How to Write Minutes: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet

Have you ever had to take minutes for a school club or for a meeting you attended at work? No? Well good thing you’ve stopped by to see us today because we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about how to write minutes and more. Get a jump start on your future minute taking as you jot down some of the helpful points were making today!

What Are Minutes and Why Are They Important?

Minutes are more a less a fancy term for a set of notes that can be taken during a meeting at a business, organization, hearing, club or even in a college class. The notes one takes in these settings essentially serve as a written record of what occurred, what was discussed, pending issues, resolved issues and often includes a list of who was in attendance.

It is common for minutes to be taken during a meeting as a means of recapping everything that was covered in the event that there is a question about what occurred at a later date. Minutes are also taken to keep those not in attendance up to speed if they were unable to attend.

How to Write Minutes

Knowing the “what” and “why” behind taking minutes is only a small part of the equation when trying to learn this new skill. What you really need to know is how to write minutes in order to really complete the entire picture for yourself. You’ll easily be able to fulfill the expectations of your boss, professor or club president once you know how to actually write the minutes for your meeting. So, here’s what you need to know!

Step 1: Know the Rules

There are likely to be some rather specific policies in place pertaining to what is expected and required when you’re taking minutes. As you can imagine, it’s very important to know what these rules are prior to stepping into a meeting in order to ensure that you’re able to take the most accurate minutes possible and include everything that needs to be included.

Simply start by asking whomever as tasked you with this job to clearly define the guidelines for what is expected of you. For example, you’ll need to know whether or not you’re expected to participate in the meeting with your opinions or updates on projects. This little detail actually holds far more weight than you’d think, but the quality of your notes can actually be impacted. If you’re expected to participate beyond taking minutes it’s easy to imagine that you’d miss something said and omit it from the notes if your attention is shifted from time to time.

It’s also important to know what’s expected to be included in the minutes, who should get a copy and if they need to be approved before they are distributed. Knowing these simple things leaves less room for error, which will result in you looking like the superstar we know you are.

Meeting Minutes TemplateStep 2: Make a Template

Make the whole minute taking process a lot easier on yourself by drafting a simple template for use during each meeting. Your template can easily be printed off if you are taking minutes by hand or pull up on the device you’re using if you prefer to type things out. Implementing this little tip can potentially save you quite a bit of time since some of the information that you may be required to write down during each meeting is already waiting for you in the template.

Definitely check in with the head honchos hosting the meeting before you settle on a specific template, though. Doing this allows you to ensure that you’ve covered all of the necessary points before settling in to take the meeting’s minutes on your newly crafted template.

Each type or meeting and organization will more than likely have slightly different requirements for the minutes taken, however, here’s a list of the most common things included on some templates we found:

  • It’s important to note the date and time of the meeting for future reference.
  • The name of organization, business, class or club may be useful, especially if the minutes are being shared with outside sources.
  • The type of meeting being held with be useful as well. For example, is the meeting in question held daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, biyearly, annually or is it a special meeting being held to address something in particular or to address an emergency situation.
  • Notate who the host of the meeting is as well as other people of importance who are either in attendance or contributing in a significant manner.
  • List the agenda of the meeting if one is provided for you. Do keep in mind that the agenda may change from meeting to meeting. You may decide to leave this section of your template blank to be filled in later or be prepared to edit this section of the template prior to each meeting if you’d prefer.
  • Construct a space to address issues previously covered in a previous meeting. Some of the topics you may be required to address here are: plans made, actions taken, votes made, votes pending and topics still to be covered from previous meetings.
  • Your template will also be further aided by two additional spaces for topics that are to be covered in the current meeting and some things that will need to be covered during future meetings.
  • Lastly, take your template a step further by creating an attendance sheet. Doing this will make things extremely easy for you when the time comes to distribute the minutes. You won’t miss anyone this way, which will make everyone involved pretty happy.

Step 3: Bring Your Tools

A big part of the process of taking minutes is going to rely upon the system you create for yourself. This self created system will be largely dependent upon the tools you’ve decided to use while taking minutes. Your system may be more on the modern side as you prefer to take notes on a portable device or you may prefer to kick it old school by putting pen to paper as a means to write down the pertinent details of the meeting you’re attending.

So, make sure you have each of the tools you need each time you’re required to employ your system to take minutes. You’ll want to bring a fully charged laptop, tablet or phone with your template already saved and a spare charging cable just in case your battery decides to kick the bucket before the meeting is over. The same preparation applies when going tech free to take minutes, so bring a notebook or two, plenty of things to write with including pens, pencils and highlighters and of course, your template if you have one in hard copy form.

Meeting MinutesIt’s also advisable to bring along a voice recording device or install an app on your device that will function much the same. Of course, recording the meeting does not grant you a free pass to prop your feet up and enjoy the meeting without doing your job as minute keeper.

Instead, the recording you obtain will serve as yet another tool that you can call upon later when you’re transcribing the details of the meeting and what was said. You’ll be able to use to recording as a means to fill in any blanks since it’s virtually impossible to catch every little thing said and done during a meeting. You’ll be able to focus more on taking high quality minutes and stress less if you missed a detail or two.

Step 4: Bring It All Together

Try not to wait too long between the time of your meeting and when you’re actually ready to sit down for a full fledged transcription session. You’ll want to strike with the iron is hot as you try to piece all of the minutes together into a cohesive little package while everything is still fresh in your mind. It’s super easy to miss little details of importance if you put it off for too long, so bite the bullet and get it done sooner rather than later.

It’s important to note that this is definitely the longest part of minute taking process. There will certainly be a bit more time required of you as you work on interpreting your notes that are in short hand (if any). You’ll also need to take all of the info that lies within your template and turn it into a nicely formatted, cohesive piece of data, too.

Make sure that you’ve gone through your notes and the recording thoroughly as you attempt to clarify any points that need additional information. You want your minutes to be as rich in detail, concise and transparent as possible in order to ensure that the person reading it has a clear understanding of what took place and the intent behind any actions taken.

Do your best to remain objective and interject as little of your own personal bias as possible, too. There’s no place for opinions or value judgments in minutes no matter what they are for, so try you’re hardest to stick to the facts and save your ideas for another time.

Step 5: Editing and Approval

 Give the minutes you’ve prepared a thorough editing session by reading through them a few times. The system that we’ve found to work the best when editing pretty much any writing is this: read it once silently, read it again aloud and repeat the process once again. Sure, reading the minutes you’ve taken four times seems a bit excessive, but it’s truly the best way to catch the majority of errors made.

When editing you want to be on the look out for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, proper use of punctuation and make doubly sure that the content is accurate, subjective and easy to understand. The whole editing process will become much easier for you as you practice it, so don’t be too discouraged if you’re not the best speller or if grammar’s never been your forte.

You can submit the minutes for approval (if required) once you’re confident that you’ve dotted all of the “I’s” and crossed all of the “t’s.” Try to remember that any feedback you get doesn’t mean you’re not doing a good job. Take it as a helpful tool that will allow you to improve at your job and earn invaluable skills that you can later apply. Fix the things that need to be adjusted (if any) and keep them in mind next time to avoid doing it again.

Minutes FormatStep 6: Share the Love

You’ll have to share the love once you’ve dominated your role as official minute taker. You’re obviously writing minutes for a reason, so it’s probably a pretty good idea to figure out some practical and convenient ways to distribute them. After all, you worked hard and likely got a bad case of writer’s cramp while writing those minutes, so somebody better read them.

There are several different ways to distribute the minutes with the most common one being the old fashioned way of printing out each page to produce multiple hard copies. This method will also require you to distribute said hard copies to each person who attended the meeting and possibly a few who weren’t there. Who really has time to run around doing that, though?

On top of this old school method being a bit of a time suck, it’s also a total waste of paper. It may be a good idea to find an alternate way to get this task done if at all possible. You’ll save some trees and some time all while still accomplishing the main goal of getting the minutes into the hands of those who need them.

You can always go the virtual route if you’re looking for a way to save time and trees. In all honesty, sending the minutes via email or some other tech based format is so much more efficient and definitely worth considering. Take a look at some of these alternate virtual methods available when distributing minutes:

  • Google Doc: Anyone with a Gmail email address or at very least willing to start one, can view a Google Doc once it’s been shared with them. This type of document sharing makes it super easy to share minutes with a lot of people at once with minimal effort on your part. There’s also the added bonus of having a version saved online that can always be accessed and even edited. So you’re saving some space on your computer by saving your minutes to the Cloud and no longer have to worry about not being able to access them if you are without your computer.
  • Dropbox: Send the minutes to whomever you need to with the super convenient and user friendly Cloud based service provided by Dropbox. Not only is it easy to use, but it is also free up to 2GB of space for all users. There’s not really much need to whip out your credit card to enroll in a paid account, either. Dropbox makes it pretty darn easy to increase the file space available in your account by simply having your friends, family and co-workers sign up for their own free accounts. Before you know it you’ll have up to 16GB of file space that you begin using to share the minutes with anyone and everyone who needs them quickly. The extra benefit of being able to share and access your files from nearly any mobile device makes it pretty hard to turn down.
  • AgreeDo: You can always kick the entire process up a notch by using AgreeDo from start to finish. AgreeDo is an app that is supported on Windows, Mac, Linux and other Web-based devices including your computer, tablet and cell phone. Your minute taking process will quickly be streamlined with this app since you will be able to take and share minutes within in like a pro. On top of those perks, you’ll also have the ability to create additional meeting related tasks and actual meetings within a couple of clicks.

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