How to Take Minutes in a Board Meeting: A Step-by-Step Guide

Meeting minutes are the written record of the dialogue and decisions made during a meeting. Here are 5 steps and best practices to take board meeting minutes effectively.

Taking meeting minutes in a board meeting seems like a fairly simple, straight-forward responsibility, but the truth is, there are many considerations involved in this task that require thought and attention. A certain degree of meeting management is required for your meeting minutes to be organized, detailed and highly comprehensive.

Taking board meeting minutes is a very important responsibility that is suited for someone who is willing to plan ahead, listen diligently, and produce a precise summary of the meeting that has taken place. 

To rid any kind of confusion there is surrounding meeting minutes, Fellow has created a step-by-step guide on how to write great meeting minutes. To begin, let’s talk about what meeting minutes really are: 

What are meeting minutes?

Meeting minutes are the written record of the dialogue and decisions made during a meeting. Essentially, it is a written transcript of everything that has been discussed over the course of the meeting that can then be used to either inform team members who weren’t able to attend what happened or to keep track of decisions and action items that can be revisited.

The minutes from a previous meeting can then be used in order to make future decisions. Meeting minutes, therefore, serve as a historical record of board decisions. 

Why board meeting minutes are so important

Board meeting minutes are important for a few different reasons. First and foremost, meeting minutes provide a historical record of the board’s short and long-term planning. Because each meeting contains an objective or goal, the board can then use the meeting minutes as a record for future reference, to understand the progression that has been made. 

Moreover, meeting minutes are important because they provide legal protection for the organization. Often due diligence is captured in companies’ meeting minutes as well as any legal conversations which can then be officiated and documented to confirm the ethical, fair practices of the organization. 

Lastly, board meeting minutes are proof of why and how a board came to certain decisions. This documentation can then be used to answer any questions that arise in reference to any decisions that have been made. 

5 Steps to write effective board meeting minutes 

1 Plan beforehand 

Like everything in the business world, effective meeting minutes require some pre-planning. Before you begin looking at the meeting agenda, it is a good idea to have a discussion about the format that you are expected to use to take the meeting minutes. If this is unclear, you can refer back to previous meeting minutes to use as a template. 

Clarifying expectations of the meeting minutes with the president or any other familiar counterpart is going to make you feel much more confident about writing the meeting minutes. Ensuring that you have put together a well-thought out meeting agenda is going to set you up to transcribe your meeting in an organized fashion. 

2 Use the agenda as an outline

When considering what should be included in the meeting minutes, start with the basics. First, provide the date and time of the meeting. Next, document the names of all of the meeting participants and any individuals who were unable to attend. It is likely that at the beginning of the meeting, there will be some time dedicated to the acceptance or amendment to previous meeting minutes. 

Ensure you are documenting the decisions made about prior meetings before you begin looking at the meeting agenda. Once this part of the meeting has been completed, you can use the meeting agenda as an outline, with each agenda item as a sub-topic where you can add specific notes

Pro Tip

Consider numbering the order of items to keep yourself extra organized, and make sure that you document all decisions made about each agenda item, including decisions along with their rationale. Using a strong meeting agenda template will help you create consistently structured and adequately detailed minutes.

Finally, be sure that your language is clear, unambiguous, and complete. It’s important to write your meeting minutes objectively, avoiding adjectives and adverbs where you can. 

3 Add additional notes and clarify points raised

A key trick to successful meeting minutes is to write the meeting minutes during the meeting, or right after the meeting if you’re not able to transcribe as the meeting takes place. Review your outline to gain the full scope of the meeting and if necessary, add additional notes and clarify points raised. Ensure you’re including sufficient detail by elaborating as much as possible on each meeting agenda item, any discussions or decisions made. 

Pro Tip

Use a meeting agenda app to track all your meeting minutes and action items in one place.

For Board of Directors minutes in particular, we recommend including a short description of each action taken, as well as the rationale behind the decision for future reference. If there was a lot of discussion before passing a motion, write down the major arguments for and against, adding as much dialogue as possible.

After you have completed writing your meeting minutes, edit them to ensure brevity and clarity, so the minutes are easy to read, clear and to the point.

It’s a good idea to attach any meeting documents that were referred to during the meeting, rather than attempting to summarize any additional documentation. 

4 Distribute the meeting minutes

Before sharing  your meeting minutes, think about if there is an approval process that must take place before distribution to the board. The Chair may need to review and approve the meeting minutes before you can share them. If there is an approval process, allow yourself some extra time when you disclose the expected date of distribution. There may also be some standardized protocols for sharing and storing the meeting minutes. 

Using an app like Fellow allows you to store all of your meeting minutes in one, organized location where you can allow access to certain or all individuals. Think about if you will be sharing your meeting minutes online, providing a physical copy or storing the minutes in a meeting minutes app like Fellow.

5 Save the meeting minutes for future reference

Make sure that wherever you are storing your meeting minutes, you have given access to all of the individuals who have attended the meeting and any other individuals who will need access to these meeting minutes.

Finally, check-in with the Board President or their assistant to see if they prefer to also print and store hard copies that you can then provide to any other staff members or Chair for filing. 

6 Tips to write board meeting minutes and keep track of key decisions

  1. Create an outline: Take notes under each meeting agenda item as the meeting progresses.
  2. Check-off attendees as they enter the room: Have each person introduce themselves at the beginning of the meeting, especially if you don’t know them.
  3. Record decisions or notes on action items: Record these decisions or action items as soon as they happen to transcribe accurately.
  4. Ask for clarification if necessary: Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if something is unclear. It avoids having to come back to it later when things are not as fresh in our memories.
  5. Don’t try to capture it all: Capturing it all would be impossible. Instead, listen attentively for major decisions, action items, problems or solutions.
  6. Record it: With permission, consider recording the meeting on your phone or a recording device if you are worried about missing important content in your meeting minutes. 

Transcribing board meeting minutes can be a demanding and somewhat challenging responsibility. Understanding why meeting minutes are important is going to promote effective meeting management in general and make you a more efficient and more confident transcriber. 

Remember that using a meeting minutes template is extremely helpful and will keep you feeling more organized and prepared because you will use a consistent structure and be given reminders to ensure all of the details of the meeting are being captured. Always plan ahead, record the meeting minutes as detailed as possible and spend a fair amount of time reviewing your documented notes. Edit your meeting minutes until you are pleased with their quality and feel confident sharing them with the Board. Finally, don’t forget to store your meeting minutes in a safe place (such as Fellow.app) afterwards! 

Refer back to this step-by-step guide on how to take meeting minutes in a board meeting whenever you feel like you could use some straight-forward guidance.  

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