For many people, the phrase “taking minutes” is intimidating. Contrary to the way it sounds, though, taking meeting minutes does not involve writing down a minute-by-minute account of everything that happens in a board meeting. The individual who is taking the minutes does need to be keenly aware of what is happening during the board meeting, but they won’t be expected to quote everything that their fellow board members have said.
The purpose of taking board meeting minutes is mostly to provide a legal record of motions, votes, next steps, the progress of action items, etc. For that reason, it’s important that the minute-taker follow along closely with the movement of the meeting and the decisions made within it. The minute-taker need not record anything that could be viewed as subjective—in fact, they should avoid using adjectives and adverbs to ensure that they’re only recording factual information from the meeting at hand.
Here are the five steps for taking meeting minutes:
Take some time to think about what format your minutes will take. Do you want to present it in sections or bullets? What styles have been used in the past? Does your company have any by-laws that specifically pertain to minutes taking?
- Taking the Minutes
Once the meeting has begun, make sure that you’re actively recording the stages of the meeting. When in doubt over whether an item needs to be recorded, go ahead and write (or type) it down. You will be able to cull through these notes at a later time to get at the most important information. Generally speaking, these are the items that the minutes-taker should focus on recording during the meeting time.
- The date and the time the meeting is called to order
- The names of people who are in attendance (as well as absentees)
- The acceptance of (or amendments to) the previous meeting’s minutes
- Anything and everything related to the motions put forth: actions to take, next steps, votes, rejections, new business, items held over, etc.
- The highlights of open discussion
- The next meeting date/time
- Time of official adjournment
If you’re new to minutes taking and your by-laws allow it, you can actually make an audio recording of the meeting to play back at a later time. This will help you feel less stressed during the minutes taking process and will give you some in meeting practice with a fallback option to rely on.
- Writing the Official Minutes
The duties of the minutes-taker extend beyond the meeting time. They will need to compile the notes they’ve taken into an organized and legible format and edit them for brevity and clarity. Ideally, the minutes should stay in a single tense and rarely use individual peoples’ names except when referring to a specific motion or a second. If you’re unsure of what meeting minutes typically look like, here is basic example.
- Distributing the Minutes
Once you feel like you have compiled the minutes accurately and have them in the appropriate format, distribute them to board members according to your company’s by-laws. In most cases, this will involve the use of an online tool. If your company has strict privacy laws, ensure that you’re using a safe and secure system for minutes distribution.
- Filing the Minutes
Once the minutes have been officially approved, you’ll need to file them in accordance with your board’s practices. These minutes will serve as legal reference in the months and years to come. It’s shrewd to store minutes in two different formats just in case something happens to prevent access to one of them.