How to Take Meeting Minutes

how to take meeting minutes

Taking minutes at a meeting is a crucial job, this is our simple guide on what a professional minute taker should consider when attending a meeting.

Take Note has been providing professional minute takers & transcription services to businesses across the globe for over a decade; this is our guide on how to take meeting minutes as a pro, we feel can write from experience 🙂

Minutes document who attended, decisions reached, and follow-on actions to save a written record of the event. In order to create useful minutes that can be referred to and understood by attendees and absentees alike, minute takers (aka notetakers) should come informed to the meeting’s purpose and prepared with their tools. It’s common to have minute takers at a wide range of corporate meetings, board meeting, focus groups, committee meetings, HR grievances or just to have an official record.

The method you use to take good meeting minutes during the meeting may vary depending on the meeting formality and your familiarity with the organisation and subject matter. Generally, recording the meeting is a good idea. If you miss something or need to double-check your answer, you can refer back to the audio (but be sure to check with the organiser that you can). Typing on a laptop is the quickest, most efficient way to take effective meeting minutes. It is best to bring a backup source, like paper and pen, in case your computer has a technical problem.

How to Take Meeting Minutes – Before the Meeting.

If you are an outsider taking minutes, ask the meeting organiser if there is a standard meeting minutes template or document format, like PDF or Google Docs. Obtain a list of meeting participants and a meeting agenda and action items, which will be used to form the skeleton of your own minutes. Any record of a meeting should always contain the date, time, organisation name, meeting organiser, attendees, location, and start and end times.

Ensure your laptop is fully charged, and that you have a spare notebook and pen in case your computer has a technical problem. Read the agenda, and skim through any background materials provided. Understanding the context and purpose of the meeting will help you take relevant, useful notes, and familiarise you to jargon and acronyms that may be used.

Preparing to Take Meeting Minutes – When You Arrive at the Meeting

Arrive at least ten minutes early so you can get situated, discuss any agenda changes or specific guidance with the meeting organiser. Verify the timeline of when you will return the completed minutes are due. A minute taker should never be late, and a meeting should never wait to start because of a minute taker.

Make sure that you are seated comfortably where you can see any visuals, like Powerpoint slides, displayed to the group. You should be able to record the meeting without strain. Avoid sitting where multiple attendees’ will have their backs to you. Ideally, you will be seated at the conference table, near a power source for your laptop, with the attendance sheet and where you can easily make eye contact with the meeting organiser. It can be useful to use the list of attendees to make a note of their positions to aid you during the meeting.

Writing Meeting Minutes – During the Meeting

Make note of everyone in attendance, and who sends their apologies. Record their names and titles as written in the agenda.

The purpose writing of minutes is to record what decisions were made, and by whom. You will find that conversation at meetings doesn’t always follow the agenda. For example, friendly colleagues may spend the first few minutes casually chatting before the meeting formally starts. You do not have to record this. Depending on the type of meeting, some organisers don’t strictly adhere to their agendas, and the meeting may go on several tangents. Record these diversions as diligently as you would agenda items. You can use your own shorthand and abbreviations to save yourself time and keep up with the discussion.

As a minute taker, you should never disrupt the meeting. If you can’t see or hear or missed an important point, however, wait until a person finishes speaking to interject. Do so confidently, quickly, and professionally: “Sorry, I didn’t catch that-what was the number you just said?” If your question is about the information that won’t be lost to memory, like the spelling of someone’s surname, follow up with the organiser afterwards.

Since taking minutes is not the same as transcription, you do not need to write a verbatim account of everything said in order to write effective minutes. Rather, under each agenda item, summarise the discussion, attributing each salient point to a specific attendee. The end state is to record decisions that were made, and how they were reached, so include disagreements and the sides of the discussion. A decision typically entails follow-on actions. Be sure to record who assigned subsequent tasks to whom, and when their deadlines.

After the Meeting

As soon as the meeting is over, note the time, fill in the details and check your work while the proceedings are fresh in your mind. Replace your shorthand with fully spelt-out words, and follow up with the organiser on anything unclear.

If the meeting organiser’s due date for the minutes allows, take a break before sending them. Reviewing your notes with fresh eyes a few hours later may help you find minor typos. Minutes should be grammatically correct, uniformly formatted, and easy to read. Send to the meeting organiser by the deadline, attached in the prescribed format. Retain your notes for the week following the meeting in case the organiser has any questions or clarifications.

For more information on how to take meeting minutes please take at these other helpful guides:

  1. Board Effect – How to write minutes at a board meeting.
  2. Wild Apricot – Guide to writing meeting minutes.
  3. Resource Centre – Taking Minutes.

If you are looking for work as a minute taker or notetaker, you can apply via the Take Note notetaker online application page.

Thomas Carter