How to Write Meeting Minutes: 5 Step Guide
Meeting minutes matter. How else could you capture vital details for future use, or guarantee reliable records for employees who can’t attend? Even in a modern business setting, you simply can’t beat a trusty written record for accuracy and effective transcripts down the line.
The trouble is that, even now, there’s no standardised approach here. A minutes method that works for someone else could be drastically ill-suited to your needs. That can leave you at a loss about how to write minutes that capture the good stuff. The bad news is that this can be a long-winded process. Luckily, there are ways to simplify, and we’re going to look at five of them here.
#1 – Always prepare
Too often, minute takers make the mistake of turning up to a meeting with little more than a pen, a pad, and a severe case of misplaced optimism. Even if you can write like the wind, this lacklustre approach is guaranteed to see you struggling to keep on top. You may even find that you get so caught up in the action, you forget to take notes altogether!
By comparison, a minutes taker who has made ample time to prepare for the meeting is guaranteed to be in a better position when things kick-off. Simple things, like checking the meeting agenda ahead of time, are all it takes to perfect this preparation stage. This way, you’ll have a decent idea of the key actions to expect before events get away from you.
You could even take this time to make a list of attendees and their email addresses where appropriate so that you can focus solely on accurate recording once the meeting is underway. You could even take a moment to talk with your manager about crucial points they intend to cover for the duration so that you can write up a checklist to keep you on track when things speed up during the meeting itself.
#2 – Choose your format wisely
While we’re on the subject of preparation, you should also choose your format wisely to ensure you stand the best chance at recording the meeting in the way you intend. Namely, you should consider the fastest option for keeping up with the action while still taking adequate minutes.
Often, notetakers find that longhand is too time-consuming to cope with the fast pace of a meeting environment. By comparison, short-hand minutes can capture plenty of detail while still saving you time and helping you to capture everything that happens.
Equally, format could refer to the way you capture minutes in the first place. While we’re using the word ‘write’ as an umbrella term here, you needn’t necessarily write by hand if that isn’t the best option. Many minutes takers find that capturing minutes on a computer is both quicker and easier for business-wide sharing.
Literally recording meetings also has its benefits, especially for transcription and word-for-word minutes. This also has the advantage of allowing you to keep precise points fresh in your mind for longer than a perhaps inaccurate written record ever could.
#3 – Know what you need to capture
Once you’ve settled on a format, turn attention to what you intend to capture. Obviously, this isn’t as much of an issue with recorded minutes, but anyone intending to write/type needs to know precisely what they should note.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that getting everything is best, because it rarely is. Let’s face it — your minutes don’t need to capture between-agenda chatter. While this technique may be necessary if you’re embarking on full-verbatim transcription later, it can lead to you missing essential information as you attempt to capture every last thing.
Instead, you’ll probably want to prioritise to achieve the most accurate minutes possible. Often, a checklist is best for getting this right, including:
- Name of attendees
- Actions proposed
- Actions taken
- Voting outcomes
- New business
Note that it’s worth bearing in mind future transcript intentions before you make decisions here. As mentioned, full-verbatim options literally require you to capture every idiosyncrasy, while more common verbatim transcripts, such as detailed notes, edit unnecessary additions anyway.
#4 – Use a template to make life easier
The blank page is no writer’s friend, and minutes aren’t an exception to that rule. Whether you’re new to minute writing or not, it can be incredibly tricky to know where to start from scratch. You may find that your minutes end up all over the place, making transcription much harder and leaving key points and moments lost in the scrabble.
That’s why it’s always worth using a meeting minutes template. There are now endless free options online, and each of them can help you to both structure and focus your minutes writing process with every meeting. While you may need to tweak these a little to fit precisely with your business needs, you should be able to get going with minimal effort, and a whole lot less pressure as a result.
The best thing of all is that one minutes template can be enough to see you through every single meeting once you find an option that suits. Simply be sure to save your edited document somewhere that you can easily access it when necessary. As simple as that, you’ll be in a much better position to write meeting minutes that your boss is sure to be proud of.
#5 – Consider conversion
Ultimately, the meeting minutes you write are only as good as the conversion that turns them into a cohesive document. While you may have dreams of writing top-quality minutes the first time around, it’s simply not realistic. More often, minutes as they’re written tend to be choppy, littered with mistakes, and generally difficult to digest. This is the case whether you’re a pro or not, but it needn’t be a problem when you embark on conversion in the right ways.
Transcription companies are always on-hand to take minutes up a gear from a professional standpoint, but it’s down to you to write minutes they can work from. For the most part, you should focus on using the same tense throughout your note taking, and omitting personal opinions along the way. As we’ve already mentioned, recording your meeting and sending it to an external transcription service to create meeting minutes is also a viable option. Get this right, and an outside company can soon provide a finished document that the whole business will find useful.
As we’ve touched upon, full-verbatim and verbatim are perhaps the most common transcript contenders, the difference between them being the amount of unnecessary chatter they capture. However, some transcript services will also provide options such as ‘detailed notes,’ which are edited to remove unnecessary stuff altogether. A detailed notes transcript is most likely your best option for getting effective meeting minutes.
Making minutes matter
If the mere thought of minutes makes you hot under the collar, then you aren’t alone. Capturing the meat of meetings takes razor-sharp concentration and a writing hand that’s lightning fast. Still, with proper prep and some good old know-how, there’s no reason you can’t write minutes like a master.
This is especially the case when you pair these vital pointers with an outside transcription service. There really is no better way to add that professional finishing touch to your efforts. As long as you learn how to write basic minutes in the first place, then a reliable transcription choice can see you with industry-standard records for every single meeting moving forward.
Some external transcription services may even provide live notetaking services, where they send a live notetaker straight to your meeting to take the minutes for you. This saves you time and energy, so you can focus on more important things while still ensuring you have quality meeting minutes that are useful for you.