Why a Meeting Minutes Template Will Help Your Team Work More Productively
Today’s professionals spend an average of 21.5 hours in meetings a week, over half of the standard 40-hour work week. A lot of time can be wasted if your meetings aren’t well organised and actions aren’t followed up on. Meeting meetings help ensure your meetings are productive by having a clearly defined purpose, a planned agenda and delivering an accurate record of events to drive actions.
Meeting minutes aren’t a new concept, and they’ve been used by professionals for decades to provide a summarised overview of meetings that take place. 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. Utilising and preparing meeting minutes is a sure-fire way to help you and your team stay organised and on track. Doing so in a template format will ensure the necessary information is recorded, consistency is delivered across your meetings and a clear document is created for easy review.
Take Note has been assisting a variety of businesses and professionals with the creation of effective meeting minute templates. Our template is the culmination of years of experience supporting organisations to capture key details and actions from their meetings. You can download the template below, see a completed example and learn how to use each section and what you should capture. The template is ideal for any type of meeting, both formal and informal.
The benefits of using a template
Many organisations rotate who takes notes in a meeting. This reality occurs partly due to the fact that most people don’t relish the thought of the task and it seems only fair to take it in 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 and you may choose a different format and style. A template will give you and your organisation a level of consistency, making it easier for people to step in and be the minute taker, as well as ensuring everyone receives a high-quality summary of the meeting itself.
Introducing a template assists in instilling a good discipline of taking meeting notes. By working the template into your processes you’ll set expectations around meetings and increase their productivity.
Organise your meeting minute template into sections
Deciding on key sections to organise 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, which is 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 to 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 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 ensure the meeting is well organised and to 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 when the minutes are being reviewed. Knowing the exact date can help the reader to understand how external factors may have influenced decisions and actions taken at the time.
A meeting needs people. You may think that you’ll easily remember who was there but, 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, 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 needed 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 presented on this argument and how is the decision chosen? Are there any key areas of concern?
Decision – What decision has been made?
Action – What are the next steps? Who is responsible?
If you’re minuting a regular meeting or a follow-up meeting has been scheduled, 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. There are also some additional rules that need to be followed in accordance with English Law. For example, 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 definitely recommend using minutes for all your important meetings. Minutes ensure that everyone is aligned on the next steps and drives 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 our minute and notetaking services. Our expert notetakers can support all your important meetings to provide concise, impartial notes that are an accurate record of events.