Meeting minutes, or MOM (for minutes of the meeting) can be defined as the written record of everything that’s happened during a meeting. They’re used to inform people who didn’t attend the meeting about what happened or to keep track of what was decided during the meeting so that you can revisit it and use it to inform future decisions.
The format, style and content requirements for meeting minutes vary depending on the organization and the type of committee or Board. It is important to capture the essence of the meeting, including details such as:
- decisions made (motions made, votes, etc.)
- next steps planned
- identification and tracking of action items
Minutes are a tangible record of the meeting for its participants and a source of information for members who were unable to attend. In some cases, meeting minutes can act as a reference point. There are essentially five steps involved with meeting minutes:
- Record taking – at the meeting
- Minutes writing or transcribing
- Distributing or sharing of meeting minutes
- Filing or storage of minutes for future reference
A well-planned meeting helps ensure effective meeting minutes. If the Chair and the Secretary or minutes-taker work together to ensure the agenda and meeting are well thought out, it makes minute taking much easier. At the very least, it’s important to get a copy of the meeting agenda and use it as a guide or outline for taking notes, setting up your mom format, and preparing the minutes – with the order and numbering of items on the minutes of meeting matching those of the agenda.
Also, the agenda and/or meeting notice also provides information that will need to be included in the minutes, such as:
- the names of all the meeting attendees, including guests or speakers
- documents that are sent out with the agenda or handed out in the meeting – copies (digital or hard copy) of handouts should be stored with the meeting minutes for future reference and for sharing with those who were unable to attend the meeting (and others as determined by the meeting’s Chair)
When you take on a new role as minutes-taker or Secretary, be sure to ask the Chair of the committee or Board what their expectations are of your role during the meeting, as well as the type of detail he/she expects in the minutes.
Before you start taking notes, it’s important to understand the type of information you need to record at the meeting. As noted earlier, your organization may have required content and a specific mom format that you’ll need to follow, but generally, meeting minutes usually include the following:
- Date and time of the meeting
- Names of the meeting participants and those unable to attend
- Acceptance or corrections/amendments to previous meeting minutes
- Decisions made about each agenda item
- Next steps
- Voting outcomes
- Motions taken or rejected
- Items to be held over
- New business
- Next meeting date and time
If you are concerned about being able to keep up with note-taking, consider recording the meeting on your smartphone, iPad, recording device, etc. But be sure to let participants know they are being recorded. While you don’t want to use the recording to create a word-for-word transcript of the meeting, the recording can come in handy if you need clarification.
Minutes Writing or Transcribing
Once the meeting is over, it’s time to pull together your notes and write the minutes.
- Try to write the minutes as soon after the meeting as possible while everything is fresh in your mind.
- Review your outline and if necessary, add additional notes or clarify points raised. Also check to ensure all decisions, actions and motions are clearly noted.
- Ensure you’re including sufficient detail.
- If there was a lot of discussion before passing a motion, write down the major arguments for and against.
- Edit to ensure brevity and clarity, so the minutes are easy to read.
In terms of mom format, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be objective
- Write in the same tense throughout
- Avoid using names other than to record motions and seconds
- Avoid personal observations — the minutes should be solely fact-based
If you need to refer to other documents, don’t try to summarize them. Simply indicate where they can be found or attach them as an appendix.
Sharing the Minutes
Before you share your meeting minutes, make sure that the Chair has reviewed and either revised and/or approved the minutes for circulation. They are not an official record of a meeting unless this has taken place. Depending on your Board, minutes may also be formally approved at the beginning of the next meeting.
As the official “minutes-taker” or Secretary, your role may include dissemination of the minutes. The method of sharing or distribution will depend on the tools that you and your organization use.
Filing the Minutes
Most committees and Boards review and either approve or amend the minutes at the beginning of the subsequent meeting. Once you’ve made any required revisions, the minutes will then need to be stored for future reference. Some organizations may store these online in Google docs or SkyDrive, and also back these up on an external hard drive. You may also need to print and store hard copies as well or provide these to a staff member or Chair for filing.
Meeting minutes are important as they capture the essential information of a meeting.