
2. Record Taking at the Meeting
3. Converting the recorded minutes into a written transcript
4. Distributing and Sharing the minutes of meeting written transcript
5. Filing and storage of the written transcript for future reference
Having read so far, below is a breakdown of each of these steps and the role that the minutes play during each step:
The Pre-Planning Phase
The preparation starts before the meeting. Between 60% and 70% of a minute-taker’s most effective time is spent during the pre-meeting stage. This stage forms the foundation for the steps going forward and ensures that the minute-taker enters the boardroom with clarity and focus.
This phase defines the crucial aspects applying to the meeting, such as the agenda, location and members needed to be present.
To help the meeting flow smoothly, a copy of the discussed agenda should be shared with the minute-taker as it serves as an effective guide for taking notes and in preparing the minutes, and for matching the order and list of items mentioned on the agenda to that of the recorded minutes.
Record Taking at the Meeting
As mentioned above that the contents and format of meetings vary according to the type of meeting, organization and the board and committee, it is important to understand what constitutes as relevant information for the said meeting (that is, type of information that needs to be recorded). Irrespective of these variations, the common information that is included in the meeting minutes are:
Date and Time
Names of participants (include absentees)
Acceptance, corrections and revisions that apply to previous meeting’s minutes
Decisions applying to each item on the agenda
Motions and their associated voting outcomes
New tasks and assignments
Time and date for subsequent meeting
The information recorded during the meeting is a very important document going forward, and it is crucial that the information is collected and recorded in an easy and organized manner. In order for minutes of meeting to be effective, the minute-taker should:
Create an outline or template based on the meeting’s agenda
Check-off attendees upon entering the conference room
Immediately record any decisions or notes applying to action items as soon as possible to ensure accurate recording
Although this can be quite discomforting or embarrassing, it is advisable to speak up and get the doubts clarified to ensure accurate recording
Refrain trying to capture all details – it is not possible to keep up with all the information that gets transmitted in a boardroom. It is hence advisable, that the minute-taker clearly writes or types the important aspects, such as the decisions, assignments and actions to be taken.
Keeping up with physical note-taking can be quite overwhelming and daunting task. The minute-taker can consider recording the same on a smart phone or recording device. In this case, the minute-taker must get consent from all the members first.
Converting the recorded minutes into a written transcript
Once the meeting is over, the next step is to put together the recorded minutes in an organized manner. In order to do this effectively, below are some tips that the minute-taker could use:
Covert the minutes as soon as possible. It is advisable that the minute-taker put together the meeting minutes in the form of a transcript while the information is fresh in the mind.
Ensure that the meeting's key elements are well communicated. The purpose of the minutes is to remind the staff of what needs to be done in an easy to understand and consumable manner.
During the course of this exercise, the minute-taker should also keep in mind that when producing the meeting minutes, there are certain things that should be kept out of the document. These are:
Refrain from being objective
Use the same tense throughout the transcript
Refrain from mentioning people’s names, with an exception for motions and votings
Refrain from mentioning and citing personal observations by keeping the usage of adjectives or adverbs to its minimal
In case other documents need to be referred while writing the transcript, the minute-taker should not re-write or summarize from them, but instead attach those documents as an appendix or provide a link or place from where they can be accessed.
Distributing and Sharing the meeting minutes written transcript
Being the minute-taker for the meetings, you are likely to be handed over the responsibility for distributing and sharing of the minutes. Given the advent of internet and computers and handheld devices, this can be done through multiple online channels, such as:
When using Microsoft Word, the minutes can be converted to PDF and emailed to the relevant members (if online sharing is not possible).
If Google docs is being used then the document can be shared with that group once it has been finalized
Sharing through iCloud
Filing and storage of the minutes for future reference
Once finalized, these minutes need to be filed and stored as for future reference as they constitute as being “evidence”. It is recommended that these minutes be filed through both, online and offline modes. The former could be done through Google docs, Skydrive or iCloud. Additionally, these should also be backed up on an external hard drive. The latter requires resorting the conventional days of printing and storing in hard copies.
Templates to Consider
Having emphasized the importance of minutes of meeting, there are numerous templates available for minutes-takers to choose from. Some of these are mentioned below.
A fantastic and versatile note-taking tool, the main highlight of this tool are its page templates. These templates enable users in maintaining a consistent look and visual for all the pages in the notebooks. Users can easily replicate the notes over multiple types of documents, such as meeting notes and project overviews.
Microsoft Word Templates
Word templates save you the time and effort of having to remember all the information. These templates allow users to systematically record important aspects applying to the meeting, such as its purpose, number of attendees, the chairman of the meeting and issues discussed and the outcome of the meeting in a structured and concise manner.
Google docs Templates
Google docs is much more effective than Word templates as the Google doc comprises an in-built template dedicated for keeping meeting minutes. It is very easy to access and create. All you need to do is:
1. Open the Google doc
2. At the top, under the “Start a new document”, select More
3. The section expands
4. Upon scrolling further down, under “Work”, there are few dedicated templates for creating meeting minutes
Keeping minutes for your important business meetings is a crucial business strategy. Not only does it help to provide structure and focus to your meetings, you will have all of the details of that meeting written down and recorded for later reference and distribution to relevant parties.
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