Minutes of meetings are important documents because they record in writing what was discussed in the meeting, and what decisions were actually made there. In organizations that maintain good practices, a review of the minutes of the primary management meetings over time would reveal an excellent record of the history of that organization.
During my 25+ years working in various organizations, there were many occasions on which I was tasked with either writing the minutes of meetings myself, or editing/approving minutes written by others. As a result, below are a few suggestions I have for you, should you ever be asked to write the minutes for any type of meeting.
5 Tips For Writing Good Meeting Minutes
1. Work From An Agenda
A meeting agenda that lists the main items to be discussed should be circulated to all potential attendees a few days (ideally) prior to the meeting so that they can make sure it is on their schedule and that they will have the necessary documents that will be needed to discuss the items listed. That very same agenda should be used by the meeting chairperson to conduct an orderly meeting. Keep this list short and focused! A good meeting should last no more than an hour. Anything more than that, and it becomes unproductive and a time-waster. Your colleagues will thank you for running a tight, short gathering.
2. Be Concise
Meeting minutes should NOT be a long-winded and verbatim “he said” – “she said” account of the meeting. They should briefly record only the essence of the major points discussed and/or major decisions reached, from a bottom line perspective. The key items to record are decisions made/deferred, the specific reasons for that decision, and most importantly who is responsible for any follow-up action.
3. Use Clear and Precise Language
Because minutes of meetings are an “official” record of corporate decisions made, they are often referenced many months later in order to recall what “exactly” was decided at a previous meeting. This makes clarity and precision of language very important when later trying to determine exactly what decision(s) was made and what specifically led to the decision.
4. Make the Right Person Responsible
In most organizations, a corporate “meeting secretary” is made responsible for organizing meeting logistics, drafting of minutes, and distribution of meeting-related documents such as agendas, minutes, and support documents. This is an important task; the person chosen for this should be well-organized with above-average writing skills.
5. Make Someone Else Accountable
Once the meeting secretary has drafted the minutes they should be carefully reviewed and revised if necessary, by the person who chaired the meeting. That individual, who will normally occupy a position of some responsibility in the organization, will then sign them off as “approved” before they are distributed by the secretary.
Well written minutes are critical to the effective functioning of organizations over time. Good minutes can be used as checklists for what has been achieved to-date in an organization, as well as action lists of what tasks have to be completed going forward. Making sure that your organization produces well written and meaningful meeting minutes will be an important element of its success.