Keep reading to learn not only how to take meeting minutes but also to take minutes that help everyone at your company be more strategic, decisive, and informed. Use the tips along with our favorite meeting minutes template to build your reputation as the company minutes master.
How to Write Meeting Minutes: Examples + Best Practices
There’s so much information available about how to write effective meeting minutes that it’s sort of getting confusing. Because of this influx of information that’s not always straight-forward, writing meeting notes can seem like a bit of a burden. It’s a shame, because the opposite is true: Meeting notes are a powerful resource for teams and are an essential means to share and disseminate information throughout your organization.
Since writing meeting minutes is so important, Fellow has created the best meeting minutes example in the game. We’ve made it to-the-point and excluded the fluff so that you can understand once and for all what meeting minutes are, what their purpose is, and look at some concrete meeting agenda examples of formal versus informal meeting minutes (along with helpful templates). We’ve also included a list of 7 essential things to include when writing meeting minutes, so that no detail gets left behind. Meeting notes aren’t meant to be difficult so let’s take a look at how to get them right.
How to Take Meeting Minutes and Notes: Step-by-Step Instructions
Step 1: Design A Process & A Template
Just as a house needs a solid blueprint if you want the construction process to go smoothly, meeting minutes need a solid underlying process and structure if you want them to be both useful and smooth for people to use and record.
Ideally, your template will be based on previous meeting minutes taken at your organization. If you have no organizational precedent to follow, then create your own template using the meeting agenda and a pre-made template you like.
“Use the meeting agenda to reflect what’s discussed so you don’t double up on that info, make it clear what needs to be done as a result from the meeting, record the audio so nothing gets missed, and then send your notes out to all attendees making it clear who has homework due.”
The Meeting Minutes Checklist
Step 2: Prepare To Take The Best Notes Ever
The best way to prepare to take meeting notes is to find out exactly what will be the most useful and the most worthwhile items to record. Do this by reaching out to the meeting owner for a list of priority items. Push this contact person, if you can, to reveal the most crucial piece of information to capture through your note-taking.
“Before jumping in, I’d find out what the organizer is hoping for from the minutes. I take minutes for a weekly top team meeting, and my exec just wants the basics, nothing fancy. But for our annual retreat, I follow a more formal format, which takes significantly longer to write. So find that out, and then you can look for templates that might already exist for other committees within your organization and/or templates you find here/online.”
- What is the single most important goal of this meeting?
- What are a few secondary goals?
- Why did you set up this meeting? (This is really just another way to ask people about the meeting’s purpose; it’s just an easier question for people to answer as opposed to “What’s your purpose?”
- What’s the most important decision you hope to reach during this meeting?
- Which of these agenda items is the most important in your mind?
- Who will likely have action items at the end of this meeting?
- Is there any context I should understand? (You might not need to know, but it could be helpful to find out if there’s a history or a particular workforce political landscape coloring the decisions or tone of the meeting’s discussions.)
- What do you expect out of these minutes?
- What do you need these minutes to accomplish?
- Do you have a preferred format?
- Is anyone else talking notes?
Step 3: Take Notes Like An Absolute Master
Now we’ve gotten to the meat of this process: actually writing meeting minutes. If you’ve created a solid template and have gotten all the answers you need from the meeting host, then you’ve already done most of the heavy lifting in creating effective meeting minutes.
- Don’t just record. Listen. Consider yourself more of a meeting therapist than an automated typing robot. Listen carefully and use your expert judgement to root out the key points, needs, and opportunities underlying all the words.
- Follow the advice this EA blogger once received and stop focusing on recording who said what and when. Meeting minutes aren’t courtroom transcripts or dialogue-heavy film scripts. Let go of who said what and zero in on the substance of what happened.
- Accept that you probably can’t capture everything during the meeting and also end up with perfectly clean notes. (Revision is part of the process after all.) Experts recommend just getting the notes down and worrying about everything else afterwards. One member of our Facebook group for Executive Assistants even said, People tend to either rabbit trail or talk in way more detail than what you need to take down. Easier to take notes and clean it up afterward.”
- Focus on capturing actions unless, due to your company rules, you must capture everything word for word.
- Use bulleted lists to save time while also being clear.
- Watch out for key phrases, such as
- We must/need to/should …
- I will check in/reach out/look into …
- Let’s find out more about …
Meeting Minute Software & Tools
Otter was designed to make taking notes more efficient, more organized, and more useful. It offers real-time recording and editing, and it even turns meeting recordings into transcripts. With neat notes you can easily read and skim, you have all the information you need to make team meetings productive meetings for everyone involved.
If you’re in the habit of recording meetings and then transcribing the notes later by hand, then you know how much time this tool will save you. If you don’t typically generate a full meeting transcript, then Otter gives you a way to do it quickly and easily. The transcript will be invaluable as you organize and revise your notes.
monday.com is a comprehensive productivity hub you can leverage to make your meeting minutes unbelievably easy. You can build your process with the notes template and then use the platform to provide perfect transparency into the progress of key follow-ups, making it easier for everyone, without having any more meetings, to share ideas, and stay informed.
Nifty is an app that lets you manage and collaborate on documents and tasks in real time. Create your perfectly formatted minutes in Nifty and then easily share them so collaborators add comments and contributions.
In addition to providing a platform for creating and distributing meeting notes, Nifty also helps you set up a knowledge hub where other meeting attendees can chime in with points you may have missed. (You’re only human after all!)
Evernote offers tons of features to completely overhaul the way you take notes. Use their templates to create your perfect foundation and even scan physical documents to have them imported into your virtual note hub.
Nuclino calls itself a “collective brain” because it distributes knowledge across your team as though you truly do share a collective brain. This collaborative wiki provides an online home base for documents, notes, and other sources of valuable information.
Over time, Nuclino will help you turn all your org’s board meeting minutes into a useful knowledge hub. This product allows you to link to other relevant notes and even group notes by category. This means you won’t just have a folder full of meeting documents, but instead a knowledge base people can actually use to gather context and history and make informed decisions.
6) The Assist
With new information delivered weekly, the Assist will keep you clued in on all the techniques and resources you need to constantly elevate your process for taking meeting minutes and doing all the other amazing things you pack into a day.
Meeting Minutes FAQs
How do you write action items?
⚡ Follow up on action items at the next meeting. If status updates on action items haven’t been given in the meantime, quickly review the previous meeting’s minutes to ensure action items were accomplished.
Who prepares the minutes of a meeting?
What is the proper order of an agenda?
If you’re not following strict parliamentary procedures in your meetings, much of this advice is still useful. Begin by carrying over any threads from the previous meeting, as well as large discussions or time-sensitive business. Leave more minor agenda items for the end.
How do you create a perfect meeting agenda?
What is the best template format for meeting minutes?
Standard files like Word Docs, Excel spreadsheets, and PDFs all have a similar limitation as templates for meeting minutes—they need an extra step to be used or shared. Opening any of these file types requires a special program that not everyone may have access to.
What tense should meeting minutes be written in?
What are the abbreviations for minutes of meeting?
How do you pronounce meeting minutes?
Do meeting minutes need to be approved or signed?
Certain formal meeting minutes do need to be certified in some way in order to be an official record of a meeting. Often the Chair needs to review and approve the minutes before they can be circulated. Or, for many organizations, minutes are reviewed and approved by the group at the beginning of the next meeting.
Informal and Formal Minutes