your hands cramp up at the thought of recording meeting minutes? Do you question
what information you should record and what you should leave out? You’re
not alone. Most of us have sat through a meeting madly scribbling what we thought
were minutes only to find out later that we’ve missed essential information
or that the notes were never used.
Why Meeting Minutes Matter
Don’t give up, meeting minutes are important. They capture the essential
information of a meeting – decisions and assigned actions. They keep attendees
on track by reminding them of their role in a project and clearly define what
happened in a group session. How many times have your colleagues been confused
or in disagreement about what happened in a meeting? With minutes to refer to,
everyone is clear.
What most people don’t know is that meeting minutes shouldn’t be
an exact recording of everything that happened during a session. Minutes are
meant to record basic information such as the actions assigned and decisions
made. Then, they can be saved and used for reference or background material
for future meetings relating to the same topic.
The following instructions will help you take useful and concise meeting minutes.
Before the Meeting
If you are recording the minutes, make sure you aren’t a major participant
in the meeting. You can’t perform both tasks well.
Create a template for recording your meeting minutes and make sure you leave
some blank space to record your notes. Include the following information:
and time of the meeting
of the meeting
lead or chair’s name
Before the meeting, gather as much information from the host as you can. Ask
for a list of attendees, as well as some information on the purpose of the meeting.
This way you won’t need to scramble to understand what’s going on
while you’re recording notes.
Decide how you want to record your notes. If you aren’t comfortable relying
on your pen and notepad, try using a tape recorder or, if you’re a fast
typist, take a laptop to the meeting.
During the Meeting
As people enter the room, check off their names on your attendee list. Ask the
meeting lead to introduce you to meeting attendees you aren’t familiar
with. This will be helpful later when you are recording assigned tasks or decisions.
Don’t try to record notes verbatim – it’s not necessary.
Minutes are meant to give an outline of what happened in the meeting, not a
record of who said what. Focus on understanding what’s being discussed
and on recording what’s been assigned or decided on.
Record action items and decisions in your template as they happen – don’t
wait until after the meeting to pull them out of your notes or you could make
a mistake. If you don’t understand exactly what decision has been made
or what action has been assigned, ask the meeting lead to clarify.
After the Meeting
Review the notes and add additional comments, or clarify what you didn’t
understand right after the meeting. Do this while the information is fresh in
everyone’s mind. Type your notes out in the template you created before
the meeting – this will make the notes easier for everyone to read and
When you’re writing out your notes, use some of the following tips from
the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP).
the pages as you go so you aren’t confused later. Remember, though, that
the minute-taker is responsible for providing good flow. Don’t force yourself
to write the minutes in the actual chronological order of the discussion - it
may not work.
on action items, not discussion. The purpose of minutes is to define decisions
made and to record what actions are to be taken, by whom and when.
Write in the same tense throughout and avoid using people’s names except
for motions or seconds. This is a business document, not about who said what.
inflammatory or personal observations. The fewer adjectives or adverbs you use,
the better. Dull writing is the key to appropriate minutes.
need to refer to other documents, attach them in an appendix or indicate where
they may be found. Don’t rewrite their intent or try to summarize them.
When you finish typing the minutes, ask the meeting lead to review the document
for errors. Send the final copy of the minutes to attendees right away. Keep
a copy of the notes (and the template) for yourself in case someone wants to
review them later.
Recording meeting minutes ensures that the decisions and actions resulting
from a meeting aren’t lost or forgotten. By taking the time to record
proper meeting notes you’ll make sure the time and effort that goes into
a meeting isn’t wasted.