How to write good meeting minutes

posted at 16:18:51
By Flipping Heck!
Posted In

I've recently taken over a secretary of my Village Hall Committee and it's actually quite surprising how much work is invloved  for such a little organisation. One of my tasks is to write and distribute the minutes of our monthly meetings, a job that I have to admit I wasn't looking forward too.

I'd never taken minutes in an "official" capacity before, and being new to the role wasn't sure whether there was a set way of doing things. Fortunately I was given free reign and allowed to do my own thing.

So, here's my tips on minutes and how to write them.

What I use during the meeting:

Currently I am using just a simple A4 spiral bound lined notebook, this allows me to keep all of my notes from all meetings together which is really handy for reference.

Spiral Bound Notebook

At the start of each meeting I write the date and start time at the top of the page so that each meeting is clearly separated.

I have to admit that my writing is not the neatest in the world - it used to be but using a computer every day and rarely writing has taken its toll - but using a good quality pen helps a lot (although they do run out quite quickly).

I am looking into buying a laptop of some description as I think it would be easier for me to type the notes than write them, but that's something for the future.

Uniball Fusion Gel Pen

What notes I take down:

I try to write as comprehensive notes as possible, writing everything down as much as I can. Whilst a lot of this is cut out when I type the minutes up, it's handy to have it there as back-up material.

The thing is, you can never take too many notes and it's better to have all the information there rather than be scratching about trying to remember who said what.

When writing my notes, I write the subject of each agenda item and then under this I note the main points of the conversion using bullet points. As there are quite a few items that require a specific person to action it, I write their initials and then circle them so that it stands out, therefore when I quickly scan the page I can pick the action items out at a glance.

How I write the notes into formal minutes:

When typing up the notes, each main section (Matters Arising, Chairman's Report etc) is clearly marked in bold, each sub-section is numbered and indented. The numbering makes it easy to refer to particular points. Any action items are written directly after the item in the format Action: Katy, this is then aligned to the right of the page so that people can quickly scan down the page and see what actions are attributed to them.

When I'm trandferring my notes, I pare down the bullet points even further so that each item is just a few sentances that gets the point of the item across. Whilst it is sometimes handy to have "So and So Said which was commented on by thingy", I feel it's not really necessary. My way of thinking is that people should just use the minutes as a reminder, they don't have to be retold everything that was said. Plus, if this information is required at some point, I still have my notes.

When to write the minutes up:

Ideally, as soon as possible. The fresher the meeting is in your mind the quicker you'll be able to cut down the notes and write a good account of what went on.

Fortunatley, my notes are pretty comprehensive so I can leave it up to a week before going back to them and writing the full minutes, but I still think the sooner the better.

Minutes in Note Form

So what makes my method different?

Really it all boils down to the bullet point apsect at the "Action" attribute. Many minutes that I receive are formatted in such a way that it's difficult to see who's supposed to be doing what as you have to wade through page after page of irrelevant chatter. My method is short and to the point so people can easily see their actions and deal with them accordingly.

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What the book covers:

  • What is a meeting?
    Why do we need them? Who benefits from them and where did all the free doughnuts go?
  • Types of meeting
    Oh yes, there are lots and lots. The question is, which one is best suited for your topic?
  • Before the meeting starts
    Have you got everything you need? Hmm, I wonder!
  • During the meeting
    What you need to know if you’re running it, if you’re the secretary and if you’re an attendee
  • Bad Meetings
    Meetings from hell – we’ve all been there!
  • After the meeting
    Wrapping it all up and what happens next


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