How to write minutes in a meeting as a secretary [Guide for boards of directors]

meeting secretary taking meeting minutes
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How to write minutes in a meeting as a secretary [Guide for boards of directors]

Updated: April 18, 2024
11 min read

In 2023, 65% of companies plan to hold an increased number of events and meetings. . From January to December 2020, virtual group meetings increased by nearly 613%. 

Given the rising role of virtual board meetings, it’s necessary to put systems in place to prevent board meetings from ambling and halting everybody’s productivity for the day. Thus, corporate secretary duties include taking effective meeting minutes to save time for meeting participants at committee meetings.

This article explains how to write a minute as a secretary and clarifies typical mistakes when writing meeting notes. Additionally, in this article, you will find tips on writing minutes of meeting and meeting agendas, what aspects to include when writing meeting notes, and why the role of the secretary is critical in meeting minutes document creation.

meeting minutes template
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New to writing effective meeting minutes? 

Creating meeting minutes doesn’t have to be a daunting task, whether you’re recording notes for a committee or serving as secretary for your organization’s board directors. The correct way to write minutes of a meeting is to ensure сonsent agenda, meeting purpose, supplementary documents and capture all key discussion points.

You should write formal meeting minutes for each meeting requiring an official record. As a beginner, you may need a meeting minutes template. Then, use this written record or transcript to inform team members who couldn’t attend. Additionally, review previous meeting minutes. Since they serve as a future reference, previous meeting minutes help to keep track of decisions for potential revision. 

With a strategy and proper preparation, the process of note-taking will be straightforward. We share a bunch of practical tips further. 

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Definition of meeting minutes

During a meeting, a corporate secretary takes meeting notes, also known as meeting minutes. The notes of the last meeting outline the crucial topics for discussion, motions to be proposed or voted on, and tasks to be executed. The primary objective of preparing minutes is to document the meeting’s discussions and decisions.

There are five major processes involved in keeping meeting minutes:

  1. Pre-planning
  2. Record-taking
  3. Note-taking or transcription
  4. Distributing meeting minutes
  5. Saving historical records for future reference

Tip: Find out how long should a board meeting last in our dedicated article. After all, we know that long-lasting meetings reduce the productivity and efficiency of meeting participants. 

What should meeting minutes include?

During a meeting, it is crucial to have an individual responsible for recording all important discussions and decisions. The person must be an engaged listener, ensuring that the important points, choices, and action items are captured concisely. Moreover, to stay impartial and concentrate on facts rather than personal observations and opinions. 

Thus, exceptional organizational skills, attention to detail, and the ability to synthesize information are key to effective note-taking.

When learning how to write a good meeting minutes, it’s crucial to strike the right balance between including essential information and omitting non-essential details. The table below guides what to incorporate and what to omit when taking effective meeting notes.

IncludeDo NOT include
Meeting detailsPersonal opinions
Agenda itemsVerbatim transcriptions
Decisions and action itemsExcessive detail
Rationale and contextIrrelevant side conversations
Next stepsIncomplete or inaccurate information

Meeting minutes should include meeting specifics such as the date and time when the meeting begins, the place, the names and roles of attendees voting members, and important background information, or context. On the other hand, it’s crucial to avoid personal opinions and prejudices. Instead of using literal transcriptions, concentrate on providing factual information and impartial summaries of the discussions.

How to write minutes as a secretary: 5 best practices

Every secretary should be able to write meeting minutes during regular meeting. However, how does a secretary take minutes that capture the heart of a meeting? Let’s define preliminaries in minutes written during formal meetings.

1. Have a distinct agenda

A well-structured agenda may save meeting time by up to 80% while also significantly improving decision-making. Thus, boards of directors must avoid time-sapping roadblocks. Meetings require the rigorous structure that only a carefully crafted agenda can provide. Following this practice will keep everybody’s eyes on the prize.

An agenda necessitates all steps and stages of a meeting to be written down. It typically includes the following components:

  • Call to order
  • Roll call of board members
  • Approval of previous meeting minutes
  • Reports from board committees
  • Financial report
  • Old business
  • New business
  • Discussion of action items
  • Board member reports
  • Public comments or questions
  • Executive session (if necessary)
  • Announcements
  • Adjournment

Of course, each item discussed during the meeting must follow a set of guidelines. Any talking point must adequately fit the scope of the meeting. Furthermore, it must be results-based and conducive to a productive discussion. Then, most importantly, any topic matter should be assigned a reasonable amount of time to be discussed.

2. Highlight what matters most

Board secretaries shouldn’t be sifting through endless notes to find valuable information. They need to focus on the important points of the discussion. This will provide executives and members instant access to critical information so they can cross-reference with ease after the meeting.

Here’s what these highlighted points should include:

  • The names of attendees
  • Items of discussion
  • A calendar containing action items and due dates 
  • The most vital points that were talked about 
  • Decisions that were reached

3. The writer should be vocal

The unenviable task of physically recording these minutes in real-time comes with its own set of frustrations. Speakers might rush through their points, use confusing abbreviations, or just be unclear with their speech.

Stopping the conversation to clarify any potential missteps will disrupt the flow of the conversation but it must be done to ensure the notes are accurate. Those in charge of recording minutes are charged with a vital task. Asking the speaker to clarify any potential confusion will pay dividends in the long run.

However, using an efficient app to take notes that streamlines the note-taking process will keep the writer up-to-speed and offset disruptions to the flow of a meeting.

4. Think big picture

One way to get lost as a note-taker is to try to capture each nitty-gritty detail. This faux pas is a one-way ticket to falling behind. 

Using critical thinking skills as a note-taker is a must. The writer must ask themselves what takes precedence now and what will impact the future of the organization. Don’t get stuck on the minutiae.

Also, leave any emotion out of conversations and summarize them to their most basic elements. 

5. Take handwritten notes

Although it is simpler to take digital notes to record action items, some people still prefer to take handwritten notes. This strategy provides advantages such as fewer interruptions from devices, improved understanding, and memory enhancement. Handwriting notes allows us to analyze the words for a few more seconds before putting them down on paper, which aids with memory retention.
If you need guidance on how to write meeting minutes, we have helpful tips to improve your shorthand. 

  • Practice every day until you master rapid note-taking
  • To avoid typos, always read back what you have written
  • To avoid slowing oneself down, merely record facts

Practical tips

Let’s summarize best practices of how to take effective minutes during a meeting:

  1. Consider the meeting agenda items carefully as you think about how to write minutes during a meeting to ensure you capture the most critical points.
  2. To begin writing a decent meeting minutes document, check over previous minutes to ensure consistency in formatting and substance.
  3. Create a meeting minutes template. Include the key elements like the meeting date and place, meeting attendees, agenda items, record decisions, actions, talking points, and deadlines.
  4. Formatting is a key. Make meeting minutes visually appealing and easy to read with proper spacing, bulleted lists, summary tables, and highlighted titles and keywords.
  5. Assign recorder and backup, set word limit, and record motions if needed.
  6. Write the meeting minutes either immediately after the meeting or within 24 or 48 hours to ensure accuracy.
  7. After the meeting, take the time to review and refine your draft as you learn how to write minutes for a board meeting effectively.
  8. Seek comments from meeting attendees or other board members on how to type up minutes from a board meeting to ensure correctness and thoroughness.

If you need more guidance on how to write meeting minutes, we have helpful tips to improve your shorthand. 

tips for writing shorthand

Example of writing board meeting minutes 

Typically, the board meeting minutes template includes a lot of points. We recommend that you review the template on how to take notes at a board meeting and what to include.

DetailsInformation
Organization:Organization name
Date:Meeting date, e.g., September 25, 2023
Location:Meeting location, e.g., conference room A
Start time:Start time, e.g., 9:00 AM
End time:End time, e.g., 11:00 AM
Present:List of attendees
Absent:List of absentees, if any

The agenda specifies the sequence in which issues will be covered. Everyone attending the meeting should get an agenda in advance. 

Agenda Item No.DescriptionDiscussion summaryAction, decision, next steps
1Agenda item 1 Summary of the discussion related to the agenda itemWhat was decided, noted earlier or next steps

Any other business or other business, commonly referred to as “AOB,” is a section in meeting agendas or meeting notes where participants can raise topics not included in the pre-defined agenda.

Other business
Item, note 1Detailed description or summary of an item or note 1. This could span over multiple lines, highlighting key points or decisions made regarding this item
Responsible person or teamName of the person or team responsible for this item or who presented it
DeadlineDate, e.g., October 10, 2023
Action required and next stepsBrief points or steps that need to be taken next regarding this item

The announcements section of the meeting minutes template captures significant changes that are given for informative reasons and do not require unanimous consent for inclusion.

Announcements
TitleTitle or headline of the first announcement
DetailsDetailed description or information regarding the announcement. This could elaborate on the significance, implications, or background of the news
Date of implementationDate, e.g., October 10, 2023
Point of contact or responsible departmentName of the person or department that attendees can reach out to for more information or clarifications

As we go from announcements to facts about the next meeting, it’s crucial to understand how to write board minutes. The secretary’s job entails methodically documenting important facts while also establishing a seamless transition between sections for ease of reference.

Next meeting
Date and timeScheduled date and start time of the next meeting
LocationLocation or link to the virtual meeting if it is online sharing
Preliminary agendaBrief overview of key topics that are already known to be covered in the next meeting
Point of contact for agenda itemsName of the person to contact for adding items to the next meeting’s agenda or for clarifications on the preliminary agenda

Ensuring smooth transitions in the minutes is important. But equally crucial is capturing any decisions made during the meeting, particularly those related to adjournment.

Adjournment
Date and time of adjournmentThe exact meeting date was adjourned
Motioned byName of the person who proposed the adjournment
Seconded by Name of the person who seconded the motion to adjourn
Voting outcomesEnumerate the decisions made by the board chair in the meeting notes
Remarks and commentsAny specific comments made during the adjournment, or reasons for adjournment, if they were explicitly stated

As we wrap up our record of the meeting’s activities and conversations, let’s acknowledge and explain the documentation process. The table below provides information on the preparation, review, and approval of these minutes.

Minutes preparation details
Prepared byName and position of the individual who wrote the minutes
Date of preparation Date when the minutes were drafted
Review statusName of the person(s) who reviewed the minutes for accuracy
Review dateThe time meeting was reviewed
Approval status and dateStatus indicating if the minutes have been formally approved
Comments and notesAny additional notes or comments related to the preparation or approval process, if needed

Typical mistakes in writing meeting minutes

Meeting minutes writing is an art that requires accuracy. Many responsible specialists, however, make the mistake of either overburdening minutes with extraneous details or missing critical information. It is critical to learn how to take effective meeting minutes to keep them relevant. Some typical mistakes are:

  1. Including personal opinions. Minutes should be objective, with no personal biases or interpretations.
  2. Being hazy. Details should be precise and simple to avoid ambiguity.
  3. Leaving out decisions or motions. All choices, particularly those reached by a circular motion, must be documented without fail.
  4. Adding an incorrect participant list. Confusion might result from failing to precisely record who was present, absent, or excused.

Remember that while the tone should be formal, the paper does not have to be stiff or difficult to read. Aim for simplicity, clarity, and correctness when you write meeting minutes.

How to write effective meeting minutes with the board portal

According to Ernst & Young’s poll of 400 board directors throughout the Americas, 70% of respondents want greater technological innovation in 2023. Given this clear demand for technological advancement from board directors, tools like board portals are invaluable. 

Not only do they cater to the modern expectations of board members, but they also streamline administrative tasks such as creating meeting minutes. The infographic illustrates the advantages of board portals for meeting notes. 

How to write effective meeting minutes with the board portal

However, while the efficiency in creating minutes through board portals is evident, the benefits don’t stop there. There’s a broader spectrum of advantages that come into play when using these tools specifically for minute-taking. 

During meetings, the iDeals Board provides helpful meeting minutes functionality. It includes the following aspects:

  • Meeting minutes exported in PDF/DOCX
  • Uploading external meeting minutes
  • Meeting minutes approval time stamp
  • Note-taking combined with meeting and voting session management
  • Pre-set common agenda items and sub-items

Key takeaways

  1. Meeting minutes should be objective and avoid including personal opinions or biases.
  2. How does a secretary write minutes? By ensuring that they include discussion points like consent agenda, meeting purpose, supplementary documents, and major decisions.
  3. Board secretaries should focus on recording important information such as the names of attendees, discussion topics, key points discussed, and decisions made.
  4. Using tools or board portals simplifies taking minutes, ensuring all important information is recorded while maintaining the meeting’s flow.
  5. The benefits of board portals extend beyond efficient minute creation to include features like meeting management and voting session management.

FAQs

Why are they called minutes of a meeting?

Meeting minutes are called “minutes” because they are a concise and official record of what transpires during a meeting. The term “minutes” in this context doesn’t refer to time but rather to the idea of capturing the major points and key moments, decisions, and actions that occur during the entire conversation between meeting attendees.

Who should take minutes at a board meeting?

Board meetings should typically be taken by a designated individual, often the corporate secretary or a dedicated note-taker. They are responsible for recording decisions, key points, voting outcomes, and key motions discussed during the meeting. Meeting minute templates streamline taking meeting minutes.

When should board meeting minutes be distributed?

Meeting minutes, an official document, should be promptly distributed to responsible parties and attendees after the meeting concludes. Distribution timing may vary per local bylaws and procedures but is typically done before the next meeting. This allows for a timely review, ensuring alignment on discussions, decisions, and next steps.

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