Today’s professionals spend an average of 21.5 hours in meetings a week, over half of the standard 40-hour work week. You can waste a lot of time if you don’t organize your meetings and follow up on action items. Meeting minutes help ensure productivity by creating a clearly defined purpose, a planned agenda and delivering an accurate record of events.
Meeting minutes aren’t a new concept. Professionals have been using them for decades to provide a summarized overview of important meetings. Providing a concise document that details all the essential information, such as key takeaways, in an easy-to-read format continues to be invaluable today. Using and preparing meeting minutes is a sure-fire way to help you and your team stay organized and on track. Doing so in a template format will ensure the creation of a record, a consistent format across your meetings and that each meeting leads to a clear document for easy review.
Verbit assists a variety of businesses and professionals with effective meeting minute templates. Our template is the culmination of years of experience supporting organizations to capture key details and actions from their meetings. Feel free to use our template and take a look at a completed example to learn how to use each section. With the right guide, you’ll know what you should capture in each meeting. Whether a meeting is formal or informal, taking time to template the minutes will help your team be more productive.
What are the benefits of using a template?
Many organizations rotate who takes notes in a meeting. This reality occurs partly because most people don’t relish the thought of the task. It seems only fair to take turns. However, people tend to have their own style when it comes to taking notes. What you deem as important may differ from your colleague’s viewpoint. You may also choose a different format and style than would other members of your team. A template will give you and your organization a level of consistency, making it easier for people to step in and be the minute taker. Additionally, this will ensure that everyone receives a high-quality summary of the meeting itself.
Introducing a template also assists in instilling good discipline of taking meeting notes. By working the template into your processes you’ll set expectations around meetings and increase their productivity.
How to organize your meeting minute template into sections
Deciding on key sections to organize your meetings by can be incredibly beneficial. The ‘who, what, when’ mantra is particularly useful to apply when creating meeting minutes. Addressing these elements allows you to set the scene and provides immediate context to the document. This information will be helpful to those who were present and those who were unable to attend.
Your ‘What’ or the heading should allow the individual reading your meeting minutes to check at a glance that they’re looking at the correct document. People attend numerous meetings, so making the name of the meeting clear helps deliver a better experience. No one wants to have to read the whole document to figure out what it’s about.
Also consider the name you give to the document when it’s saved. You want to make it easy for people to find. Using an intuitive naming convention will save time and frustration in the future.
Next is the agenda. This should have been set in advance of the meeting so it will be a breeze to include at this stage. An agenda is vital for productive meetings. It allows the meeting chair to keep the session on track, gives attendees the opportunity to prepare in advance for the key topics of discussion, and helps to ensure the meeting is productive. The agenda will guide the structure for the minutes, as you’ll see in the handy example below.
If you don’t currently appoint a chair for your meetings, it’s something to consider. It sounds quite formal, but in essence, the host or chairperson is there to organize the meeting and keep everyone focused on the agreed agenda. If nothing else, you need to make sure someone has ordered the ‘good’ biscuits when you’re meeting in person!
This one may seem obvious but be sure to include the date of the meeting and the time if you wish. This information will add context for anyone reviewing the minutes. Knowing the exact date can help the reader understand how external factors may have influenced decisions and the actions teams took at the time.
A meeting needs people. You may think that you’ll easily remember who was there. However, in the meeting-heavy environment many of us operate in, meetings can start to blur together. Capturing the ‘who’ will become a beneficial reference point.
It’s also standard practice for the first agenda point of any formal meeting to be the apologies. This provides a clear record of who was there and the reasons why others were unable to attend. Typically, the minutes would be sent to all those who were invited whether they were able to attend or not.
It’s useful to be able to keep track of individuals throughout the minutes. You can add initials in brackets after the attendees’ names to guide your reader through the rest of the minutes document. Using initials is not only quicker to write, but it also makes the notes easier to review.
Key content to record
Once you have the structure down, it’s time to focus on what information you need to record. Unlike a transcription where details are captured word-for-word, meeting minutes are designed to provide a concise record of the main discussion points, key decisions and agreed actions.
BDDA is one key framework you can use to produce useful minutes. By considering all four elements for each agenda point, you’ll capture the relevant information in a concise way.
- Background – What warrants a discussion about this topic? Why has a change occurred? Why is a change required?
- Discussion – What ideas, opinions, points of view, and facts are participants presenting on this argument? Are there any key areas of concern?
- Decision – What decision did the team make?
- Action – What are the next steps? Who is responsible?
If you’re minuting a regular meeting or a follow-up meeting is already on the schedule, you should add the details of the next session to the end of your minutes. This structure will help people to understand where the meeting fits within a larger project or flow.
Establishing a writing style for meeting minutes
The goal of the minutes is to produce a document that’s easy to follow and understand. A simple style that gets to the point without sacrificing key context or meaning is what you’re aiming for. Stick to the facts, avoid ambiguity and keep things concise. Use simple language and try to make the document as easy to scan as possible by using agenda points as clear headings. It’s also common to write minutes in the third person and in the past tense. This method provides a level of objectivity and impartiality.
Legal requirements to keep in mind
For some meetings, such as Annual General Meetings (AGMs), it’s a legal requirement for them to be minuted. Remember that there are rules that apply in specific countries. For example, in the UK, AGM’s are open to ALL shareholders and notice of the meeting and/or the agenda must be given 21 working days beforehand. Failure to comply with these rules will render the meeting invalid. Further information on the UK’s Companies Act 2006 can be found on the government’s legislation site. Alternatively, you may wish to check for any specific requirements in your country.
However, even if you’re not obliged to produce them, we’d recommend using minutes for all your important meetings. Minutes ensure that everyone is aligned on the next steps and drive momentum on agreed actions.
These tips provide you with a useful start to producing high-quality meeting minutes and the benefits of using a template. Using the template alongside these recommendations for content and style will help ensure your meetings are more productive, agreements are clear and post-meeting actions have momentum. However, producing meeting minutes can be a tedious task if you’re doing it on your own and in-house.
If you’d rather leave the minute-taking to the professionals, check out Verbit’s minutes and notetaking services. Our expert notetakers can support all your important meetings to provide concise, impartial notes that are an accurate record of events.