Do's and Don'ts of Keeping Meeting Minutes

Do's and Don'ts of Keeping Meeting Minutes

by Brette Sember, Esq., December 2018

It's impossible to remember everything. That's why keeping meeting minutes is a best practice for business meetings. These notes document what happened in a meeting and provide a reminder going forward of decisions that were made or actions to be taken. To make the most effective use of your meeting minutes, follow these tips.

Do's for Meeting Minutes

Here are some of the most common tried and true methods for creating effective meeting minutes:

  • Create typed, electronic minutes that are stored in the cloud.
  • Include the date and time of the meeting.
  • List all the meeting attendees as well as those who were invited but could not attend.
  • Use the meeting agenda as the outline for the minutes.
  • Use the same naming convention for all minutes files and, if possible, store them in a designated folder so they can be easily located.
  • Record any amendments or corrections that are made to minutes from previous meetings.
  • Mention any documents handed out at the meeting and store a copy with the minutes.
  • Describe all of the decisions made at the meeting.
  • Record the outcome of any votes taken as well who made the motions and who seconded them.
  • Identify and track action items and plans that are discussed, including any due dates.
  • Detail any new business that is discussed.
  • List items that are held over for future meetings.
  • If you have trouble keeping up while taking minutes, use an audio recorder so that you can go back and fill in any gaps in your notes.
  • Write the final copy of the minutes as soon as possible after the actual meeting, while it is fresh in your mind.

Don'ts for Meeting Minutes

Just as important as what you should do is what you shouldn't do. Avoid these frequent pitfalls:

  • If you're unsure about a point, don't just gloss over it. Ask for clarification during the meeting so that your minutes can be accurate.
  • Do not switch tenses throughout the minutes. Use one tense (past tense works well).
  • Personal observations or judgmental comments should not be included in meeting minutes. All statements should be as neutral as possible.
  • Avoid writing down everything everyone said. Minutes should be concise and summarize the major points of what happened at the meeting.
  • There can be a lot of debate that happens at a meeting as people offer their opinions, research, and experience, which should not be recorded. The minutes should summarize the outcome of the discussion, not every single point that was considered.
  • Documents referred to in the meeting do not need to be summarized in the minutes. They can be attached to the minutes or the minutes can just indicate where to locate the documents.
  • Meeting minutes are meant to be shared, but don't disseminate them until the meeting chair has a chance to review and approve them.
  • Don't distribute paper copies of the meeting minutes if at all possible. Sharing them online means everyone can have ongoing access and they will be preserved as part of the company's records.
  • While it might seem best to make your minutes chronological, the best practice is to create minutes that are organized in a logical way. For example, if a new product is discussed at several points in the meeting, it's best to sum up all of the related decisions or actions in one section.

Meeting minutes are an important record that keep your business on track and organized. If your company needs assistance creating or managing your minutes, you can work with an online service provider.