There’s so much information available about how to write effective meeting minutes that it can be confusing and overwhelming. Because of the surplus of information, writing meeting notes can seem like a bit of a burden. It’s a shame, because the opposite is true. Meeting minutes are a powerful resource for teams and are an essential means to share and disseminate information throughout your organization.
Fellow has created the best meeting minutes examples so that you can understand once and for all what meeting minutes are, what their purpose is, and how to write them. We’ve also included a list of 7 essential things to include when writing minutes, so that no detail gets left behind. Meeting minutes aren’t meant to be difficult so let’s take a look at how to get them right.
- What are meeting minutes?
- Why are they called “meeting minutes”
- What is the purpose of meeting minutes?
- Why are meeting minutes important?
- Who is responsible for taking meeting minutes?
- How to write meeting minutes following best practices
- 4 Free meeting minutes templates and examples
What are meeting minutes?
Meeting minutes are a written record of the conversation and decisions that are made over the course of a meeting. These are applicable to any kind of group within a company, including boards of directors, leadership teams and investors.
At Fellow, we recommend writing meeting minutes for any meeting that requires an official record. This written record or transcript can then be used to either inform team members who weren’t able to attend about what happened, or to keep track of decisions and action items that can be revisited. Minutes from previous meetings can therefore be used in order to make future organizational decisions.
Some organizations that are usually required to record meeting minutes include non-profits, government entities, schools, public companies, and trade unions.
Learn how Fellow can help you better manage meeting minutes
Why are they called “meeting minutes”?
One interesting fact about meeting minutes is that the term “minutes” has nothing to do with time. In fact, it comes from the Latin term “minutia” (which means trifles or details). According to some sources, the term “meeting minutes” first appeared in the 18th century, directly from the Latin “minuta scriptura,” meaning “small notes.”
In other words, meeting minutes are the details (or short summary) of what happened during a meeting.
What is the purpose of meeting minutes?
Meeting minutes provide a historical record of the company’s discussions, decisions, and long-term planning. Participants have the ability to use the meeting minutes as a record for future reference, to understand what kinds of progression has taken place.
On the other hand, minutes can be referenced by individuals who didn’t attend the meeting, but need to be informed about the decisions and next steps.
Why are meeting minutes important?
Meeting minutes serve as proof of why and how a company came to certain decisions. This can be helpful in answering any questions that arise in reference to decisions that have been made or the discussions that were held.
In an article about how to take better minutes, Business Training Works highlights the importance of meeting minutes:
- They are a record of a group’s decisions and actions
- They are a reminder of who was given assignments
- They are evidence of deadlines
- They are a benefit for people who are absent when decisions are made
Apart from acting as an official record of the discussions and decisions, minutes of meetings can also provide legal protection for your organization. Many times, due diligence is captured in the minutes of a meeting. This can then be officiated and documented to confirm the ethical, fair practices of the organization.
Great meeting minutes start with a collaborative agenda
Meetings being booked without a purpose or going completely off-topic? Fellow’s collaborative approach transforms meetings into productive work sessions you’ll want to attend.
Who is responsible for taking meeting minutes?
At certain organizations (such as government entities and trade unions), the secretary is responsible for recording meeting minutes.
If your company or team doesn’t have a specific role for this, we suggest rotating the role of “note taker” amongst meeting participants. Alternatively, you can use a collaborative meeting minutes tool like Fellow to ensure that every meeting attendee contributes to the meeting notes. In Fellow, meeting minutes are linked to calendar events, making it easy to find the minutes from previous meetings, and scroll back in time to review earlier conversations.
How to write meeting minutes following best practices
How to write meeting minutes varies across different teams and organizations. However, there are three phases to meeting minutes that are fairly universal best practices:
- Planning meeting minutes before the meeting starts
- Taking meeting minutes during the meeting
- Storing and sorting the minutes after the meeting ends
Planning the meeting minutes before the meeting starts
In order to take meaningful minutes for a meeting, you need to start with a plan. This doesn’t need to be incredibly detailed, but you should determine the following:
- Who is taking the meeting minutes (aka the meeting minutes taker)
- Where the minutes are being written (ex. paper, Google Doc, or a meeting management software like Fellow)
- What needs to be written down (ex. A transcript of the conversation, just key decisions, etc.)
Preparing this in advance will reduce the confusion at the start of the meeting and ensure that you and your team can start off the meeting on the best foot.
Alternatively, using meeting minute templates is a great way to plan your meeting in advance and structure the discussion. Keep reading for four free meeting minute templates!
Taking meeting minutes during the meeting
Now it’s time for the meeting itself! Our meeting experts compiled 7 best practices that apply to all sorts of teams and scenarios.
1 Date and time of the meeting
Before you actually start writing your meeting minutes, note the date and time of the meeting. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s worth a mention seeing as it’s so important to be able to go back to previous meetings and understand when they happened, what’s been accomplished, and what’s still outstanding.*
2 Names of the participants
The next step is to document the names of all of the participants and any other people who weren’t able to attend. Usually, at the beginning of the meeting, there’s some time dedicated to the acceptance or amendment to previous meeting minutes so you can take a look at who attended last time to have a draft version of an attendee list. Better yet, use the calendar invite to check names as participants join or enter the room.
*If you’re using a meeting management tool like Fellow, the date and meeting participants will be recorded in the agenda automatically.
3 Purpose of the meeting
It’s pretty important that the “why” behind this meeting is documented and made obvious. In this part of the meeting minutes, try to be detailed in explaining why this meeting was called and what it’s trying to achieve. This is going to especially be useful for any individuals who were unable to attend the meeting and for anyone who is using the outcomes of this meeting to fuel decisions.
4 Agenda items and topics discussed
Use your meeting agenda as a general outline for your meeting notes and use each agenda item as a section to record notes on, including any outcomes or major decisions that have been made.
It’s a good idea to send out the meeting agenda in advance so that everyone can make suggestions and contribute to it. This also means that no one’s walking into the room blind to what’s going to be discussed.
Using a meeting minutes template can save you a lot of time and energy. If you use the same template on a recurring basis this can also foster some familiarity. In a recent Harvard Business Review article by Steven G. Rogelberg, he highlights why meeting agendas matter so much:
“What matters is not the agenda itself but the relevance and importance of what’s on it, and how the leader facilitates discussion of the agenda items.”
Having a meeting agenda isn’t worth your time unless you’re going to discuss the most relevant and pertinent topics in an engaging manner. Definitely some food for thought.
5 Key decisions and action items
Productive meetings result in assigning action items to different participants. Record any decisions or action items as soon as they happen so that you can transcribe them with accuracy.
Capturing everything would be impossible. Instead, listen for actions that need to be made in relation to major decisions, recommendations, challenges or solutions that have been identified.
To ensure that these important takeaways aren’t lost, make sure they stand out in the meeting minutes. This might mean including a checkbox, bolding, highlighting etc.
Recording the action items of a meeting is going to enable you as a group to hold each other accountable for your responsibilities and support one another in getting tasks done that bring you closer to achieving your larger, organizational goals.
6 Next meeting date and place
If you’re taking formal meeting minutes, it’s important to include when the next meeting is, with regard to this project or topic of discussion. This gives meeting attendees a general timeline of how long they have to complete the responsibilities that have been assigned.
Understanding when you’re meeting next is going to help you manage your time appropriately and prioritize all of your tasks. It’s as important to know the place of your meeting, whether it be online or in person.
7 Documents to be included in the report
The last thing to include are supplementary documents that you should send out with your minutes in the meeting report. Think about if any documents were used or referenced in the meeting which may be useful to include for your team members. This could include an action or issues log, KPIs, updates or changes to the project.
It’s also a common practice for teams to record the meeting or create an automatic transcript, especially if the meeting is over a video conferencing call such as Zoom or Google Meet. If this is the case, be sure to include or attach these recordings and/or transcripts to the meeting minutes. This will make it a lot easier for your team to find and can be incredibly valuable for individuals who missed the meeting.
Storing and sorting the minutes after the meeting ends
Meeting minutes are only as useful as what you do with them after the meeting is over. If your meeting minutes are disorganized, misplaced, confusing, or unclear then they serve no purpose.
After the meeting ends, start by cleaning up your meeting minutes to make them as clear as possible. This might include adding supplemental context, expanding shorthand, or reformatting so that the notes are as clear as possible. Essentially, imagine a coworker reviewing these notes three months in the future, will they be able to understand what was discussed and the key decisions made? This will help avoid future headaches and misunderstandings
Then, share your minutes of meeting! An article published by G2 articulates the importance of sending your meeting minutes out ASAP:
“Once the meeting is over, it’s time to tidy up your notes and distribute them to your team. The best time to do this is directly after the meeting while everything is fresh in your mind. This decreases the chance of mistakes and allows you to reach out to meeting participants if you have questions.”
Since your meeting minutes will serve as a record that will be referred to in the future, minutes need to be stored or filed in a way that is easy to access. This will depend on the preferences of your team/organization. You could store your meeting minutes in a shared drive using folders, or use a meeting management software like Fellow, which automatically stores meeting minutes and organizes them by calendar event. Fellow also gives you the ability to send out your meeting notes via email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and more.
Now, without further ado, here are four meeting minute templates to ensure your meetings are always effective:
4 Free Meeting Minutes Templates
1 Formal Board Meeting Minutes Example
Formal meeting minutes are used to document big or official decisions that often require approval. These meeting notes use formal language and are structured with the purpose of being shared with all of the meeting participants afterwards.
Formal minutes are commonly used by nonprofits, government, schools, and public companies. Most trade unions, schools, city and county governments model their meeting minutes based on Robert’s Rules of Order.
If you’re writing notes for a formal meeting, it’s important to document as much information as possible, and keep the meeting format consistent from meeting to meeting.
It’s smart to use a meeting template for more formal conversations to give them the structure that you’re looking for. Organization of notes is key, since you’ll be sharing the notes with everyone afterwards.
Call to order
Facilitated by the ‘Chair of the Board’
- [Meeting facilitator] called to order the regular meeting of [Organization] at [time] on [date] in [location].
Secretary conducted a roll call. The following persons were present:
Approval of minutes
Before any official business can be conducted, the board must approve the minutes from the last meeting.
- [Secretary] read the minutes from the last meeting. The minutes were approved.
Items that the board has previously discussed that are ready for formal approval.
These items may be voted on, amended, tabled, moved to committee for consideration or postponed.
After all the open issues and new business has been discussed and documented, the meeting facilitator will adjourn the board meeting.
- [Meeting facilitator] adjourned at the meeting at [time meeting ended].
Submission and approval of minutes
Minute taker must submit the minutes for approval by the Board Chair or meeting facilitator.
- Minutes submitted by: [Name]
- Minutes approved by: [Name]
2 Informal Meeting Minutes Example
Informal meeting minutes serve as a quick reference to important topics that have been covered in your meeting such as goals, obstacles, deadlines or ideas.
If your organization doesn’t require you to use a specific meeting minutes format, you can use and customize a simpler template. Contrary to a formal template, no one needs to have approved the minutes for this type of meeting. They serve to only document the key points and next steps.
Here’s an informal meeting minutes template you can use to record decisions at your team meetings:
Call to order
A meeting of [organization] was held at [location] on [date].
- Voting members in attendance included:
- Guests in attendance included:
- Members not in attendance included:
Approval of minutes
- A motion to approve the minutes of the previous [date] meeting was made by [name] and seconded by [name].
- [Report name] was presented by [name of presenter].
- [Report name] was presented by [name of presenter].
- Motion: Moved by [name] and seconded that [state the motion here]. The motion [carried or failed] with [number] in favour and [number] against.
- [Name of mover] moved that the meeting be adjourned, and this was agreed upon at [time of adjournment].
- Date of approval:
3 Board Meeting Minutes Template
Use this template to create an official record of the discussions and decisions made by the board of directors.
This template outlines the meeting details such as name of meeting, date, and time. It also includes an outline of the attendees, key minutes or decisions from the last board meeting, reports from officers, committees, or different board directors. Lastly, a space to note any solutions or next steps discussed, with specific assignees and an approximate timeframe for completion
Note the meeting type, date, and time.
- Name of meeting:
Note the attendees in the meeting.
- Presiding officers:
- Absent board directors:
- Other guests or staff members present:
Key meeting minutes and decisions from the last board meeting.
- Approval of the previous meeting’s minutes
- Unresolved action items from previous board meetings
Include reports from officers, committees, or different board directors.
- Agenda item 1
- Agenda item 2
- Agenda item 3
Note any solutions or next steps discussed, with specific assignees and an approximate timeframe for completion.
End the board meeting by documenting the following information:
- Date and time of the next board meeting
- The time when the meeting adjourns
- Secretary approval:
- President/Chairperson approval:
4 David Sacks’ SaaS Board Meeting Template
This template was curated by David Sacks (former COO at PayPal and founder of Yammer). If you’re a founder or executive running board meetings for your SaaS company, we recommend using it:
CEO Update [30 minutes]
Wins, challenges, learnings, and KPIs.
Sales Update [30 minutes]
ARR, deals, closed, objections, and forecast
Departmental Updates [20 minutes]
Product roadmap and updates from other departments.
Financials [10-20 minutes]
Gross margin, financial plans, and operational expenditure.
Team [10-20 minutes]
What areas have the greatest need for new hires?
Administrative Matters [5-10 minutes]
Housekeeping and administrative matters
What came out of this meeting?
Writing meeting minutes doesn’t need to be stressful. In fact, the whole purpose of them is to make your life less stressful by having the ability to go back and reference what was discussed and what the key outcomes were. In this article, Fellow’s meeting experts outlined what meeting minutes are and why they’re so important. We discussed the different stages of taking meeting minutes including the before, during the meeting, and after. We provided formal and informal meeting minutes templates so that you can test them out and see if they work for you.
Refer back to this guide (or to our list of what NOT to include in meeting minutes) whenever you need some guidance on how to write effective meeting minutes. Don’t forget to try out one of our meeting templates so that you can maintain consistency and never skip over any necessary detail. Until next time!