How to write meeting minutes: tips, tricks, and templates
Last updated on: January 9, 2023
How often have you finished a meeting and thought to yourself, “What just happened?”
Well, you’re not alone. According to statistics, employees attend approximately between 11 and 15 meetings each week.
Consequently, they need to absorb a lot of new information, and some struggle to keep track of all necessary details.
Fortunately, with concise and thorough meeting minutes, they can find notes about their in-person or virtual meetings in one place.
In this blog post, we’ll help you learn how to write meeting minutes and optimize the process with four free templates.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
What are meeting minutes?
Simply put, meeting minutes serve as a written record of everything that occurs during a meeting.
However, they also act as:
- Proof of a business’s ethical practices,
- A reminder of upcoming projects and deadlines,
- A handy summary for those who couldn’t attend a meeting, and
- A record of a company’s progress during a specific period.
Although meeting minutes are supposed to simplify decision-making and ensure all employees are on the same page, it’s not enough to list the conclusions of a meeting.
In the age where more and more companies are opting for a hybrid work model, lackluster notes can prevent employees from staying focused and contributing to the company’s goals.
The good news is that with sufficient planning and well-structured meeting minutes, you can hold engaging meetings where all participants are up to speed with the latest developments and know their responsibilities.
What is the purpose of meeting minutes?
Besides being a convenient way to record duties and deadlines, meeting minutes are an excellent tool to promote accountability.
When team members take on a new task, they can refer to the minutes to check the due date.
Plus, managers and higher-ups swamped with obligations can rely on this summary to stay on top of major changes. The same applies to employees unable to attend a meeting.
They can review the minutes, and if they have more questions or comments, the provided information will point them in the right direction. Thus, meeting minutes can prevent employees from falling behind in their tasks and significantly reduce FOMO in the workplace.
Another purpose of meeting minutes is to commend employees for their exceptional performance and bolster team morale. Who doesn’t want to be part of a work culture that praises the achievements of each member?
If a project manager or client notices you’ve exceeded all expectations, their praise can also find its way into the meeting minutes. You can thus use the minutes as an invaluable asset during your performance review and show proof of your exceptional work.
In addition to being a brief reminder of past and future tasks, the minutes offer positive recognition to meeting participants.
How to write meeting minutes
As we mentioned, meeting minutes should be brief but should not take the form of a list. For this reason, it’s essential to invest enough time and effort in the pre-planning stage and develop a comprehensive meeting agenda.
As a rule of thumb, the meeting organizer is in charge of creating the agenda.
This outline chronologically highlights:
- The meeting objectives,
- The critical roles of the participants, and
- The time estimates for the projects and tasks.
Since the agenda provides structure to meetings, it’s also the backbone of meeting minutes.
Without a clear agenda, you risk holding an unproductive meeting and producing unorganized meeting notes.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
To learn more about crafting a great meeting agenda, check out this blog post:
When forwarding the outline to teammates, the meeting organizer should reach out to the minute-taker and confirm they’ve received the agenda. Moreover, they should state their expectations clearly and inform the minute-taker which details their notes should include.
In the below example, Katie Stark shares the agenda with her coworkers, asking them for constructive feedback.
No matter how meticulous the agenda is, the success of the meeting rests on collaboration. Unless the organizer is clear about the minute-takers responsibilities, the final draft may be missing some critical details.
For example, if the meeting is about voting about new company policies, inform the minute-taker whether they should jot down all arguments for and against the proposed motions.
Assigning a minute-taker
While some organizations have an appointed minute-taker for each session, most use a strict set of criteria to select an individual most suitable for the role. Taking meeting minutes carries a lot of responsibility.
Not only are you supposed to interpret the notes, but the message should be clear to all employees that access the minutes. Although some assume that fast typists make excellent minute-takers, that’s not always the case.
What makes a good minute-taker stand out is their ability to:
- Absorb someone’s words,
- Evaluate their delivery, and
- Pinpoint their perspective.
Rather than mechanically scribbling a string of words, minute-takers should engage in active listening while simultaneously noting the critical messages.
In most cases, the minute-taker is also involved in setting up the meeting and is familiar with the agenda, which allows them to steer the session in the right direction.
While the minutes are supposed to make holding meetings and delegating tasks a breeze, some still need more guidance on taking meeting minutes without difficulty.
The good news is that we’ll break down the process into three simple stages, and you’ll know exactly what to do before, during, and after a meeting.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Minute-takers aren’t the only people responsible for setting the course of a meeting. To learn how to maximize productivity during meetings, check out this blog post:
How to take concise meeting minutes
The contents of the minutes might vary based on the company’s industry, product, or service, but in general, all minutes contain the following points:
- The subject and title of the meeting,
- The time and date of the meeting,
- The name and title of the attendees,
- The meeting agenda,
- A brief overview of all discussion points,
- A summary of the action items and major conclusions, and
- The date and time of the next meeting.
Note that the above sections may vary in length. For example, the title, time, and date take up a single line at most, while you’ll likely need several paragraphs to summarize the agenda.
On the other hand, the easiest and most efficient way to organize the names of attendees is in the form of a bullet point list.
To promote clarity and transparency, it’s a good idea that the minutes align with the meeting agenda and match its structure. In a way, they’re the CliffsNotes of the session — a quick glance should provide enough detail for coworkers to understand the entire story.
As you’ve probably concluded, a lot goes into producing meeting minutes, and you may doubt your note-taking skills.
Not to worry — with our helpful tips below, you’ll quickly become a master minute-taker.
Tips for efficient minute-taking
Since many minute-takers are directly involved in arranging the meeting, their responsibilities quickly pile up, and focusing on structuring a clear summary can be a challenge.
But with some effective pre-planning and time management, you can categorize your duties into three categories — before, during, and after the meeting — and avoid the pitfalls of taking bad meeting minutes.
What to do before a meeting
Although the meeting may be days or weeks away, that doesn’t mean you should wait until the last minute to prepare for the event.
On the contrary, if you devote a bit of time to the following pre-meeting tasks, you’ll take the hassle out of taking minutes in the future. So, let’s see what you should do before taking down the minutes for a meeting.
Step #1: Select a format
The meeting minutes of an organization should follow a uniform format. This approach allows all attendees who review the notes to identify relevant information quickly.
Consequently, many companies adopt a meeting agenda and minutes template the minute-taker can rely on to fulfill their duties.
Additionally, meeting minutes templates prevent the session from veering off-topic and ensure that everyone:
- Understands the purpose of the meeting,
- Recognizes future goals,
- Has access to the necessary paperwork,
- Is ready to contribute to their team, and
- Understands what their duties and deadlines are.
Larger organizations typically use several templates for different meetings.
For example, you’ll need to use a more formal style for board meetings, while a weekly team meeting is more relaxed and you can use a simple format.
If you’re unsure about the best approach, don’t hesitate to reach out to the chairperson or your superior. They can provide you with existing meeting minutes examples or suggest the most suitable format.
Step #2: Determine and recheck the agenda
According to Joanna Gutmann, a consultant specializing in meeting skills and author of Taking Minutes of Meetings, a helpful agenda ensures that all attendees are well-prepared for the upcoming session, and one of its primary purposes is “to give structure to the minutes.”
While minute-takers contribute significantly to the agenda, the meeting organizer usually comes up with the items the participants will discuss.
Therefore, when reviewing the agenda with the meeting organizer, make sure to go over the layout of the items. If the plan follows no apparent order and participants jump from one topic to the next, the lack of focus will hinder the session and lead to some poor and potentially detrimental decisions.
Although no agenda design is perfect, Gutmann advises that it’s best “to deal with important items first.” For most people, concentration is at its highest at the start of a meeting, so it’s an excellent tactic to resolve critical issues before the group loses momentum.
What to do during a meeting
After pre-planning the meeting, it’s time to think about the best practices that will allow you to take concise minutes.
Step #1: Consider recording the meeting
Even when participants closely adhere to the agenda, they may talk over each other, preventing you from capturing each point. If you’re concerned about keeping up with such a rapid pace, you can record the meeting and refer to the file when polishing up the meeting minutes draft.
Of course, always ask the attendees whether they’re okay with you recording the session. If your organization uses a business communication app like Pumble, you can quickly ask the attendees for their consent beforehand.
Remember that you shouldn’t take entire sentences from the recording and incorporate them into the minutes. Instead, the recording serves as a reminder of what was said, and you should listen to it to further clarify specific items.
Step #2: Take attendance
One of the first things a minute-taker does at the beginning of a meeting is record who is in attendance.
For smaller gatherings, you can record the names of participants as they enter the conference room or join a virtual call.
But for larger meetings, it may be more convenient to pass around an attendance list or check the responses on the virtual invite.
In addition to creating a list of attendees, your company may require you to include additional information in the minutes, such as:
- The names of absent participants, and
- The names of those who have sent in an apology.
Step #3: Stick to the main points
The minutes should be short and straightforward, but how do you determine which details are worth including? You want the participants to navigate the document and understand the core decisions but fear overwhelming them with too many details.
Gutmann explains that for each action item minute-takers record, they follow “the action triangle.”
So, for every decision you add to your notes, make sure to explain the following:
- What task the meeting participants have agreed on,
- Who is responsible for seeing through the project,
- When the team expects the responsible party will complete the job.
Step #4: Ask questions
Strategy meetings can last 60 to 90 minutes, while decision-making meetings can stretch over several hours. As executives and participants try to cover as much ground as possible, interrupting and asking for clarification sometimes feels rude.
However, as the minute-taker, your task is to compile an accurate and thorough record, and you should ask for more insight when necessary.
For example, if you notice the group has moved on to a new item without reaching a clear outcome, you can ask one of the following questions:
“Could you confirm this action for the meeting minutes?”
“Would you mind repeating the deadline for this project?”
“Who is responsible for carrying out this task?”
And just like that, you’ll have the necessary details to expand your meeting minutes draft, and the session will continue as planned with no major disruptions.
What to do after a meeting
You’ve carefully followed the meeting, and now you have a rough outline you’ll use to craft the meeting minutes. The below tips will help you streamline the process and allow you to keep all your coworkers in the loop.
Step #1: Edit the notes
When proofreading your notes, eliminate typos and select the optimal style format. Many organizations follow the AP style guide, but your company may have a different preference.
To ensure maximum brevity, try to:
- Stay objective,
- Remove personal observations,
- Use the same tense in the entire document, and
- Attach additional documents as an appendix or insert a link to the relevant pages.
And as Gutmann points out, meeting minutes are all about “the message, not the words.” So, take some time to reread the minutes and weed out flowery language.
Step #2: Flesh out the minutes with contextual information
There’s a fine line between producing unbiased and fact-based minutes and adding too much context.
Generally, only write names when referring to action items and voting motions. When a coworker who couldn’t make it to the meeting glances at the summary, the minutes will tell them with whom they should follow up for any remaining inquiries.
Step #3: Share the meeting minutes
A company can only be successful with collaborative communication. Thus, it’s essential that you distribute the meeting minutes and make sure they’re accessible to your coworkers.
And, don’t forget to shoot a message to the meeting participants and inform them the meeting minutes are now online.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Regardless of the work model that works best for your organization, you can boost productivity by using a robust communication tool with impressive video conferencing capabilities like Pumble. Check out what this app brings to the table:
4 free meeting minutes templates
Few phenomena have altered the workplace as much as video conferencing, and you likely spend time joining several different meetings each week.
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for much else, and making a template from scratch takes valuable time away from more pressing duties.
But without a handy template, you’ll work overtime revising and organizing the notes.
Luckily, with our four free meeting minutes templates, you’ll easily tackle one-on-one, team, business, and corporate meetings.
👉 All you need to do to access the templates is click on the appropriate link and make a copy on your device by clicking File > Make a copy.
One-on-one meeting minutes template
Although some think one-on-one meetings don’t require an agenda or minutes, a template can help both parties remain on topic.
Whether you’re meeting with your mentor, coach, or superior, an easy-to-follow summary helps lay the foundation for all future sessions.
Corporate meeting minutes template
Whether you’re taking minutes for a board of directors, shareholder, or board committee meeting, you’ll need to keep track of serious actions and discussions.
Our template begins with a standard Call to Order, moves into an attendance list, and lays out discussion topics like reports.
🔽 You can download our corporate meeting minutes template and tweak it to fit your purpose.
Business meeting minutes template
When developing a service or product, meetings ensure that all employees share the same goals and do their best to help the business reach important milestones.
With our customizable business meeting minutes template, you can:
- Check in with different teams,
- Organize team updates, and
- Assess their progress so far.
Team meeting minutes template
Team meeting minutes are essential for holding each member accountable and keeping everybody on the same page. Whether you prefer to have weekly or monthly sessions, a good template can make the discussions more productive and ensure that the team meets all deadlines.
Wrapping up: Meeting minutes ensure that all meetings are organized and productive
Meetings are only successful if they motivate employees to up their performance. However, since we often receive complex information at work, remembering every detail of a discussion can be challenging.
But, companies and teams that rely on meeting minutes can easily bypass this obstacle and create a concise summary of each meeting.
Well-structured meeting minutes maintain team productivity, reminding the members of their shared goals and individual responsibilities. Moreover, should an employee have further questions, the minutes will show with whom they should follow up.
So, test our templates in your in-person or virtual meetings or create your version to make the sessions even more productive and keep all participants engaged.
✉️ What about you? Do you take meeting minutes for your business or team? What are some of your best tips and tricks?
Let us know at email@example.com, and we might include your response in this or one of our upcoming posts.