In almost every company or organization, meetings are held either daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly.
They are conducted at different hierarchical structures of leadership at various frequencies within a fiscal or financial year. Many important and crucial discussions are held at the meetings which sometimes demands actions to be completed by individuals within a stipulated time. It is very essential to capture the meeting minutes for future reference and follow-ups.
In this article, we will discuss what are meeting minutes and the best practices of taking meeting minutes. You must realize its importance and benefits and try to follow the minimum decorum in your professional life.
The Definition of Meeting Minutes
Meeting Minutes or popularly known as Minutes of Meeting are essentially the notes handwritten or typed in a document during a meeting. Once the meeting is over, the meeting minutes or notes are circulated to all the invitees irrespective of them being absent or present in the meeting.
The Reason behind Recording Meeting Minutes
Recording or taking meeting minutes have several advantages and is recommended to be followed religiously by all. The host or the meeting coordinator is responsible for recording the same, the various benefits of which are enlisted below:
- Communicates the key points discussed in a meeting in a summarized version
- Mentions the decisions adopted by the leadership or the participants for a certain list of activities
- Any plan for recurring meeting or conversations in the future
- The list of actions to be fulfilled along with their owners and the target date of completion
- Next steps to be followed for any program or project
- Keeps track of who attended and who remained absent
- Serves as a future reference for deciding any important action
It is advisable to prepare the format for meeting minute before the meeting starts. This helps to capture the meeting minutes faster and easier.
Now that we have understood what are meeting minutes and their purpose, let us focus on the basic hygiene that needs to be followed while recording and preparing the Minutes of Meeting or MoM. We will follow a step by step approach for discussing how to write meeting minutes.
How to write effective Meeting Minutes?
1. Finalize the Format
The first step is to prepare the format for meeting minute. It is a very important step else it will lead to random capture of the notes without any proper discipline. You will find it extremely difficult to circulate it to the participants once the meeting is over. The format will guide you to be consistent in your notes for all the recurring meetings on a particular subject or a program.
A Minutes of Meeting format normally consists of the following elements:
- Agenda of the meeting
- Date and Time of the meeting
- Duration of the meeting
- List of attendees and absentees
- Key Points discussed along with the name of the speaker
- Key decisions are taken and the impacted stakeholders
- The Action Items with the owners and the deadlines
- Next steps
- Recurring meeting or the next follow up meeting details
2. Plan the Agenda
Fixing the agenda helps in conducting a meeting effectively and easy recording of meeting minutes. Each meeting has an objective and purpose which needs to be fulfilled with a definite outcome. Unless the points to be discussed are not decided and agreed upon before the meeting, it may lead to failure in achieving the result. You will be unsuccessful in capturing the meeting minutes efficiently which may lead to several consequences. One is wastage of the valuable time of the participants. Secondly, it may lead to inappropriate decisions or incorrect information being imparted among the participants.
It is important as a participant of a meeting to check the agenda before it starts. If you are the host then you must own the responsibility of connecting with the invitees and fix the agenda. It will ease your job of preparing the minutes of the meeting. And also if you are the invitee then you still must ensure to be aware of the agenda before the meeting starts.
3. Checking the Attendance
Once the meeting starts and the invitees start joining, it is very essential to check who all have joined. It is advisable to call out the names of the participants to prepare the final list of attendees and those who were absent. Ensure to capture the roles of each attendee so that you can mention them in the meeting minutes. Both the first and the last name must be specified as part of professional meeting etiquette.
For proper discipline, you can mention the names alphabetically either through their last names or first names.
Various remote meeting software and tools record the name of the participants in their list of attendees section. You can easily take note of the names and include them in the Minutes of Meeting. Else you need to ask and call out the names as they dial into the meeting.
If you are the person responsible for recording the meeting minutes, you must join the meeting 5 minutes before to ensure that you capture all the names of the attendees. Missing out names is not considered a good practice and may not be accepted heartily especially if it’s a senior leadership meet.
4. Decision on the Inclusions and Exclusions
The person responsible for recording the meeting minutes must be capable to understand the points to be included and excluded. Also, he or she cannot just mention the verbatim of the speakers in the notes. The summary and understanding of the discussions have to be depicted in a bulleted form portraying the meaning clear to all the invitees.
You need to remember that the minutes of the meeting will be circulated to all the invitees and will be under scrutiny. Mistakes and errors will not be broadly acceptable. Capturing notes in the crude form will be considered as unprofessional. Incapability in summarizing the conversations and action items will defeat the purpose of conducting the meeting. The meeting minutes are a powerful tool to uplift the essence of the meeting and its future applicability.
While deciding the person to own the MoM, it is advisable to check whether the person is an expert in the subject of the meeting. The person must possess the capability to understand the points discussed in the meeting and translate that into a summary form. Capturing the action points, the owners and noting down the correct deadlines for each of them is also a very essential part of meeting minutes.
5. Follow Naming Conventions
While answering the question of how to write meeting minutes efficiently, an important response to that is to follow naming conventions of the MoM document and the activities recorded. For example, if you have recurring meetings then you can name it as MoM_<name of the meeting>_<date>. So at one glance you know it’s a meeting minute, the name and the date of occurrence. If you need to distinguish between operational, tactical and strategic meetings then you can include those words also in the convention. This helps in circulating to the correct email recipients.
Inside the document, the best practice is to name the activities sequentially following a specific naming pattern. This helps in following up on the respective owners as per their assigned activities. The documents look organized and manageable.
You can either use a Word document or an Excel Sheet or a Powerpoint to record the minutes of the meeting. All the modes are acceptable, provided you note down all the points which can be understood and grasped by all. The documents can be either circulated by email or kept in a shared space.
6. Devoid being Biased
While documenting the points in the MoM, you may sometimes need to record debates between the members. You need to ensure following an unbiased mode of communication. The tone must be neutral and not show positive or negative feelings on either side of the debating parties. You must be cautious of the fact that the minutes of the meeting is meant to share the highlights of a discussion. In no way, one must present his or her opinion in an MoM.
Sometimes you may not like a particular discussion or debate. On a few occasions, there may be a heated clash of conversations between the attendees. But still, you need to maintain a professional tone while recording the minutes. The good or bad decision needs to be taken up by all the participants or by the leadership. Being unbiased and presenting the facts help a lot in understanding the scenario and adopting appropriate and corrective decisions.
The person who records and circulates the MoM is considered as a flag bearer and moderator in illustrating the meeting details to all invitees. Often the host or a coordinator is assigned to moderate the meeting and take the notes for the meeting. It is a noble responsibility as many times participants tend to lose focus and deviate from the original topic. Keeping them on track is important for a fair execution of the meeting agenda. The Minutes captured serve as the reference points for future meetings, discussions, and conversations.
7. Review and Edit
Now when we have understood how to take minutes at a meeting, the next and important step is to review your work. You must go through the minutes carefully to ensure all points are covered with no mistakes or errors. You can also check the contents from any other senior active participant in the meeting. A double review is always justified and good to avoid any kind of erroneous information being circulated to the recipients of the MoM.
The key aspects that need to be considered and reviewed while proofreading the meeting minutes are:
- Name of the attendees
- Date and time of the meeting
- List of the discussion points and the speaker
- Next actions to be taken, with the owners and the target date and time
- A neutral tone for explaining the discussions or debates
You must not be in a hurry to send out the MoM. Spend some quality time in preparing and reviewing it thoroughly. People will not like incorrect or incomplete information being circulated as it harms the purpose of the meeting.
8.Circulate the MoM
Once you finish recording and reviewing the MoM, it is time now to circulate to the meeting invitees. If you are sending out the MoM as attachments in an email, ensure you do not miss out on pasting the document. If you are uploading the MoM in any shared drive, then you need to mention the path properly in the email. Ensure all have read and download access into the shared path. Double check before sending out the email.
The email to be circulated must be drafted using a professional tone. You must courteously request everyone to check the MoM and share any missing information. Regarding the action items, you need to gently remind the owners to take note and pursue the same for completion as per the stipulated date and time.
You may be engaging with people of varied roles while circulating the email. But you must be consistent in recording the details without any discrepancies. The action points must be strictly pursued for completion to maintain the sanctity of the program or project.
The steps above depict the actions to be taken sequentially on how to take minutes at a meeting effectively and efficiently. If the rules are followed diligently, then the MoM can be prepared with ease and comfort. The main challenge lies while the meeting is being executed. You need to understand the details being discussed with due attention and seriousness. If you are not confident about the subject of the meeting, it is recommended to gear up before the meeting starts. You must equip yourself with sufficient knowledge and information, thus preventing any drawbacks on recording the Minutes of Meeting.